If you were just looking at the stage where Microsoft’s Alex Kipman stood wearing its HoloLens device, he looked like a crazy person talking to an imaginary friend.
But when the audience in front of him glanced up at the screen hanging above, they saw another person standing next to him. Kipman was talking to a hologram that only he and the video camera—which was also outfitted with a HoloLens—could see.
The hologram was Jeff Norris of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and the two were having a casual conversation.
"I'm actually in three places. I’m standing in a room across the street, while I’m standing on stage with you, while I’m standing on Mars 100 million miles away," Norris explained.
The demo, presented at TED's conference in Vancouver, was what Kipman called the world’s first real-life teleportation. And Norris’s hologram was indeed standing on a replica of Mars, constructed from data captured by the Curiosity rover.
NASA has been using the HoloLens for the last year, to explore Mars, for astronauts on the international space station, and even to design new space crafts. "Humans are natural explorers," says Norris. "We can instantly understand an environment just by being present in it."
The HoloLens is Microsoft’s wireless holographic computing device which is shipping out to early adopters soon. Kipman says that soon the demo will become commonplace: "I can squint, and I can already see holographic telepresence in our near future."
All images courtesy TED