Technology

Campaigning Via Hologram Is Coming to the U.S.


Narendra Modi pictured during a live '3D hologram' telecast in Mumbai on April 14

Photograph by Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images

Narendra Modi pictured during a live '3D hologram' telecast in Mumbai on April 14

Several months after Narendra Modi rode a hologram-enhanced wave to electoral success in India, the groundwork is being laid to create virtual versions of Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and anyone else who wants to campaign for office via hologram.

HologramUSA, a company claiming the U.S. rights to the technology that created the Modi holograms in India, has opened an office in Washington, D.C. Its first step, of course, was to hire a lobbyist. Hologram’s man on the ground is Jeffrey Taylor, of U.S. Government Relations International, who served as chief of staff for former Republican Representative David McIntosh.

Taylor says his first calls will be to the Republican and Democratic National Committees. He envisions 2016 conventions where holograms of Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy address the party faithful. “This is not necessarily a partisan thing,” he says. Taylor also believes that campaigns will use holograms as a substitute for retail politics, much in the way Modi did.

A reincarnated Reagan would be a logical choice, given that the best-known use of this technology was the “digital resurrection” of Tupac Shakur at the Coachella festival in 2012. Made by a company called Musion, the effect is created using a trick known as Pepper’s Ghost, in which an image is bounced off a surface, giving it a three-dimensional appearance.

It’s not clear whether HologramUSA will be able to corner the market on such services. Earlier this year, the Billboard Music Awards featured a performance by a Michael Jackson hologram. HologramUSA tried to stop the show, saying the performance used its technology. It now faces a countersuit from Pulse Evolution, the company that produced the show, which says the performance was an animation, not a hologram.

Holograms have actually been a presence on the U.S. political stage for some time. On the night of Barack Obama’s first election, CNN (TWX) aired a conversation between Wolf Blitzer and a hologram of Jessica Yellin, one of the network’s political correspondents. It was kind of impressive, pretty creepy, and completely frivolous. Apparently there’s plenty more where that came from.

Brustein is a writer for Businessweek.com in New York.

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