Holograms of teachers beamed into classrooms from around the world

Published: February 21st, 2017

As published in the Evening Standard

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi film – but interactive holograms of teachers can now be beamed into London classrooms from the other side of the world.

A life-sized “HumaGram” was being exhibited for the first time in Britain today, using the same technology that will digitally resurrect rapper The Notorious B.I.G. for a tour with his widow, Faith Evans.

The projections, a real-life take  on the hologram of Princess Leia beamed out of R2-D2 in Star Wars, mean students can ask questions and interact with a teacher or expert anywhere that has fast broadband.

Ian Curtis, European head of firm Promethean, which has acquired the technology for educational use, said: “A HumaGram is a hologram that you can interact with and it’s extraordinarily lifelike.

“I could be in London, delivering a presentation to an audience in real time in Sydney. I can interact with them and they can interact with me. I could be giving a presentation in London but I could also interact with multiple audiences across the world at the same time.”

He said the system could provide “remote teaching” where there is a skills shortage but added: “Technology’s a tool to support teaching, not a replacement for teachers.”

The system, which costs about £20,000, was being demonstrated in a recorded presentation today by Oliver Le Grice, former chief designer at Land Rover, at the Bett education technology conference at ExCel.

HumaGrams work by capturing ultra-high-resolution footage of the subject using a 4K camera, which is processed and sent to its destination over the internet.

The video data is then “unpacked” there and projected between two screens to give the impression of a three-dimensional hologram.

The presenter can view the audience via cameras stationed at a hologram’s destination.

The system also allows digital effects to be inserted into recorded projections. When Mr Le Grice was beamed into ExCel in east London he was shown interacting with virtual objects that popped up next to him.

The technology is being used to take The Notorious B.I.G. “on tour” later this year with Evans, 43, who plans to duet with him. His likeness is being created from online content, music videos and concert film and video supplied by family and friends.

The rapper, also known as Biggie Smalls, was killed in a drive-by shooting in America in 1997. Different technology has already been used to bring stars such as Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur “back to life” on stage.