Canada performs first international holographic teleportation in history

In October 2021, NASA managed to transport a hologram of a doctor to the International Space Station (ISS), making him the world’s first “holonaut”. The term “holographic teleportation”, also called “holoportation”, applies when a hologram of a person or an object is instantly transmitted to another location.

At the end of last month, a small group of students from Western Institute for Space Exploration (Western Institute for Space Exploration), a space and terrestrial exploration research and training organization in Canada, has come together to participate in what is believed to be the first international holoport experience.

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“We had the incredible opportunity to demonstrate the first international two-way holographic teleportation,” said co-founder and project leader Adam Sirek, a faculty member at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario and the Western Space. “We transported one person from Alabama (USA) to Ontario (Canada), and each of the students here on the project were able to instantly holoport themselves in shape to Huntsville, Alabama.”

According to a press release from the University, the team, made up largely of medical students, is exploring how this futuristic technology (whose hardware was developed by Microsoft, and software by Aexa Aerospace) can be used in the real world.

US company Aexa has partnered with Canadian company Leap Biosystems to explore medical applications for the technology, which has enabled the demonstration of the first international holographic teleportation.

Adam Sirek, a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, and the Western Institute for Space Exploration in Canada, using hololens from the project he leads. Image: University of Western Ontario

A special camera creates a holographic image of a person, which is then sent to the chosen destination. At the other end, a device called a hololenser allows the receiving user to see the subject within its environment. If both are wearing hololens, they can interact as if they were in the same environment.

“It’s the best of both worlds between medicine and engineering,” described university student and project intern Adam Levschuk. “The applications I’m particularly looking at will be able to facilitate physical exams that a doctor would normally perform in an exam room.”

Although there is still a lot of work to be done to make it possible to perform a virtual medical exam using hololens, Levschuk says he is excited to explore all the possibilities of the program.

For another project intern, fellow medical student Alex Zhou, the technology’s implications could be enormous for accessing healthcare in remote locations. “This is the future of healthcare in terms of access to remote communities and remote, rural environments.”

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Modernity combined with economy

Sirek agrees with Zhou, emphasizing that the cost of the technology is currently around 5,000 Canadian dollars (almost R$20,000), which, when compared to the cost of medical transport or travel for exams, shows that the technique could represent an enormous financial savings for health systems.

The promise of new technologies inevitably always brings some limitations and obstacles to overcome – and this is where the engineering side of the project comes in.

“As far as hololens go, I’m sort of looking at which biosensors might be easy and also really useful to integrate with it,” said Jocelyn Whittal, a third-year engineering student at Western. “Whether it’s like monitoring heart rate and oxygen saturation, whether it’s even looking at haptics,” she said, referring to technology that transmits and understands information through touch.

While holographic teleportation can take a person’s image to travel across borders, it still does not allow for touch interaction, which is critical in a medical examination.

In addition to its application in medicine, the technology has other advantages with its potential to connect people. Virtual meetings, which gained momentum with the social distancing imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, can gain a three-dimensional physical aspect with the use of holographic teleportation.

For Sirek, one of the most exciting parts of the project is “seeing the new generation of students facing the challenges of today for a better and more connected world tomorrow”.

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