Holographic Resurrection | Tupac, R2D2 and Pirate Performance

I have to say, I’m pretty stunned… I really didn’t know this was yet possible, but there’s a great piece in The Independent today about the holographic resurrection of Tupac Shakur at the recent Coachella festival – using technology developed by the British firm Musion. The footage above – start around 15 seconds in – is not of him live, but him as a 3D holographic projection on stage, with some new words dubbed in. Extraordinary.

It’s clearly a great day for Star Wars fans, as the scene where R2D2 projects a hologram message from Princess Leah to Obi Wan is now a reality… and the Independent piece talks about where the technology could go from here. The Beatles back on stage? Yep. Mariah Carey performing simultaneously in 5 countries? Already happened. Simon Cowell getting Frank Sinatra to perform for his birthday… yep, been done. Jesus Christ…where could this end?!

This has caused me some serious thought, because one of the elements of the book I am writing on piracy concerns the return of music to its traditional roots whereby acts make their money from performances. Making money from recordings is, or was, a temporary window of opportunity, which media piracy has brought radical change to. What I’ve wanted to argue is that live performance cannot be pirated, and so this remains the domain where musicians will be able to make their living – from the unique live experience.

But it seems now that as 3D holographic projection gets better, which it surely only can, then we could potentially see a situation where a live performance is…pirated. Where people gather to watch someone perform live, but in fact are just watching a virtual person, an avatar. And that may mean I need to rethink my position again on the possible invasion of digital piracy into material reality (as I mooted in this post on 3D printing.)

I’m currently writing a lecture about the Turing Test, which reflects – by which I mean, mirrors back on ourselves – on what computers trying to act like humans can tell us about being human. Given 5 minutes with an interlocutor, how would you convince someone that you were human? With great knowledge? Hmm, internet has that covered. With wit, or a slagging match?

As we see more and more machines become more and more human, it’s going to be more and more important that we have a solid (as opposed to hollow-graphic) understanding of who we are. Because surely it’s a hypothetical lack of that self-reflection that would feature in the fictional pre-histories of dystopian cyborg pieces like Bladerunner. We’re not there yet, but we need to consider the path ahead now.


7 responses to “Holographic Resurrection | Tupac, R2D2 and Pirate Performance”

  1. Kester, great to be able to speak to you and communicate via the web. I appreciate a lot of your work after being pointed in your direction by Pete, plus I’m always enthusiastic about discussing anything EPL-wise as you would know from my tweets!

    My colleague who works in the lighting and stage industry stated this in a FB discussion regarding the possibilities of this ‘new’ technology:

    “The technology has been around for about 6 years now, it’s called Musion. It’s not actually a hologram by any stretch of the imagination – it’s a projection onto a piece of very fine fabric, similar to the old Pepper’s Ghost tricks from theatre in the 18th century. If you saw a glimpse of the sheer amount of infrastructure required to set the system up you’d be amazed. You have to have a single audience watching from one front on angle, need a pit in front of the stage about 15m deep and need hundreds of square metres of material that is beyond expensive. The funny thing is that this is closer to projection on a bed sheet than a hologram…but the media hype around it has made it so much of a big deal! /rant :)”

    For a more detailed version, The Wall Street Journal has a diagram of how they projected the image – it is actually a 2D image & not 3D, so isn’t technically a ‘hologram’ per se.

    The article is here: http://ow.ly/alO94

    But this got me thinking about funerals. Can you imagine attending your own funeral? Reading your own eulogy? Recording a virtual will? It definitely opens up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities if the technology could become accessible to the common man.

  2. Thanks Kevin – this is really interesting, because I’m usually pretty ‘up’ on technology, and, as I said in the opening of the post, I really didn’t think that 3D holographic projection was yet possible – so it’s sort of a relief to know that it basically isn’t!

    ‘Hollow-gram’ is perhaps closer to the truth. Seems the media really have bought in to this as a hologram…perhaps because there is some kind of latent desire for this to be that…it’s as if we really want to believe it’s possible, in an almost morbid, resurrection way.

    The funeral idea is fascinating… and given that you’ve had the idea, I’m almost certain that someone will do it. Let me make a prediction… David Blaine will definitely do it 😉

  3. …and the REALLY odd thing about that article:

    Tupac Shakur is the first dead entertainer the company has presented “live.”

    But Mr. Smith said the company has used the same technology to resurrect several late executives.

    “We’ve brought past CEOs and things that like that back to life,” Mr. Smith said, without getting more specific, citing non-disclosure agreements.

    WTF?! OK people, we need to know, IS JOBS STILL RUNNING APPLE AS A HOLOGRAM?!

  4. I didn’t think of that! Perhaps Steve Jobs already beat David Blaine to the punch, his virtual Keynote address presenting the sleek new white iCoffin®*.

    *iCoffin® & iDeath® are registered trademarks of Apple Inc.

  5. Brilliant, Seth.

    Apparently George Lucas has decided to add Pac to Obi-Wan, Yoda & Anakin at the end of Return of the Jedi. See the links below.


  6. Ha ha nice!