Holography Costs Have Come Down Enough that the Rich Can Start to Play

Resurrect the Beatles, Jesus, or yourself. 

In 2012, a shimmering Tupac took the stage at Coachella and caught the attention of Alkiviades David, heir to Coke bottling fortune and general rich person. David pulled the rich person move of buying the underlying patent that allowed Tupac to walk again, and since that time, the holography enthusiast has been working to resurrect other entertainers.

It should be pointed out these aren’t exactly 3D “holograms” in the Star Wars definition, but optical tricks involving 2D images or, in Tupac’s case, an illusion produced by reflecting high-quality CGI, with roots in a Victorian technique known as Pepper’s Ghost. It should also be pointed out it is not cheap to create a giant holographic rendering — it took $120,000 to reconstruct destroyed Buddha statues in Afghanistan in June. Call them what you will, but the near-future cost of holographic renderings mean they’ll be tools of entertainment or a plaything of the rich.

New York’s fascinating profile on David paints a fervent evangelist for what is essentially a technological update on an ancient magician’s trick. A few bold projections:

  • Holograms will be “bigger than porn” and rival the movie market.
  • You’ll see digital Beatles on stage again, and Jim Morrison, Ray Charles, Richard Pryor, and, uh, Mariah Carey.
  • Jesus will be back, baby.

That you could have Mr. Christ Himself rendered in CGI giving a sermon might seem a little hokey, though it’s hard to argue that someone won’t try. (The Passion of the Christ, for instance, turned viewers into box office wine.) Less cynically, taking holograms beyond pure entertainment, as the Buddha statues demonstrate, can be incredibly powerful:

Holographic projection-as-monument isn’t a topic that David really dives into (statues, animated or not, aren’t exactly a sexy pitch) but it’s an idea that has long legs in fiction. For a slightly absurd example, look no further than Community’s immortalization of dead hand wipe magnate Pierce Hawthorne. Sure, he might have died of dehydration filling up thermoses of sperm, but now he’s around forever on Greendale’s campus giving lectures about sexual harassment. Pierce, as a character, was always a bit nuts, but in the sense that the rich, like the gods, can be eccentric and get a little more leeway. It’s a more quotidian use of holography than entertaining crowds with long-dead rappers, but for real-life magnates with some cash to burn, why not leave a lifelike Pepper’s ghost behind for future scions?

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