A Brief Survey of Holograms in Pop Culture


Those of you who missed last night’s Coachella performance may have noticed the buzz around the Internet today regarding Tupac Shakur’s cameo with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Don’t get too excited, he hasn’t been alive and in hiding this whole time — not that we know of, at least. The Tupac that everyone saw last night was actually a very elaborate holographic image projected on stage.

Holograms have always fascinated us as a culture for some reason, probably because they’re so gosh darned cool in theory — but their execution is sometimes hit or miss (as is the case with the Tupac projection — you’re either super weirded out by it or you love it). To celebrate this new creepiness and/or awesomeness, we’re looking back at some of our favorite holograms in pop culture and real life. Let us know what you think in the comments!

The Jetsons

Of course, we can’t talk about holograms without bringing up The Jetsons, which brought the sci-fi staple to the mainstream television masses. Considering that the technology to create real holograms wasn’t available until 1960 when the modern laser was invented, we bet that people were pretty excited about the potential of this new technology.

Jem and the Holograms

Don’t you hate those secret identity stories when it’s so obvious who the person is? Hannah Montana is Miley Cyrus in a crappy wig! Superman is Clark Kent without his glasses! Sailor Moon is that Japanese schoolgirl with the exact same ridiculous hairstyle! The ’80s show Jem tried to rectify that annoying trope by using a holographic computer called “Synergy,” which projects an alternate image over Jerrica Burton that looks completely different from her — or as different as a cartoon character can be without confusing the kids watching. When are they going to make this technology real? Wouldn’t it be great to fix your bad hair day with a hologram?

The holodeck

Easily one of the most interesting facets of life on the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the holodeck gave crew members a chance to unwind in any environment. Hard-boiled crime drama? Sherlock Holmes novel? Whatever you want, the holodeck can make it happen for you. Of course, you’ll probably get stuck and possibly killed by a fictional character from your favorite book, but that’s a risk Picard seems all too willing to take. Like, literally, all the time. And guess what? The technology to create a holodeck is slowly becoming a reality. Sweet. Let’s hope we’re better at maintaining the real version than Starfleet is.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

This 2004 Jude Law vehicle had its problems, but the CGI effects were pretty spectacular throughout, which is good considering that the entire movie itself was made of CGI. We would say that only the actors were real, but that’s not even the case, because the villain of the film was played by Laurence Olivier, who’d been dead for 15 years. The filmmakers spliced together images from all of Olivier’s previous films and had a different actor record his dialogue. Crazy, right? What if they started doing that with other dead actors? Maybe we could have had the Joker in the new Dark Knight film after all! (Too soon?)

Hatsune Miku

Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku is not a real person. She, too, is a hologram. Even weirder? Her voice isn’t real either. It’s a synthesized voice application called “Vocaloid,” which takes inputted lyrics and melodies and sings them, using sampled sounds from a voice actress. Miku has become incredibly popular as a character, as evidenced by the huge real-life audience in the video above. The fact that this object of fantasy is only supposed to be 16 years old… well, we’re not going to touch that.

Stefan Eckert’s holographic fashion show

In case you missed the awesome fashion show that we wrote about last year, you can watch it above in all its holographic glory. The movements were captured with a high-speed camera and compiled into this incredibly trippy production that looks like something out of a Lady Gaga video. Maybe this is what the future of fashion shows is going to look like — holograms don’t trip on their shoes or step out of place, after all!

Kate Moss as the world’s first holographic super model

Speaking of holograms and haute couture, remember back in 2006 when a swirling hologram version of Kate Moss magically materialized in an empty glass pyramid as the finale of Alexander McQueen’s Paris Fashion Week show? The crowd went absolutely nuts! As Style.com’s Sarah Mower wrote at the time, “the experience [was] a memory that will go down as one of fashion’s all-time highs.” Big praise, coming from a seasoned fashion journalist.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride

Holograms aren’t just for concerts and high end fashion shows, though — they’re also being incorporated into amusement park rides and other forms of family entertainment. At the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, you can go into a facsimile of Hogwarts castle and hang out with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Dumbledore, as played by the actual actors who portrayed them in the movies. Take it from us if you haven’t seen it in real life, the effect is incredibly cool. Doesn’t it look like they’re actually standing there in the picture above?

CNN holograms

Granted, these aren’t “true” holograms in the strictest sense of the word; instead they’re actually tomograms, in which a person is recorded by a large series of high-definition cameras at multiple angles, and then the images are synthesized and added in post-production to what the viewer sees on television. Yes, that means Wolf Blitzer is actually talking to empty space in the video above. That’s a hell of a lot of effort to put into creating a cool Star Wars-looking effect for interviewing people like Will.i.am, huh?


Finally we’ve got the man himself, Tupac Shakur, working the crowd at Coachella last night. Apparently it took four months to perfect the image, which was Dre’s idea, and of course the hologram already has its own Twitter account. Frankly, we’d be surprised if he didn’t.