Hologram virtual meetings? Envisioning the future of remote collaboration, hiring, and more

This personal home hologram machine could revolutionize the way organizations conduct business in the years to come.


Image: iStock/tampatra

In recent weeks, companies worldwide have transitioned to remote work to enhance public safety during the coronavirus pandemic. To assist with remote communication, teams are relying on a host of technologies. Needless to say, many virtual conferencing tools such as Zoom and others come with their own shortcomings.

In the age of remote collaboration, home holograms could transform the way organizations conduct day-to-day operations including virtual executive briefings and entirely new interview procedures. Last week, we reported on a personal home hologram machine formally known as the Epic PORTL. To learn more about potential hologram business applications in the years ahead, we recently spoke with the CEO and founder of PORTL, David Nussbaum.

Before founding PORTL in 2019, Nussbaum worked throughout the television, film, and music industries using holography to “beam” in bygone entertainers for revival performances and more.

“It just occurred to me that instead of doing novelty entertainment projections, there’s a much larger place for this in the world of actually connecting people. And then the pandemic hit and, Holy cow, it all just became so real. ‘When you can’t be there, beam there’ became my calling card,” Nussbaum said.

The hologram machine is about the size of a stand-up freezer. To beam into a PORTL, all one needs is the appropriate capture equipment, however, the end-user will need a PORTL to render the hologram at their location.

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As one would imagine, hologram teleportation is ripe with potential across industries. Nussbaum detailed applications ranging from enhanced distanced learning to retailers interested in using holograms to replace in-mall mannequins. Additionally, the hologram machine may also revolutionize the way companies interact with customers and collaborate internally in the years ahead.

“We are also talking with a lot of businesses that want to beam in their CEOs or beam in other executives into their CEO’s offices, from their homes into their CEO’s homes,” Nussbaum said. “It is a point-to-point telepresence capture and projection machine. Again, there’s more of a real emotional response when you are using a three-dimensional volumetric effect projection rather than just a 2D image on a screen.”

The modern workspace has undergone a sudden transformation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Online video conferencing tools help enhance communication among remote workers, however, many intangibles of in-person communication (nonverbal communication, body language, and more) are harder to discern or missing altogether. The general presence of an individual is essentially lost in the digital translation.

“We almost called this technology Presence, because it really does bring a real-life presence into the room. It is your head-to-toe full-body capture and projection,” Nussbaum said. “Not just for beaming in your CEO, but for beaming in possible employees. This is a great way to interview people. Body language is everything, and nonverbal cues tell an entire story.”

To mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, many companies have committed to remote work in the short term. However, some companies have made long-term commitments to an increasingly remote workforce in the years ahead. Nussbaum believes the PORTL hologram machine will transform traditional business engagement after COVID-19 abates.

“Even post-pandemic, I think this is going to be a replacement for travel. I think it’s going to be a replacement for a lot of in-person interviews, a lot of in-person meetings, because it gives the user and the viewer a very realistic experience as if they were really there in real time,” Nussbaum said.

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While the full-size PORTL model may be a bit too cumbersome for some households and offices, the company is also developing a smaller unit estimated to be approximately about 18 inches tall.

The full-size model is retailed at $60,000 and the mini PORTL has a projected price of about $2,000 at the moment, according to Nussbaum, although this price could be lower. Nussbaum also mentioned being intrigued by pricing bundles and exclusive content subscriptions offered by Peloton and Mirror.

“We’re going to make this very easy for people to say yes to doing business with us,” Nussbaum said.

This article was updated on Aug. 20, 2020 to correct the PORTL mini height.