For those tired of Zoom calls but who don’t have the ability to meet with their team in person, WeWork hopes to have a solution for you: live meetings with holograms. Though it might sound like science fiction, WeWork is dead serious about it. The company has partnered with Canadian firm ARHT Media Inc. to provide hologram technology at up to 100 WeWork buildings. The first phase of the partnership delivered holodecks at sixteen locations worldwide in the third quarter of 2021.
WeWork wants tenants to host presentations and panel discussions using holographic tech. People watch the presentations while the speakers on stage talk in front of a green screen somewhere else and are re-created as life-sized holograms. Speakers go to a ‘capture studio’ at a WeWork near them to participate in panel discussions and, ostensibly, be broadcast as a hologram.
The WeWork location that hosts the panels has a large piece of AV equipment on a stage to display the holograms. The equipment, called a HoloPod, looks like a big TV where the screen is partially see-through. It has an HD projector, audio speakers, an audience-facing camera, and a microphone so the holographic speakers can see, hear, and field questions.
Holographic technology isn’t exactly brand new. ARHT says it powered its first public holograph presentation in 2015, a live talk from self-help guru Tony Robbins to Melbourne while he was speaking from Miami. ARHT’s other clients include the U.S. Department of Defense, Imperial College London, and Emory University. The company has powered other holograph presentations with speakers like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Existing video tech already allows people to make live presentations in multiple locations worldwide, but WeWork is betting holograms will lead to “more impactful interactions than traditional streaming and video conferencing.” The idea isn’t so different from others to make virtual meetings more compelling, such as using augmented reality or VR headsets. We probably shouldn’t count on regular holographic meeting use for a while. It is easy to chalk this whole thing up as little more of a marketing novelty, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless.