Everything I know about holograms I learned from either Star Wars or Star Trek. Princess Leia’s glitchy SOS to Obi-Wan Kenobi projected by R2D2 to a bewildered Luke Skywalker. The occasionally malfunctioning holodeck on the USS Enterprise. The acerbic Emergency Medical Hologram Mark I on Voyager. All technologies of the far future — or so we thought.
That all began to change on day three of the 2012 Coachella Festival when Tupac Shakur was reanimated 15 years, seven weeks, and three days after he was killed in a drive-by in Las Vegas. A ghostly figure appeared during the set by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and immediately addressed the crowd. “What the f— is up, Coachellaaaaaa!” He then launched into a couple of songs leaving the crowd stunned and the concert industry salivating at the idea of future resurrections.
Progress has been slow, but hologram performances are becoming more commonplace and far more sophisticated. The Tupac show involved a 2D image based on a 19th century trick called Pepper’s Ghost that was recreated for Coachella by the same special effects team that worked on Titanic with James Cameron. More recent performances by dead artists (Ronnie James Dio, Roy Orbison, and Whitney Houston, to name a few) use different types of projection techniques that look far more realistic.
The Japanese have taken things in a different direction with performances by Miku, a crazy-famous pop star (more formally known as a “vocaloid”) who sells thousands of tickets wherever “she” appears.
Meanwhile, ABBA fans are waiting for the opening of ABBA Voyage, a residency at a custom-built theatre in London that will feature state-of-the-art avatars of each of the band members as they looked in the late 1970s. This is … wow.
The potential for the concert industry is practically unlimited. Along with dead performers magically coming back to life, this technology could see fictional supergroups come together.
Imagine, for example, Elvis, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and Keith Moon all playing in the same band. People who want this to happen tell me that we’re pretty close with the technology. A driving force behind this is the billions of dollars spent on purchasing song catalogues of heritage artists. That money will need to be recouped and profits realized. Using hologram performances, these artists will continue to sing their songs and generate revenue for the rightsholders for decades to come.
This brings us to Our Lady Peace and their upcoming The Wonderful Future Theatrical Hologram Experience, a tour that begins in Victoria, B,C,, on June 6. I’d heard rumblings about some interesting things, so I got in contact with singer Raine Maida.
Maida continues: “I was with him in Boston earlier this year and thought, ‘Obviously, he’s not going to come out and tour with us, but with the use of holograms, could we have him be on stage, be part of the show, and dive deeper into some of these predictions like global universal income, totally fixing climate change through the use of computers, computers passing the Turing Test, and the Singularity. Having him in between songs on the album is fine, but now we get to have him on stage talking about these things. As a hologram.”
And that’s not all. “There are a bunch of different components to this. Molly is a part of this show as is a new much more advanced AI created by Ray called Cassandra. From there, we’ve just owned the opportunity and we think we’re going to surprise some fans. We’re now able to have guests come and join us on stage that we would have never been able to have before. Hopefully, it’s just a big spectacle at the end of the day.
“We’re working with this great Canadian company called ARHT Media. You can’t tell the difference. If you’re standing in front of one of their holograms, you think they’re there.”
The holograms will be generated by three heavy “capsules” that are going to be used in ways that have never been done before.
Maida says fans will run into these creations immediately upon entering the theatre. “There will be a hologram — Molly, actually — in the lobby greeting people as they come in. It’s probably going to take away from our merch sales because people will be staring at this hologram!
“Fans are going to see some old faces that they haven’t seen in a while. (SPOILER: Ex-OLP lead guitarist Mike Turner will show up as a group of focused photons.)
“It’s 100 per cent rock concert, but it does have this theatre aspect to it. And we’re blending all types of technologies. People are going to be granted a playbill, just like you would when you go see a play like Hamilton — but as an NFT. It’ll be a real leap in technology for us.
“Fingers crossed that it all works!”
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.