Did you know that holography - like so many inventions - was discovered by accident? The Hungarian engineer Dennis Gábor was actually looking for ways to improve the resolving power of microscopes when he created a 3D image. In 1971, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for this. Now Europe's major network operators want to pull together to make hologram telephony suitable for mass use.
Back at the end of September, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefónica (O2) and Orange announced a joint project to develop a platform for transmitting three-dimensional images within two years. According to Vodafone's press release, this hologram telephony will work without any stage or expensive technology - but with any common smartphone and VR glasses. The current mobile communications standard 5G serves as the technical basis: even though its successor 6G is already in the starting blocks, the bandwidths in the 5G network make the data-intensive transmission of holograms possible in the first place.
tagesschau.de describes how hologram telephony - also called "holography" - will look in everyday life as follows: The person being called sees the caller's upper body through VR glasses as a digital image, not as an avatar (as is already the case today in ERGO meetings). This is possible because their selfie camera records their body data and a three-dimensional digital version is then created. According to Vodafone, the 3D effect is provided by an AI technology, which, for example, adds the ears and the back of the head of the caller, as well as a 3D rendering engine. The computing power required for this is transferred to the cloud via so-called edge computing.
So if you are sitting at home in your home office, in future a colleague or the boss could call and then appear on the other side of the desk as a 3D image. To clarify: During such a telephone call, there is only one hologram - that of the caller. There is no hologram of the called person wearing the VR glasses.
"Whether privately for a call to grandma or for a business call with colleagues and customers: Hologram telephony brings us closer to our friends and fellow human beings in the virtual world," says the head of innovation at Vodafone Germany, Michael Reinartz. "Our goal is to make this new form of communication accessible to everyone." And Sven von Aschwege of Telekom is quoted on tageschau.de as saying: "Making phone calls as if the person I'm talking to is standing in front of me is such a dream that is now moving closer to reality."
Only recently we reported here on //next about a similar field test in Canada and the USA, in which the conversation partners were filmed in real time and faced each other in full - holographic - body size.
According to spiegel.de, the telecommunications industry has been tinkering with hologram connections for some time. In 2018, Vodafone had already demonstrated a hologram video call in a moving minibus at a test site in Aldenhoven. However, the project at that time was based on a different technology than the current project and was "not very convincing visually".
The industry's now closing ranks could therefore be a big step forward. "The mobile phone companies praise the advantages in the warmest of tones, but at the moment it is impossible to say how good or bad the visual quality will actually be in everyday life," the Spiegel editors emphasise.
Text: Ingo Schenk
German version of this article: 5G ermöglicht Hologramm-Telefonie