The 10 weirdest holograms

As Brent council hires a hologram, we count down the ten most formidable digital zombies

Arts+Culture Top Ten
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Justin Bieber Hologram

Brent Town Hall in the northwest of London wants you to meet ‘Shanice’.

Shanice is young woman whose smile never wavers, her mood never changes, and from what I can tell, her dead eyes never blink. This is probably because Shanice is a hologram. Her main role is to greet guests and to answer administrative questions, though the council responsible for her creation is realistic, “Shanice can’t respond to basic questions and is limited to a small number of pre-recorded scripts.” So she’s just like a real council receptionist, then? Computer says no, well not according James Denselow from Brent Council, who believes “They don’t come more cutting edge than Shanice. This is the sort of space age technology you hear about but never really expect to see.” Sure, if by “cutting edge, space age technology” you mean a looped recording back-projected onto a see-through screen and propped-up behind an office desk in a council building in Northwest London, then yep, space age cutting edge technology it is. 

The birth of Shanice marks a long list of holographic hustlers.

Whether they’re greeting us with creepy glitching eyes or delivering the news with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, it’s only matter of time before holograms take over the world and make us all redundant. We list the most formidable digital zombies who are leading the invasion.

TUPAC SHAKUR

Some people wouldn’t be caught dead at Coachella, but Tupac rose from the grave, doused himself in baby oil and asked: “What the fuck is up, Coachella?” The ghostly Pac-projection cost around $400,000 and was the brainchild of Dr. Dre and director James Cameron. Tupac ‘performed’ two songs with Snoop before eerily disappearing into an explosion of light and smoke. The reception was mixed with some fans feeling “scared and queasy”, while Tupac’s mother was “positively thrilled” to see her murdered, cartoon son crip-walking across the stage. Snoop might have been high, but he wasn’t that high, calm down Mrs Shakur.

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Justin Bieber Hologram

ANDERSON COOPER AND WILL.I.AM

Will.I.Am is irritating at the best of the times, but surround him with 35 digital cameras, a live television feed and a cause, and he’ll really test your patience. The self proclaimed “visionary” joined Anderson Copper for the 2008 election night, in what turned-out to be a pointless exercise in budget-blowing and time wasting. The network reportedly dished-out close to $400,000 for the few minutes of imagineering— most of which was consumed by the pair comparing the technology to Star Trek and Star Wars. It seems there’s no stopping Willy. He went on to beam Bieber out of a holographic box for his single ‘That Power’ and even cloned himself eight times. Just what the world needs, eight more Will.I.Am’s.

KATE MOSS FOR ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

Kate Moss appeared as a ghostly apparition for the finale of Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter runway show back in 2006. Though it’s not technically a hologram, the magic used by McQueen is actually called Pepper’s Ghost, an illusion used in the early days of cinema, where the image is projected onto glass or a mirror. The collaboration has gone down in history as an iconic success but at the time, critics were left little bit confused. It might just be me, but it could have had something to do with the depressing Schindler's List soundtrack playing in the background?

MARIAH CAREY

There’s only one Mimi. So when the world came calling for the queen of Christmas to perform in five different locations around the world, simultaneously, Mariah cloned herself, obviously. The clones, possibly more animated than the real Mimi,  interacted with the backup dancers and even tried to engage the real-life audience for a whopping ten minutes. The audiences from Germany, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Poland were treated to pre-recorded Christmas carols and there was not one single complaint about Mimi miming. Though you can’t really accuse her of lip-synching when she’s not really there.

CELINE DION AND ELVIS

It shouldn’t come as a great surprise to learn the jumpsuited Canadian has used the technology to perform a duet with herself in the past, so why not go the extra mile and bring The King on stage with her? The company responsible for Tupac’s 3-D resurrection handled the performance which was shown on American Idol back 2006, though the technology wasn’t quite there yet. I think they used Barbara Walter’s vaseline camera lens to hide the grainy cracks and make Elvis appear more ‘real’ next to CeCe, and it seemed to work, with the dead star giving a more animated performance than the live one.

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Alicia Keys with Frank Sinatra Hologram

ALICIA KEYS AND FRANK SINATRA

In a perplexing pairing, Alicia Keys and swooner Frank Sinatra teamed-up with a slightly more palatable audio offering during a 2008 Grammy performance. Harmonising with a black and white apparition of Ol' Blue Eyes on his track ‘Learning the Blues’, Alicia mimicked the old school mannerisms of the Rat Pack as she awkwardly tried to find Sinatra’s eyeline, unsuccessfully I might add. “I didn’t know Alicia Keys had a lazy eye.”

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Her Majesty Hologram

THE QUEEN

Historically, Royal portrait attempts have often left Her Majesty looking less than regal. Rolf Harris gave her horse-teeth, Lucian Freud made her face prolapse and Justin Mortimer decapitated her in 1997. Chris Levine, the same artist responsible for Kate Moss’ hologram, is the first commissioned artist to digitally capture Lizzy. Dubbed the “Diamond Queen” and titled 'Equanimity’, the blue-hued monochromatic portrait shows Lizzy in her ermine cape, complete with crown and pearl necklace. Some critics have described it as “realistic”, stating that the Queen’s eyes follow you around the room. Some would argue it looks more like a possessed digital death mask though.

Hatsune Miku.
Hatsune Miku

HATSUNE MIKU

It’s not just the dead who like holographs. Hatsune Miku seems to be the only justifiable hologram of them all, mostly because she’s not dead; hell, she’s not even human. Miku is a cute virtual Japanese idol. That’s right, some clever gen-xer, who may or may not have grown up on Jem and the Holograms, has created a real-life (well, sort of) version of the rad cartoon series. Starting her life as a crowdsourced software program, Miku now transcends human limitations and expectations as one of the biggest acts in Japan. Record executives love her, probably because she’s not likely to get thrown in a 5150 hold or papped without her knickers on, like some of our other pop idols.

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The 2006 Grammys - Madonna & Gorillaz hologram

GORILLAZ AND MADONNA

Virtual band Gorillaz are no strangers to digitised displays, the cartooned kids have always appeared as holograms for their live shows, while Damon Albarn and his merry men hide backstage making the noise for them. Joining them for a 2006 Grammy performance, with her own unique noise, was Madonna. The duet apparently butted heads after Madge instructed her audio crew to crank up the bass on her track. She came strapping onto the stage in her lycra bodysuit maxing-out the audio levels and illuminating the one fault with holograms – the images shake like Michael J Fox without his meds when the ‘invisible’ screen vibrates from the bass. It left the Gorillaz characters appearing to be in the throws of a digital epileptic seizure. “I don’t know how Madonna managed to convince us to let her onto our stage.”-Damon Albarn.

PRINCESS LEIA 

She’s was the pioneer of holographic communication and it was her hologram transmission that launched an entire movie franchise. She was just a humble princess on a diplomatic mission to some alien planet called Alderaan when robotic garbage can, R2-D2’s memory system started transmitting a grainy holographic help message. A diminutive Leia and her cinnamon rolls launch into her famous plea for help before the shotty technology cuts out. It begs the question, who would Leia call now? “Help me, Will.I.Am, you’re unfortunately my only hope.” Thanks for popping our holographic cherry LeiLei.

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