09/25/2013 02:56 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

Holograms - A Friend or Foe?

What is a hologram?

According to, a hologram is

a three-dimensional image, created with photographic projection... Unlike 3-D or virtual reality on a two-dimensional computer display, a hologram is a truly three-dimensional and free-standing image that does not simulate spatial depth or require a special viewing device.

In 1947, Dennis Gabor developed the theory of holography and it has been made possible via the development of laser technology. We've since seen holography used in bank card security, printed on the cover of the National Geographic, used in artwork as seen in the Museum of Holography, in supermarket scanners, in digital cameras, and much more, as seen here. The development of holography has revolutionized the world market in many ways reducing costs and time.

Holographic People

Holography is perhaps most popular in the area of 3-D people. There's an old Chinese proverb that states, "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." This is the theory behind the pervasive use of holographic projection of people. Its intent is to connect people by giving them a visual experience that is far better than a colorful banner, graphic sign, or digital screen. Holographic people can improve theme park experiences, greet hotel guests, and provide information in an airport. They're programmed workers that don't require a regular salary, and are becoming the future workforce. Here are some examples of these workers:

Holographic Speakers - In 2008 Prince Charles gave a keynote speech at an energy summit in Abu Dhabi in the form of a hologram. Though this pre-recorded appearance received mixed feedback, it gained global attention and sparked an interest among developers such as Musion in improving this method for travel-free presentations. Since then, entertainers have used this methodology in their performances, including Tupac, Madonna, and Psy.

Holography Used in Meetings - Since Prince Charles' presentation, holography has come a long way in the development of live virtual meetings. You've probably participated in some form of digital conferencing, as these have been around for quite some time. Web cameras and Skype technologies have made long-distant meetings possible. However, they often come with many limitations. Holographic conferences are personal, engaging, and they cut the need for travel. Innovators such as AV Concepts now advertise these services claiming that "Holograms will make the attendees of any corporate gathering sit up, pay attention, and truly enjoy the experience."
Cisco has already managed to use holographic telepresence successfully via many presentations and conferences and have gathered much attention in the media.

Holographic Fashion Shows - It didn't take long for the fashion industry to catch up. In 2011, designer Tim Jockel created the first completely holographic fashion show for German haute couture fashion label Stefan Eckert. Soon after, other designers joined in the trend. Burberry hosted an impressive holographic runway show in Beijing attracting global attention. That same year, Forever 21 presented their fall collection via the same strategy, boasting models walking on the ceilings and on invisible stairs.

Even Lady Gaga is messaging Artpop - the integration or art, music and technology. Not only are designers incorporating holography into their shows, but also in clothing. In recent news, Lady Gaga attracted attention for sporting her holographic shades as she strutted through London's Heathrow airport. This year, the Spring 2013 fashion show displayed many clothing items with holographic prints, patterns, and fabrics. These standout pieces make a statement and have been a stylish hit this year

Holograms at Work

Will holograms replace jobs? Possibly- here are some examples.

Receptionist - Perhaps gaining the most attention is Shanice, the holographic receptionist who greets visitors at London's Brent Town Hall. The concern is that she would replace British local government jobs. Though she is only programmed to answer a limited number of questions, and doesn't provide a genuine human experience, she comes with many qualities of an ideal worker. Her demeanor is always pleasant, she can speak many languages, and doesn't require an annual salary.

Hotel Concierge Hologram - When checking into a hotel, there's a chance that you might be greeted by a holographic concierge. These programmed agents can assist you with a reservation, give you directions, and provide you with details about the hotel's amenities. They'll catch your attention and are available 24/7. In 2011, Marketing Ad Group worked with Aloft Hotel to implement a holographic concierge that could provide guests with information about local deals and discounts. With a computer memory, this kind of worker is quick, efficient, and saves travelers and workers time from having to look up this information on their own.

Airport Hologram - In 2011, France began to experiment with utilizing holographic workers in airports to provide travelers with information. Now you can find these workers in New York City airports. Whether or not you're in a rush to catch your flight, they will stop you in your tracks. These workers have gained mixed feedback, and the negative ones are typically in regards to their robot-like behavior. However, they only cost about two years worth of a salary, are more patient than real agents, and will work overtime without complaining or requesting additional pay.

Will Holographic Workers Displace Jobs?

Although there's much interest in holographic workers for their consistency, cost efficiency, and programmable memory, there's also much that a holographic worker is not able to do. For example, they cannot engage in meaningful conversation, exchange new ideas, or share opinions. Therefore, there's still a long way to go with technology before holographic workers displace jobs.

However, this technology is currently demanding jobs, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). With their focus in developing holographic meetings and touchable holograms, Microsoft is interested in workers who can help them "build their holographic telepresence system."

Indeed careers also reflect a growing demand for holographic imagery skills. These are future-forward jobs that demand a high level of technical skill and innovation.

So how can one prepare for this new field?

Invest in STEM programs that will prepare you for a career in holography. All of these subjects will be incorporated into holography studies and training, such as one started by the Columbia Career Center. Programs like these provide an opportunity for people to learn and teach photonics/optics using holography.

Holography isn't just for the young. Education is available to the public at a minimal cost by private trainers such as Holographic Studios. You can also sign up for specialized classes in holography at your local college or university. For example, Ohio State and MIT both offer these courses.

Whatever approach you decide to take, now's the perfect time to invest in STEM. To some, holographic workers may appear as a threat to the workforce. However, they are a new technology that come with a demand for more skilled workers. They have also introduced a new field of study that is actually creating new jobs and we'll continue to see them revolutionize society.

Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti is a leading thought speaker on career development. She is the author of ten books, a regular media contributor, and global speaker. She is a key advisor for recruiting and outplacement firms. Her most recent book is Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders. Tracey has served as a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Media X program, researching the impact of technology on future careers. Find Tracey on Twitter and Facebook.