Star Trek lovers drooled earlier this week when Telstra, the Australian phone company, used a hologram to beam its chief technology officer from Melbourne to a business meeting about 460 miles away in Adelaide.
Hugh Bradlow, Telstra's CTO, was filmed in Melbourne by a high-definition video camera. The video was then sent in real time across Telstra's high-speed network to an optical projector in Adelaide where the 3D life-size image appeared and interacted with the audience.
A camera was also set up at the event in Adelaide, so that Bradlow could know who he was talking to and interacting with.
Telstra set up the demonstration to show its business customers the power of its high-speed data network. David Thodey, group managing director for Telstra's enterprise and government division, said the hologram symbolized what had become possible using the company's network, which has become fast enough to transmit huge data files such as 3D high-definition images. He said the new technology is ideal for industries like health care and education.
"We've all seen this sort of thing in futuristic sci-fi movies," he said in a statement. "But the reality is that it can be done here and now, as we have just demonstrated, because of the scope and capability of Telstra's world leading networks."
While the hologram technology demonstrated this week is available today, it's still too expensive for most businesses. But Telstra executives say that within four to five years that could change. And as costs come down, holograms could become a new way of doing business.
Telstra isn't the first company to see an opportunity in improving virtual meetings for business customers. Other companies, such as Cisco Systems, have already begun dabbling in high-definition video conferencing. Cisco's telepresence systems don't project 3D holograms, but they do provide high-definition video meetings that give people the feeling that they are in the same room.