How we can use 5G to make real-time holograms

The rollout of 5G networks is now well underway in various locations across the world, with consumers already starting the reap the benefits of faster download speeds, browsing times, and streaming without buffering.

Yet there is much more to 5G than mobile connectivity alone. For example, while it may seem like a futuristic concept from a sci-fi film, mobile network operators are starting to explore how 5G’s ultra-high bandwidth and low latency can help support the display of 3D holograms.

With potential applications of these holograms including use in medical imaging, video conferencing, and even gaming, investment into how to make these volumetric videos is rising, with companies Microsoft and Intel announcing plans to start building out their own versions.

How do they work?

Holography is a technique to record and reproduce the real three-dimensional image of an object using the principles of interference and light diffraction. With this technology you can feel as though you are in the room with a person and walk around their hologram to see them from any angle.

One way to make 3D holograms come to life is to use a room full of cameras, which capture the subject’s light refraction from all angles in real-time 3D scans. Images of the subject are then captured and developed into a 3D model before being uploaded to servers in the cloud to process the data. 3D holographic communication requires about four times as much data as a streamed 4K video. So, while normally this amount of data could take hours or possibly even days to process, with 5G, there are fewer delays between the upload of this data and seeing the hologram moving in front of you.

Examples of the technology in action

Despite, the commercial rollout of 5G seeming as though it has just begun, experiments with 5G and holograms have been underway since as far back as 2017, when US telecoms giant Verizon and Korean Telecom (KT) held what they said was the world’s first live hologram international call over the two companies’ trial 5G networks. In this demonstration, a KT employee in Seoul converses directly with a live hologram of a Verizon employee in New Jersey on a monitor at KT’s headquarters.

Then, in 2018, Vodafone made the UK’s first holographic call using 5G – where Manchester City Captain Steph Houghton MBE met a young fan at the Vodafone Future Ready Conference via hologram.

Finally, at CES 2021, San Diego-based company, IKIN, revealed a smartphone accessory that turns content on the device into three-dimensional holograms. Its technology would allow holograms to exist in ambient light with no headgear and no goggles.

There is a clear appetite for 3D holograms and we can expect to see this technology growing both for the use of consumers and businesses in the years to come. Let us know if you’re keen to see 5G holograms in the comments section below.

If you have any questions, or other technology queries, tweet @techtroublesho1.

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