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Holograms: seeing is believing

This is the first installment of our new tech demystification series where we’ll be explaining how various campaigns and experiences work under the hood. #demystifyingtech

Holograms aren’t new, just think of the scene from Star Wars where Princess Leia appears as one, a moment that captured the imaginations of many. 

But, what if you could have a hologram delivering a message for your next activation? Well you sort of can! Here are some recent examples of projects using “holograms”:

National Geographic @ New York Fashion Week, Feb 2024

National Geographic’s show at New York Fashion Week saw holographic animals leap across stage alongside real performers:

Leicester University @ the barbie box lecturers, 2024

Leicester University is working on introducing holographic lecturers for student engagement - for now they’re in the testing stage, with plans to go live in 2025:

Abba Voyage @ Abba Arena in London, 2022 onwards

An immersive live entertainment event, with digital avatars performing ABBA’s greatest hits in east London nightly. Special effects were created by Industrial Light and Magic who were founded by George Lucas:

Cognizant @ TMForum in Copenhagen, October 2023

At the global TMForum conference Cognizant brought not one but two formula one cars - a real car flown out for the exhibition alongside an extended reality one viewed with the MagicLeap VR headset, built by WAM:

These are just a handful of campaigns and events using holographic technology to create captivating and novel experiences, ones that were only possible in science fiction. But is all as it seems or is there some sleight of hand going on? 🤔

Behind the curtain - Pepper’s Ghost

The truth about the 3D holograms we see on TV, that you can walk around and interact with, is that they’re still beyond our grasp. While advancements like laser plasma may make that possible in future, for now commercially viable holograms as seen in science fiction are not yet a reality. 

Instead, much of what we see and marvel at relies on clever illusions, a modern twist on the age-old technique known as Pepper's Ghost. This illusion, long utilized in theatre, creates the captivating effect of ghostly figures appearing on stage, by reflecting an image onto an angled sheet of glass or plastic. When combined with real actors and sets behind the glass, this creates the impression of a ghost or hologram interacting with them. This is the technique used by National Geographic’s campaign.

You mentioned Laser plasma earlier?

An intriguing technology which has been floating around (pun intended) recently is based on research into laser plasmas. This creates tiny balls of super hot gas in mid-air, allowing you to draw in 3D on nothing. You can see it in action in this video from 2014 - sadly it seems to be struggling to get beyond an academic application. 

The audience wants to be fooled

The beauty of these illusions lies in the audience's willingness to embrace the fantastical. Event attendees, whether they are consumers at a product launch, guests at a corporate event, or viewers of a virtual concert, are more than ready to suspend disbelief. This collective yearning for magical experiences is a powerful tool for marketers, advertisers, and event planners, tapping into our universal desire for stories and experiences that transport us beyond the mundane.

Bringing the magic to your next campaign

So, how can you incorporate this blend of technology and illusion into your next marketing campaign or event? The technology options are:

  • Hologram boxes for real-time video These are actually flat screens, but packaged up in a box with edge lighting and clever graphics to create the illusion of depth. Available from Proto.

  • Super high-resolution screens ABBA Voyage is believed to use nothing more than good set design, super high-resolution screens and clever lighting for a result that is lifelike. From Liminal Space and others

  • Rear projected holograms - e.g. on stage Place a sheet of glass between the audience and your projector, and you can suddenly create the illusion of holograms. This is the technique national geographic used.

  • Hologram sculptures Similar to the previous example, you can use the same trick within an enclosed box to create 3D objects. By placing a tilted sheet of plastic in a box you can create a convincing hologram, from palm sized up to car sized

  • Extended Reality (XR) Using AR through smartphones or AR glasses to overlay digital information onto the physical world, creating interactive, immersive experiences that blur the lines between reality and the digital realm.

In essence, the future of holographic technology in marketing and communication is not about waiting for the perfect technological advancements but rather about creatively leveraging the tools and techniques we have today. By engaging your audience's sense of wonder and willingness to believe in the magic of the moment, you can create memorable, impactful experiences that resonate on a deep, emotional level. The magic, after all, is in the experience, not just the technology.

Talk to us if you want to brainstorm ideas for your campaign - we’re easy to talk to and open to collaboration! Drop us a line at


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