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Virtual Holoportation

The Telecom Italia Future Centre at the turn of the century was looking into the future with a team of young researchers trying to imagine how life could be like. After 20 years several of the scenarios developed are now reality. Image credit: Telecom Italia

Over 15 years ago I was fortunate of working at the Future Centre with a team of young people from all over the world attracted to Venice and to the opportunity of envisaging the (a possible) future.

One of the future scenarios that was created was about a grandfather and his grandson. They were really close one another and spent a lot of time together with the grandpa telling nice stories to his grandson. Because of life unexpected turns, one day grandpa had to move to a far away city but thanks to videoconference they could still keep in touch. Actually, they booth had a huge screen that looked like a window in the grandson bedroom and in grandpa living room so the feeling of being close was really strong. Technologies like haptic glove let the child touch objects, including the cat, grandpa had in his living room.
One sad day grandpa passed away and the child parents installed a software that had monitored all conversations in the last few years between grandpa and his grandson. That software was able to generate a lifelike avatar of grandpa and used the knowledge acquired to keep interacting with the child. It was so accurate in the visual semblance, in the way of talking and tone of voice, and so knowledgeable of the conversation thy had had that the child kept talking every day with grandpa, not realising that grandpa was no-more.

This scenario that was created out of the blue came back to my mind as I saw the news of a South Korean mother who lost her daughter to a disease a few years ago. Using software, artificial intelligence and images, clips of the little girl researchers were able to re-live Nayeon and had her talking with her mother via virtual reality. Watch the movie.  I can only say that tears got into my eyes as I was watching it.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.