From 3D Organs to Cyber Politicians

The rise of the hologram

The Turkish premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once made an unusual move when he found himself unable to attend a 2014 political party event in the city of Izmir. He sent a hologram instead. The towering figure shimmered above the astonished crowd as it delivered Erdogan’s speech. Or rather, Erdogan himself delivered the speech via the hologram.

This might seem like a cutting-edge approach, but the Turkish leader wasn’t the first politician to use holograms. India’s Narendra Modi was using them in 2012, and, in Europe, French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, sent his hologram to attend a 2017 political rally in Paris – while he was miles away in Lyon. The hologram drew a standing ovation from the crowd, and created a fair bit of buzz on social media, no doubt as Melenchon intended.

Are holograms set up to change how we think about travel, communication and business? Or are they just a novelty? Are consumers excited about a future peopled by holograms? Or are they scared? We analysed millions of consumer conversations about the evolving technology to better understand European consumer attitudes.

But first, a brief history of holograms.

A brief history of holograms

Holograms aren’t new-fangled technology in the slightest. In fact, the hologram was invented in the late 1940s, as scientists built upon technologies first used in the electron microscope. Like microscopes, holograms rely on light to operate. They’re generated using a photographic recording of a light field, instead of an image formed by a lens (as is the case for video).

Nor are holograms only used in political campaigning; they have a broad range of applications ranging from healthcare to pop concerts. In the former, hologram technology can create 3D medical imaging that lets doctors view patients’ organs in real-time – enabling more effective treatment. In the latter, holograms can be used to ‘resurrect’ deceased artists, such as Amy Winehouse or Michael Jackson, and give fans another chance to experience the concert sensation with their idol ‘live’ on stage. And there’s another – although far less thrilling – industry where holograms are commonly used: packaging.

The details of how holograms work are complicated, and that’s outside the scope of this post. Instead, we’re interested in finding out what consumers across Europe are saying about holograms. Our aim is to draw some initial conclusions about the current and future popularity of holograms as a trend.

Tracking hologram discussions in Europe

In the chart to the right, we can see that the conversation about holograms has been growing over the last four years, peaking at over 60,000 posts in a month. The large spike in late January 2014 was likely due to people discussing the Erdogan hologram speech. The second two standout spikes, in February/March 2017, likely coincide with the Melenchon rally in France. These two newsworthy events have been significant in driving up the hologram conversation volume among European audiences.

Audiences don’t have much to be sad about when it comes to discussing holograms, unless it’s the ‘reincarnation’ of much-loved pop stars. We can see below that sadness and anger drive significant chunks of that conversation, accounting for about 30% of the discussion at times.

Peak sad

For example, in February 2018, the discussion hit one of its peak sadness levels of the past five years, when the news came out that a hologram of Prince would be included in Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance at the Super Bowl. It later turned out to be only a video image. Earlier, in May 2014, another increase in sadness occurred due to a Michael Jackson hologram appearing at the Billboard Music Awards. A selection of Twitter responses is shown below, to give you an idea of how the discussion looked.

Other than when it’s about their favourite stars, audiences generally express high levels of joy in their discussion of holograms.

Youthful interest

When getting a sense of what the audience looks like for a certain topic, it’s useful to chart their demographic makeup. Holograms tend to attract the interest of a younger audience than other popular tech topics (such as Internet of Things or Artificial Intelligence).

As shown in the above age breakdown chart, under-18s are responsible for a significant chunk of the online discussion – almost 30 percent. Volume dies down among consumers between 18 and 34, but leaps up again among the over-35s, who drive over 60 percent of the hologram discussion. On the gender level, males have an edge over females in their proportions of the hologram discussion.

Interested in reading more about emerging consumer electronic trends in the European region? Read our Consumer Electronics Trends Report now!

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