Are Hologram Boxes The Future Of Video Calls?

Proto’s portal technology could bring holograms to the mainstream.

Imagine being able to beam a lifelike hologram of yourself anywhere across the world in a matter of seconds. Sounds like something you might see in an episode of Star Trek. Contrary to popular belief, however, this technology is already here, and it’s pretty amazing. 

Los Angeles-based company Proto has developed technology that allows you to beam a full-body 4K hologram of yourself anywhere in the world through their Proto Epic portal, a 7’ box equipped with speakers and cameras that enable you to communicate with others remotely or through the soon-to-be-released Proto M, a tabletop version of their Proto Epic that can be positioned in horizontal or landscape mode.

As one of the finalists for the 24th Annual SXSW Innovations Awards, Proto brought both the Proto Epic and Proto M to Austin, TX to showcase for the judging panel. The SXSW judges loved the look, ease of setup, and the amazing quality of Proto’s hologram technology so much that the company walked away with the win for “Innovation in Connecting People.”  

During a demo on the convention floor at SXSW, I was able to get an up-close look at the Proto Epic, a full-sized self-contained hologram device that can be easily set up in any home or office. The hologram box was set up to look like a magazine cover using digital assets, but you can add any type of graphic you’d like, such as a company logo or nothing at all.

How it works is easy. You simply stand in front of a plain backdrop and face a powerful 4K camera. The Proto software then beams your likeness to the Proto Epic or the Proto M box where your hologram can have conversations with people thanks to built-in speakers and cameras in the box. Don’t let the description fool, you this is so much more than a supercharged Zoom call. The life-like holograms offer more engaging and natural interactions while remote. For people watching the hologram, it looks like you’re actually there with a real presence.

As you would guess, I was pretty excited to try this technology out for myself. So when it was my turn, I quickly jumped in front of the backdrop without any hesitation. The moment I did that, my hologram was instantly beamed over to the Proto Epic box where I could see a digital twin of myself. As I goofed around, my virtual clone matched my every move with almost zero latency. There was a little bit of reflection from the overhead lights bouncing off of the glass, but nothing substantial. I watched other people step in front of the camera and move alongside their artificial counterparts. If it weren’t for the box, you’d think they had a real twin!

In an official press release, Proto CEO David Nussbaum said, “We’ve been saying our mission is to ‘Bring people together across every kind of divide’ since the beginning. So this award is particularly meaningful,” adding, “I’m grateful to SXSW and very proud of my team – I want to give a special shoutout to Proto CTO Edward Ginis, Head of Operations Noah Rothstein, Head of Hardware Innovation Raffi Kryszek and Head of Sales Sean Storin who made this futuristic dream into a reality.”

According to Nussbaum, these aren’t actually holograms in the conventional sense. It’s more like a “digital likeness” that is beamed into a box. But for Nussbaum, it’s just easier to describe his technology as a hologram so people can better understand what the experience is. Yes, you are being projected as a 2D image, but the way your shadow and your reflection are being captured inside of a 3D space through a 4K camera creates this volumetric effect that convinces your brain that you’re looking at a hyper-realistic 3D twin.

Set-up is very easy. All you need is a Proto account, a plain backdrop to stand in front of, a camera, and connectivity to a Proto device on the other side. Everything is controlled through Proto’s app, which is super easy to navigate.

We’re already seeing practical use-cases for the potentially game-changing technology. When Kyle Render from the AltspaceVR comedy show Failed to Render wanted to create the world’s first hybrid comedy show that took place in VR and the physical world simultaneously, he turned to Proto to help him bridge the two worlds. Render tells VRScout “The ease of use for the Proto unit is what really sold us, it was the fastest plug and play experience utilizing next-gen tech that we’ve ever utilized.”

In addition to real people, Proto technology can beam digital avatars from popular social VR platforms, pre-recorded content, pretty much anything you can put in front of the camera, so long as the image will fit into the Proto box. That said, access to the platform isn’t cheap.

The Proto Epic Box is available for $60,000 while the Proto M Enterprise kit sells for $5,000. The Proto M kit starts at $2,000. The company also sells a Live Beam kit that includes the 4K camera, backdrop, and light diffuser. There is also a Proto Cloud service that lets you schedule content and share content portal to portal.

Since the company launched in 2018, it has partnered with a number of Fortune 500 companies across the 30 countries, including DHL, T-Mobile, AT&T, HBO, and Netlflix.

You can check out more about Proto and their hologram boxes or schedule a demo if you’re in the Los Angeles area by clicking here.

Image Credit: Proto

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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