NASA Uses ‘Holoportation’ to Send 3D Hologram of Doctor to Space: Here’s How It Works

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NASA recently announced that it has tested a communication technology called “holoportation” — a word that sounds like it is straight out of a sci-fi movie with little relevance to daily life. However, the word is a combination of “hologram” and “teleportation.” In October last year, NASA used this innovative 3D technology to “holoport” its flight surgeon Dr Josef Schmid onto the International Space Station while he remained physically present on Earth.

The technology created 3D holograms of Dr Schmid and his team members and then transmitted them onto the space station for what appeared to be a live interaction with astronauts. Holoportation allows high-quality 3D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed, and transmitted live anywhere in real-time, Schmid said. In fact, if it is combined with mixed reality displays such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, the technology allows users to see, hear, and interact with remote participants in 3D as if they were present in the same physical space, NASA said in a statement released earlier this month.

NASA flight surgeon, Dr. Josef Schmid gives a space greeting after being holoported on the ISS on October 8, 2021
Photo Credit: ESA/ Thomas Pesquet

It is worth noting that the technology used for holoportation isn’t new. Microsoft has been using it since at least 2016. Meanwhile, NASA was the first to use holoortation in such an extreme and remote environment as space, in 2021.

“This is a completely new manner of human communication across vast distances,” Schmid said. “Our physical body is not there, but our human entity absolutely is there.”

NASA plans to use this technology extensively on future space missions for two-way communication where people on Earth are holoported to space and astronauts are placed back on Earth — for medical, psychiatric, and family conferences and to bring VIPs onto the space station to interact with astronauts. There is also the possibility of combining this technology with augmented reality, according to the space agency.


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