Chances are you’re fairly familiar with what a hologram is. For those that haven’t touched an ounce of science fiction media in their lives, a full hologram generally refers to the future-dream technology where beams of light clash and collide with one another, crafting a three-dimensional image of an object off of some kind of flat surface. In other science fiction pieces, characters might be able to interact with the holograms with their hands or computer controls, rotating them, enlarging them, or even crumpling them up to score sweet three-pointers.

What you might not have known is that these holograms are closer to being real than they ever have been, thanks to some extremely dedicated technicians and inventors. It’s true, they’re not quite there yet, and many of the competing creators struggle with making the hologram – producing complex light systems small enough to be feasible for a public space yet HD enough to sell the feeling of a real hologram. They’re not there yet, but there’s more than enough funding to keep them going.

But why is there funding? Although you might not assume this at first glance, it’s easy to see that holograms are objectively worse at displaying information than two-dimensional slides. When a hologram is projected, the presenter has no control over the angle the viewer sees the hologram on.

There are ways around this, like putting text on a hologram, but at that point why not just use a series of slides? Without being able to control what a person sees, its very easy to miss important information if a person was to look at a 3D holographic model rather than a 2D model on a slideshow presentation. It’s useless from a practical setting, and after a while, will probably become a lot less “cool” – just like the once-groundbreaking pieces of technology that came before it (example: Touchscreens).

The only real reason for there to be funding is because it was in Star Trek. Because it was in Star Wars. Because they’ve been in so much science fiction media that just the simple idea of them being “cool” is enough to make people spend millions of dollars in funding these projects. And even if traditional holograms are mostly eventually abandoned once they lose their ‘cool factor’, the years of testing and research in light manipulation that built up to their creation will be re-purposed for other projects.

Whatever those projects might be, they might have familiar bits of hologram technology running in them, which allows them to maintain a similar feel and aesthetic as holographic technology, albeit with some new twists and applications.

In this way, we are intentionally crafting our future society to resemble that of the science-fiction landscapes of our childhoods. Through our money and interest and willingness to be amazed, we will bring our futures closer to something akin to the Jetsons’ 50’s-style robot playground than it might be had we simply been focused on technological advancement. And this means predicting the landscape of the future is more possible and easier than it ever has been.

Just take a look at Richard Browning. He built a jet-powered suit – a suit that can fly – and it’s on sale right now. And although flying has long been a fantasy of all of humanity, the main thing that’s getting it the most attention at the moment is its resemblance to the Iron Man armors of Marvel Comics. That fantasy has got to be bringing the suit a good bit more funding than it would get otherwise.

So will we ever reach a point in the future where many people get to work via flying car? Hopefully not, because adding a 40,000-foot drop onto the danger of a regular car crash sounds like a really bad time. But we might end up with something a lot closer to it than what would seem like the most reasonable choice. Why? Because flying cars are cool. And what’s cool will shape the future.

Featured Image Via Flickr / Kevin Gill

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I’m a nerd with a wild sense of humor. I’m very good at running tabletop games (Like Dungeons & Dragons), or at least that’s what my players would tell you. I spend about as much time writing new content for those games as I do working on jobs or internships, and love every second of it. I'm a lover of dogs and mint chocolate chip, and my favorite dinosaur is the ankylosaurus. I also play racquetball with friends at least four times a week, go to the gym six times a week, and go for jogs around the neighborhood when I have time, because health is important and stuff. Eat them greens, yo.
  • Corrada Spatola

    Holograms would be pretty cool.

  • Caroline Walker

    Very cool when you see how influential fiction can be on reality!

  • Maya Asregadoo

    I agree that while these sorts of inventions are not the most practical, they are cool; it would be fun to use holograms or flying (hovering?) cars everyday.