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Tupac Shakur hologram: how new technology is invading the real world

A hologram of slain rapper Tupac Shakur stunned fans when it performed at a music festival, but it was just one use of the updated technology, which is also guiding passengers at airports. 

By Staff writing / April 17, 2012

Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg headlined Coachella; at one point, they performed with a hologram of slain rapper Tupac Shakur.

Chris Pizzello/AP

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Los Angeles

When slain rapper Tupac Shakur turned up alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog at the Coachella Music Festival this weekend, he stunned fans with his rendition of “Hail Mary,” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.”

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Many wondered how this rapper, gunned down in Las Vegas in 1996, could be brought to such convincing life in what is not merely a projection of a previous performance, but a new creation.

The act, which will be reprised this upcoming weekend, is the fruit of 19th century mirror tricks – much like the type used in séances – combined with state-of the art, 21st century motion capture and hologram projection technology. It was powered by Hollywood special effects giant, Digital Domain, which aged Brad Pitt for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

This moment and the resulting publicity frenzy is the shot across the bow for this technology moving forward, says Renaud Skalli, head of artist and label relations for My Love Affair, an international agency dedicated to pairing artists and brands. “This is just the beginning of many more things like this to come,” he says, adding, “This just begins to give an idea of what is doable.”

From London to Las Vegas, the inanimate and the no-longer-living are joining the completely digital creations in real-world “appearances.” Grover, the furry character from Sesame Street, popped out on the dais at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show to help the Qualcom team deliver a keynote address.

Across the pond, the East London firm responsible for resurrecting Frank Sinatra to sing for Simon Cowell’s 50th birthday party also brought a legendary, deceased ad-man, Paul Ardin, to life in Cannes, where his company Saatchi & Saatchi held its annual New Directors’ Showcase. He walked onstage, squinted at the lights, then said, “Well, I’m glad to see Saatchi’s New Directors’ Showcase is still alive and well. Unlike me.”

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