We have been so worried about volumetric scans that possibly robbed celebrities and practitioners of their agency and the right to check their image that we forgot somewhere along the way that scans are not always necessary to produce acceptable holographic performances.  It is dynamic in the game as the UK based Hologram has announced a new musical tour in its holographic version of Whitney Houston, the legendary singer who tragically died back in 2012.
The tour, called "An Evening With Whitney Houston: Whitney The Houston Hologram Tour, "will feature a digitally constructed 3D version of Houston, as well as the singer's original music on a real stage designed to present to thousands of fans at major stadiums. Along with the hologram, the audience will be presented with real human dancers performing alongside the 3D version of Houston.
Of course, the debate over such performances, which may or may not conflict with the deceased artist, began seriously years ago when a holographic Tupac was presented at Coachella, ironically, the same year as Houston's death. In that case, the performer's mother, Afeni Shakur, was quoted as saying that she was "happy" with the idea.
"I think digital people and virtual creatures will be more common through future games, experiences and platform content. Today this is a culture shock because [the public isn’t] used the software solutions and computational resources we have available , "Travis Cloyd, professor of XR at iSTAR at Florida International University and co-founder of Worldwide XR, told Next Reality. "Today it is about innovation and these iconic characters will have their stories told in every medium. This is equal to photography and video as it is just another form of capture in today's world."
As for Houston's digital doppelganger, it turns out that the company behind the production has direct involvement from Houston's family.
"Whitney is not with us but her music will live with us forever. We know we made the right decision to collaborate with Base because they understand how important it is to produce a phenomenal hologram," said Pat Houston, former Houston CEO and CEO of The Estate of Whitney E. Houston, in a statement. "They also know that engaging her fans with a true Whitney experience would resonate across the world because of the iconic status she created over three decades. Her fans deserve nothing less because she gave nothing less than her best."
Okay, so the person Whitney Houston trusted with his legacy is on board, so at some level, fans can take part in these holographic performances guilt-free as they embrace the singer's historical catalog of music framed by the virtual styling of her 3D image. Still, while the Houston situation seems to be the best case, what happens to the many singers and actors whose farms are not in such order before their death?
Will holographic performances, facilitated by sophisticated 3D rendering at least and volumetric scanning at best, transform our favorite artists' art and presence into digital assets at the same level as Mickey Mouse when it comes to business control?
Although my favorite example of how this holographic scenario might play out is the obscure movie Congress (starring Robin Wright), a newer and more accessible story that shows a " what about "these issues came via Black Mirror . The episode, titled "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too," has the lead role of singer Miley Cyrus who, after being tricked and put into a coma by her boss, watches as her unscrupulous boss presents the world with a new AI-generated song delivered of a volumetrically scanned version of the incapable singer.
Sure, this might sound a little too sci-fi to be true … that is, if you are not in touch with the latest technology in immersive entertainment. VR experiences for the latest Blade Runner 2049 movie and AR experiences for HoloLens have already been successfully produced at Microsoft's Mixed Reality Capture Studios. And a number of independent volumetric capture studios appear every month. The holographic genius is out of the bottle.
"When it comes to celebrity rights and management, this is a very important issue and we only work with families and property once they have approved concepts and campaigns," says Cloyd, whose Worldwide XR Company works with Hollywood studios to revive James Dean and other on-screen classic actors.
"It is always [with] their full support and our focus is to keep their legacy alive for future generations who want to get involved in these. We work closely with families and do everything we can to protect their best interests, but also focuses on partnerships with the most innovative minds. "
The only question now is whether today's artists really understand what AR, VR and holographic technology mean in securing future intellectual property and executing rights. In Congress there is even a whole sequence devoted to the practice of negotiating virtual human holographic performance rights.
It is true that nothing beats seeing an artist in the flesh, but if you really love a particular artist, should you give the opportunity to see "a version" of that artist in a well-produced live show? Before claiming "no", just remember that the virtual character Hatsune Miku already has a successful live performance, and her YouTube videos have more views than many of your favorite human music artists. But Miku is just one of the most well-known among virtual artists, as new, popular virtual characters like AI Angel show up every day.
And if you think these are unusual events, you might have missed that 2019's Alita: Battle Angel the Robert Rodriguez-directed film starring a virtual character starring human supporting actors, earned over 400 million dollars in ticket sales worldwide. This happens, no matter how silly or morally questionable your analogous feelings may seem.
One of Houston's biggest hits was "I Will Always Love You," and now it seems like she's been right all along. If you're a Houston fan, when you pick your brain off the floor you can check out the availability of her European tour date, which kicks off in the UK on February 25th.