"An AI Stephen Hawking would look like him": Holographic avatars of long-dead celebrity scientists could work with — or compete with living university lecturers

Professors Vikki Locke and Gary Burnett are the academic leads for the new technology
(Image credit: Loughborough University)

It used to be when popstars died, or retired from performing, that you could no longer see them live, but holographic technology has changed all that. 

A growing number of deceased celebrities, from Tupac to Elvis, have been brought back to life as holograms, and the technology firms may also be set to enliven the education sector.

Loughborough University in the UK is pioneering the use of holographic technology, with plans to introduce holograms of renowned scientists, such as the late Stephen Hawking, into the curriculum by 2025.

AI Stephen Hawking

This revolutionary approach aims to engage students more effectively than traditional 2D presentations or video calls.

The university has been exploring the use of holography in various fields, from sports science to fashion and the technology, provided by LA-based firm Proto, allows for a more immersive and interactive learning experience.

Proto's founder, David Nussbaum, explained that the technology could resurrect some of the 20th century's greatest thinkers in a realistic and engaging manner.

He told the Guardian: “Proto has the technology to project an image of Stephen Hawking, or anybody, and make it look like he’s really there. We can hook it up to books, lectures, social media – anything he was attached to, any question, any interaction with him. An AI Stephen Hawking would look like him, sound like him and interact like it was him. It’s awe-inspiring, it’s jaw-dropping, I’ve been in shock at how amazing the interactions are. AI is part of our life, whether people like it or not.”

Although there are legal hurdles to overcome, the technology's AI capabilities could potentially create avatars resembling anyone in the world - living or dead - potentially ushering in a new era of immersive learning.

Nussbaum's vision extends beyond educational institutions, with plans to introduce affordable, smaller units for home use in the next 18 months. These units, priced under $1,000, will project a shrunken image that Nussbaum likens to "Wonkavision" from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams is a freelancer writing news for TechRadar Pro. He has been writing about computers, technology, and the web for 30 years. In that time he wrote for most of the UK’s PC magazines, and launched, edited and published a number of them too.