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Will Holographic Phone Calls Be Ringing Us Soon?

Whether you prefer the differing storylines, imaginative species and stunning graphics that Star Wars and Star Trek impressed upon the world, it’s likely you agree that both incorporated fantastic technology that were the stuff of dreams, especially in the 60’s and 70’s when they hit our screens. From tracker beams, universal translators and phasers to droids, laser cannons and bionics, there was certainly much to marvel at. They even shared technology in common – holograms. With recent news that holographic phone calls could be a reality by 2019/20, we wanted to take a look at the progress made so far, and consider its benefits and drawbacks.

The potential for holograms is in part due to the arrival of high-speed 5G mobile broadband networks. According to Richard Foggie, an expert at the Knowledge Transfer Network, these networks will allow devices to manage greater amounts of data at far higher speeds.

“Right now, some sort of headgear or enclosed ‘cave’ is required to view holographics, but within five years I think we’ll see AR/VR [augmented reality/virtual reality] just sprout out of the phone.

You could use it for video, playing games or industrial applications – even hologram phone calls.”

Vodafone demonstrated the UK’s first live holographic call over 5G in September, with England and Manchester City Women’s Football Captain, Steph Houghton. Using a router, codec, mixer and scaler, her image was compressed, rendered and transmitted as a hologram to 11-year old Iris, 180 miles away. During the call, Steph gave her footballing tips and highlighted how holographic calls could be used for remote coaching and training, as unlike a phone or video call, it’s almost like the person is actually there.

Similarly, Verizon and Korean Telecom (KT) held what they said was the, ‘world’s first live hologram international call’ over the two companies’ trial 5G networks last year. In their demonstration, a KT employee in Seoul conducted a meeting with a Verizon employee in New Jersey, the latter appearing as a holographic image on a monitor at KT’s headquarters. KT is actually developing the hologram live call as its leading 5G-based immersive media services, along with Sync View, 360-degree live VR and Omni-View services.

But the potential for hologram calls extends far beyond meetings and training sessions. From something as simple as making calls between loved ones more personal to allowing fans to get closer to their favourite musicians, actors and sports stars, there are multiple things this technology could be used for.

“You could have a virtual audience watching a play or a live event. People could also collaborate and work together in an immersive environment or have virtual conferences.” Jon Kingsbury, Immerse UK.

5G will also have a lower latency than 4G, meaning people will be able to talk in real-time, removing the lag you sometimes get with communication tools such as Skype.

This all sounds great, so what are the barriers? According to Dimitra Simeonidou, professor of high performance networks at Bristol University, cost for one. The majority of people may not be able to afford the first 5G-ready headsets, meaning companies may delay investment (or investing in related apps) pushing back its rollout. Alternatively, they could just charge extra, meaning only the few will be able experience this technology.

“Even though networks will be rolled out in 2019 I think we won’t see real 5G services reaching us on our mobile phones until 2021.’’

More investment will also be required for mobile phone towers and antennae to ensure they are optimised for the additional data.

Will We See Any Benefits Of 5G Before Holograms?

It’s possible we could experience:

  • HD data-heavy VR and AR accessible from our phones and tablets.
  • Sharper imagery.
  • Access to real-time footage of events and broadcasts, with apps allowing the audience to switch camera angles, watch replays and ask questions.

Who knows? One day soon we may be offering business mobiles with holographic capabilities. Until then, if you’re looking to integrate the latest handsets into your company, give us a call today on 0333 996 0029 and we’ll talk you through our range of options.

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