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Portl M will allow folks to beam into homes as a hologram

Portl M will allow folks to beam into homes as a hologram
Forget your two-dimensional Zoom calls, the M by Portl can beam holograms into your home
Forget your two-dimensional Zoom calls, the M by Portl can beam holograms into your home
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Forget your two-dimensional Zoom calls, the M by Portl can beam holograms into your home
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Forget your two-dimensional Zoom calls, the M by Portl can beam holograms into your home
About the size of a mini fridge, the M by Portl can display pre-recorded or live hologram beams
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About the size of a mini fridge, the M by Portl can display pre-recorded or live hologram beams
Science study has more depth when interacting with holograms
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Science study has more depth when interacting with holograms
The idea here is that you can shop online, click on an onscreen button and the M by Portl can create a hologram of you wearing your selected item of clothing
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The idea here is that you can shop online, click on an onscreen button and the M by Portl can create a hologram of you wearing your selected item of clothing
Portl founder David Nussbaum in real and hologram form thanks to the Epic hologram projection machine
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Portl founder David Nussbaum in real and hologram form thanks to the Epic hologram projection machine
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During the numerous lockdowns of the last couple of years, the humble webcam has helped many of us feel less isolated thanks to videoconferencing platforms like Zoom. But such things can lack depth. What we need is the kind of freestanding holograms like the one in Star Wars. We're not quite there yet, but the M by Portl comes pretty close.

Instead of trying to float images in the air like Voxon or Samsung, Portl encloses the experience in a box. The LA-based company was founded in 2019 by David Nussbaum, who had previously worked on holograms for arena-sized concerts, a big name fashion show and movie premieres. In August of last year the Epic hologram projection machine was launched.

Epic by name and epic by nature, the 7 x 5 x 2-ft (2.1 x 1.5 x 0.6-m) standalone unit has been designed to "beam" life-size holograms of people, and features evenly distributed LEDs inside the cabinet designed to display both shadows and reflections for volume and depth.

Portl is keeping exactly how the projection system works close to its chest, but the result is quite impressive – as you can see from the video below.

David Nussbaum hands a PORTL hologram a water bottle

The cabinet is home to a camera array up top that includes a depth sensing module, and there are front-firing, head-level stereo speakers and microphones that allow for face-to-face, real-time conversations. The window into which a hologram appears to be beamed is fronted by a 4K touchscreen for swipe-and-tap interactions and control.

The big box is powered by a standard wall outlet and plugged into an internet connection, can be moved around thanks to hidden wheels, and camera kits are available for folks at the sending end of the equation to record "beam" presentations or for live feeds.

Portl founder David Nussbaum in real and hologram form thanks to the Epic hologram projection machine
Portl founder David Nussbaum in real and hologram form thanks to the Epic hologram projection machine

There are reportedly around a hundred Epics installed around the world, and though you could conceivably put one of these boxes in your home if you have lots of room and lots of cash, Portl has now developed a more consumer-friendly desktop version of the system called the M.

Currently in prototype form and scheduled for release in March, the tabletop "holoportation" machine works much like the Epic, and features an AI-enabled camera in the top bezel of the reinforced fabric-wrapped enclosure and integrated speakers to the sides. The unit's stand accommodates portrait or landscape orientation, there's a high-definition touchscreen display out front, and 16 GB of system memory and 1 TB of storage inside.

About the size of a mini fridge, the M by Portl can display pre-recorded or live hologram beams
About the size of a mini fridge, the M by Portl can display pre-recorded or live hologram beams

Possible applications include immersive entertainment, new ways to buy stuff online, telemedicine and digital artwork display (such as NFTs). Of course the M is also geared towards more life-like communication with friends, family and colleagues, and a person wanting to beam in live will only need a smartphone running the Portl Beam app and access to the Portl cloud.

Folks can reserve a Portl M now for a refundable payment of US$100. We're told that the final price tag is still being worked out, but should be in roughly the same ball park as a "good flatscreen TV" or less. Production models are expected to be shown off at SXSW in March, ahead of commercial release. The video below has more.

The Model-M, PORTL’s mini hologram communication and media device. Reserve at PORTLhologram.com/m

Product page: Portl M

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4 comments
4 comments
MarkGovers
Another fantastic win for imagination! Almost like VR/AR without the cumbersome headset. I would like to see a curved or circular model, so you can enter inside these worlds. Imagine being on the Enterprise and gliding through space. A desk with programmable button overlays would be cool too, so you can be Captain Kirk, a jet pilot, race car driver etc.
EH
Cool, but I'd like to know how it works. I was just working on a design for a telepresence booth that does the same thing, but cheaper and low-tech, using an angled, partially reflective mirror, similar to how a teleprompter works. Tha Portl doesn't seem to use that method, and are claiming to be reasonably low price despite having a touchscreen and a well-specced computer included, so how their design works is very puzzling. (Off topic, but if you want to really intuitively understand holograms, and even make them by hand, read William Beatty's 1995 web article: ""ABRASION HOLOGRAPHY" http://amasci.com/amateur/holo1.html )
Pupp1
The only thing that the article or videos show that is any different from what any video conferencing setup can do, is the passing of the water bottle. And that is an obvious trick, with the water bottle not actually being passed.

So, in other words, nothing to see here other than a fancy lighting closet. Though to be honest, I do think the lighting closet and similar small version do help to make it seem more real in a video of the set-up. But, ultimately, this is a stage magician's trick with the similar limitations. I.e. the viewer needs to stay put in their audience seat, and not too close. The videos they show will tend to help the illusion in similar ways to the stage magician. A real person near the display will not benefit from that.

I hope they include a clothes-rod option, so that at least it can serve a useful function after the customer realizes they wasted their money.
cjeam
Great, so now I have to put pants on as well.