The University of Oxford has multiple collaborations all around the world for which effective communication is vital for building and sustaining links for research, administration, education and fund-raising. Public health researchers use of flights has greatly increased, leading to increasing concerns of the severe unintended consequences of increasing air travel, especially for carbon emissions, but also costs and loss of productivity at 30,000’ and subsequent jetlag.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put this issue into even greater focus with lockdowns and the dramatic decline in passenger air travel. 2D video conferences have increased dramatically but they lack the key ingredient of feeling that one is in the presence of other people. On the positive side of flying to meetings, in-person formal and especially informal discussions and ‘chance’ or ‘corridor’ encounters and opportunistic conversations at meetings have led to many successful collaborations and synergistic sharing of ideas. On the other hand, flights are expensive, restricting flying to those with grant funding, leading to inequity in opportunities.
Could new technologies help us devise better and more equitable communication to enhance collaboration, teaching opportunities and fund raising with a much reduced carbon footprint? One option to enhance communication without flying is to use 3D photographic techniques to project a lifelike hologram-like image to an audience at another location.
The person’s image, sound and data are sent to a server, encrypted, compressed, and transmitted to the partner station. The video feed is projected as an image onto a mesh painted with a highly reflective paint. The Canadian company AHRT media uses off-the-shelf capture studios and standard projection equipment to beam people. With a latency of 0.3sec, presenter and audience can interact in real time in multiple locations using conventional 4G systems. In addition to facilitating meetings, teachers and lecturers can be filmed at a location and beamed into another venue, interact with their students and answer questions as if they are in the same room at the same time. The hologram system can enhance the conversation and interaction, with the system fooling the brain into believing that the person is actually in the same room. With perception of eye contact greatly enhanced and the life size nature of the interaction it is a very different experience from that of 2D platforms.
To test this system in real life, an AHRT studio will be set up in the basement of the Nuffield Department of Medicine Research Building, Old Road Campus, between 1st and 3rd March to beam people within the building and to and from London, Toronto, Boston, New York and Seattle (more studios in Africa and Asia are planned).
Are you a member of the University of Oxford? If you would like to join us to experience being beamed as a hologram please come to the NDMRB Reception. Do bring a friend(s) – you could be beamed through the wall to each other. You will have a chance to see whether a precursor of USS Enterprise has really landed in Oxford. To evaluate the system please complete the form as you leave !
The holographic meeting equipment will be available for drop in sessions between 9am-11am on Tuesday 1st March and 11.30am-1.30pm on Thursday 3rd March. Around these drop in sessions we will have prescheduled holographic meetings throughout the 3 day event which you are also welcome to join as a spectator. Please join us and share your thoughts on this exciting new technology!
We would be grateful if all attendees could do a lateral flow test on the morning of the event to minimise the risk of COVID transmission. Please could you also ensure you wear a mask (if you are able to) and make use of sanitisation stations during your visit. We are monitoring local COVID statistics daily and will update this page with any new guidance, please check this page for guidance prior to attending.