The Future of Hologram Tech Comes Down to Its Price Tag

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

The Future of Hologram Tech Comes Down to Its Price Tag
Photo: Proto

In 1971, Dennis Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the holographic method, which was based on bending light waves to reproduce images. Since then, the hologram’s been adapted for a variety of uses, from reanimating dead musicians to 3-D movies and passport stamps.

During the pandemic as artists worldwide sought out alternative ways to reach their audiences, there was again, a moment in which holograms appeared to be a part of the future – of classrooms, work communication and entertainment.

But the technology is far from mainstream, and the dream that we’d all interact with holograms on a daily basis hasn’t come to fruition yet.


Back in 2012, Tupac Shakur was reanimated for a brief set as a hologram at the Coachella Valley music festival.

The creation was a joint effort between several firms, including Arizona-based AV Concepts and Digital Domain, based in Playa Vista. Digital Domain’s chief technology officer Hanno Basse told dot.LA the company worked with the also King estate and Time Magazine to create a hologram of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a VR museum exhibit.

Besides holographic people, Digital Domain creates realistic CGI for films in its digital humans lab, and has been used in blockbusters including Marvel’s “She-Hulk,” “Black Widow” and “Avengers: Endgame” as well as a 2018 “Call of Duty” ad for Activision.

Basse said that while Digital Domain’s VFX work with digital humans on films like “Titanic” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” has earned it Oscars, the company’s eager to use its tech in other ventures. Additionally, one area Digital Domain is trying to work more on is video games, which rely entirely on virtual humans. Gaming in particular is a space ripe for virtual human tech, especially since realistically animating characters, especially in multiplayer games, is still challenging even for huge studios.

Hologram Tupac debuted at the Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival in 2012.Photo: AV Concepts


But while hologram Tupac was a big deal, in 2020, Nussbaum realized that communication – not concerts – was where hologram tech was needed.

So Nussbaum started Proto and developed what’s now the company’s flagship device, the Proto Epic. It’s a nearly 90-inch-tall metal box capable of fitting a human over six feet tall inside. The box is also equipped with front-facing 4K video cameras and speakers, so the box can transmit audience feedback and let the user respond in real-time (watch Ellen DeGeneres do so here).

Becoming a hologram is simple – iPhones 13 and above have 4k cameras, so all it requires is the Proto Beam app, which uses the phone to live capture 3D video and beam it to the Proto E (or the smaller, tabletop model, the Proto M) from anywhere.

You might recall that during the pandemic, news station KTLA used Proto to do remote red-carpet reporting for the 2020 Emmy Awards.

Howie Mandel, a backer of Proto, told dot.LA after a demo he became an investor and advocate for the technology (Proto’s Van Nuys office is housed in the same building as Mandel’s production and podcast studio).

“It was like the first time I saw an iPhone,” Mandel said. “It puts Zoom and every other video broadcaster and hologram company to shame. I can be someplace without going anywhere, which is my dream come true as a germaphobe.”

Proto founder David Nussbaum, left, does a fist-bump with investor Howie Mandel, right, via the Proto E device. Photo: Proto


Mandel said he sees potential for Proto in merchandising. To that end, the company has already inked deals with auction house Christie’s, also an investor, to use Proto devices to show items. Other clients include Verizon, Virgin Media O2 and CAA. Retailer H&M also uses Proto E devices to replace window mannequins.

“I think it’s going to be the Kleenex of communication, retail, education and advertising,” Mandel told dot.LA about his predictions for Proto’s future.

Scott Likens, head of accounting firm PwC’s innovation hub, said he learned of Proto from a participant in its Next Tech Studio and began working with them last spring. PwC mainly uses Proto to communicate globally without boundaries.

“Hologram is a unique space that requires dynamic hardware and software, so we are continuously testing what works in both small and large collaborative sessions,” Likens noted.

H&M used a Proto E (right) to replace window mannequins at one of its stores with videos of hologram models. Photo: Proto


Bari Hoffman, associate dean for clinical affairs and internal medicine professor at the University of Central Florida, said she’s been using the Proto Epic device since 2021.

Hoffman said UCF has used Proto to beam in volunteers for virtual exams, including people with advanced Huntington’s disease who couldn’t otherwise travel. She also said Mandel used one to talk to a class about his OCD diagnosis and had a “seamless” live conversation.

“It’s really imperative and impactful for our students to be able to see in high definition the life-size, head to toe experience of that patient,” Hoffman said. She added that while most medical schools also rely on trained actors to simulate symptoms for education, hologram tech could allow people actually living with chronic diseases to volunteer from afar.

But holograms are not ready for large-scale healthcare use, Hoffman said. “Nobody is actually delivering health care with the technology yet, because there's some other things that need to be in place to make it compliant [with regulators].” Adding that, UCF has recruited a “large number of faculty and clinical experts, physicians and surgeons in the community to study and evaluate [it].”

Digital Domain's virtual human technology used hologram-like tech to de-age football star Joe Montana for NBCUniversal's "Quantum Leap." Photo: Digital Domain

Upcoming innovations

That said, it’s going to take some time before consumer-focused devices like Proto make their way into the home of everyone in America considering the smaller Proto M retails for nearly $7,000. Though Nussbaum wouldn’t disclose sales figures, he said he’s sold “hundreds” of them.

Which explains why other companies have jumped into the hologram business. In 2016, Microsoft began working on HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset that retails for $3,500. And in 2020, Meta filed a patent application for “3D conversations” conducted virtually using hologram-like tech.

For his part, Basse said he expects an arms race for holograms or digital human technology to accelerate. “Visual presentations in one form or another are a major piece of modern life, and people, creators and organizations that are looking to stand out need to find ways to rise above the competition,” he said.

Mandel was also optimistic about holograms becoming mainstream. “This is probably the most excited I have seen people around a piece of technology,” he said of Proto. “It needs to be everywhere.”

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

At Super Bowl LVII, advertisers paid at least $7 million for 30–second ad spots, and even more if they didn’t have a favorable relationship with Fox. But the pricey commercials didn’t persuade everyone.

A recent report from advertising agency Kern and neuroscience marketing research outfit SalesBrain is attempting to answer that question using facial recognition and eye-tracking software.

Read moreShow less

ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Why Tax Knowledge Is Her ‘Superpower’

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Why Tax Knowledge Is Her ‘Superpower’

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, ComplYant founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson discusses her journey to building a multimillion dollar business and making knowledge of taxes more accessible.

Read moreShow less

‘Expand Past the Stage’: How These LA-based Ticketing Platforms are Using The Metaverse to Take On Ticketmaster

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

‘Expand Past the Stage’: How These LA-based Ticketing Platforms are Using The Metaverse to Take On Ticketmaster
Evan Xie

When Taylor Swift announced her ‘Eras’ tour back in November, all hell broke loose.

Hundreds of thousands of dedicated Swifties — many of whom were verified for the presale — were disappointed when Ticketmaster failed to secure them tickets, or even allow them to peruse ticketing options.

But the Taylor Swift fiasco is just one of the latest in a long line of complaints against the ticketing behemoth. Ticketmaster has dominated the event and concert space since its merger with Live Nation in 2010 with very few challengers — until now.

Adam Jones, founder and CEO of Token, a fan-first commerce platform for events, said he has the platform and the tech ready to take it on. With Token, Jones is creating a system where there are no queues. In other words, fans know immediately which events are sold out and where.

“We come in very fortunate to have a modern, scalable tech stack that's not going to have all these outages or things being down,” Jones said. “That's step one. The other thing is we’re being aggressively transparent about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So with the Taylor Swift thing…you would know in real time if you actually have a chance of getting the tickets.”

Here’s how it works: Users register for Token’s app and then purchase tickets to either an in-person event, or an event in the metaverse through Animal Concerts. The purchased ticket automatically shows up in the form of a mintable NFT, which can then be used toward merchandise purchases, other ticketed events or, Adams’s hope for the future — external rewards like airline travel. The more active a user is on the site, the more valuable their NFT becomes.

Ticketmaster has dominated the music industry for so long because of its association with big name artists. To compete, Token is working on gaining access to their own slew of popular artists. They recently entered into a partnership with Animal Concerts, a live and non-live event experiences platform that houses artists like Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke.

“You'll see they do all the metaverse side of the house,” Jones said. “And we're going to be the [real-life] web3 sides of the house.”

In addition, Token prides itself on working with the artists selling on their platform to set up the best system for their fanbase, devoid of hefty prices and additional fees — something Ticketmaster users have often complained about. Jones believes where Ticketmaster fails, Token thrives. The app incentivizes users to share more data about their interests, venues and artists by operating on a kind of points system in the form of mintable NFTs.

“We can actually take the dataset and say there’s 100 million people in the globe that love Taylor Swift, so imagine she’s going on tour and we ask [the user], ‘Would you go to see her in Detroit?’ And imagine this place has 30,000 seats, but 100,000 people clicked ‘yes,’” he explained. “So you can actually inform the user before anything even happens, right? About what their options are and where to get it.”

Tixr, a Santa-Monica based ticketing app, was founded on the idea that modern ticketing platforms were “living in the legacy of the past.” They plan to attract users by offering them exclusive access to ticketed events that aren’t in Ticketmaster’s registry.

“It melts commerce that's beyond ticketing…to allow fans to experience and purchase things that don't necessarily have to do with tickets,” said Tixr CEO and Founder Robert Davari. “So merchandise, and experiences, and hospitality and stuff like that are all elegantly melded into this one, content driven interface.”

Tixr sells tickets to exclusive concerts like a Tyga performance at a night club in Arizona, general in-person festivals like ComplexCon, and partners with local vendors like The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to sell tickets to the races. Plus, Davari said it’s equipped to handle high-demand, so customers aren’t spending hours waiting in digital queues.

Like Token, Tixr has also found success with a rewards program — in the form of fan marketing.

“There's nothing more powerful in the core of any event, brand, any live entertainment, [than] the community behind it,” Davari said. “So we build technology to empower those fans and to reward them for bringing their friends and spreading the word.”

Basically, if a user gets a friend to purchase tickets to an event, then the original user gets rewarded in the form of discounts or upgrades.

Coupled with their platforms’ ability to handle high-demand events, both Jones and Davari believe their platforms have what it takes to take on Ticketmaster. Expansion into the metaverse, they think, will also help even the playing field.

“So imagine you can't go to Taylor Swift,” Jones said. “What if you could purchase an exclusive to actually go to that exact same show over the metaverse? An artist’s whole world can expand past the stage itself.”

With the way ticketing for events works now, obviously not everyone always gets the exact price, venue or date they want. There are “winners and losers.” Jones’s hope is that by expanding beyond in-person events, there can be more winners.

“If there’s 100,000 people who want to go to one show and there's 37,000 seats, 70,000 are out,” he said. “You can't fight that. But what we can do is start to give them other opportunities to do things in a different way and actually still participate.”

Jones and Davari both teased that their platforms have some exciting developments in the works, but for now both Token and Tixr are set on making their own space within the industry.

“We simply want to advance this industry and make it more efficient and more pleasurable for fans to buy,” Davari said. “That's it.”