From Sci-Fi To The Classroom: Holograms Come To Biz Ed

The “Women in Tech: The Inside Story” event at Imperial on November 1 included guest speakers via hologram from Los Angeles, New York, and London. Courtesy Imperial College

File this under “The Future is Now.” At a special event in London on Thursday (November 1), Imperial College Business School became the first B-school to use holograms — a practice the school says it will expand to classroom instruction this year.

The occasion was an event for Imperial students: “Women in Tech: The Inside Story,” which welcomed a number of guest speakers via hologram from Los Angeles, New York, and London including Marily Nika, Google Woman of the Year 2018 and Imperial alumna; Tracey Welson-Rossman, founder of TechGirlz and co-chair and founder of the Women in Tech Summit; and Diane Morgan – Global MD of Trilogy and member of the Board of Directors at the Forte Foundation. But Imperial students soon will be the first in the world to have live lectures delivered to them via hologram, as well, says David Lefevre, director of the Edtech Lab at Imperial College Business School, where holograms join an array of other recent instructional innovations including a robo-tutor, an AI chatbot to support distance learners in Imperial’s MBA programs, and an online Master in Business Analytics that launched in September 2018.

“Introducing hologram technology to the classroom will break down the limitations of traditional teaching by creating an interactive experience that benefits both students and academics,” Lefevre says. “Rather than replacing or reducing real-life lectures, the hologram technology will provide greater flexibility for academics by enabling them to continue teaching whilst traveling, ensuring consistency and quality for students. The technology will also widen the scope for Imperial to invite global leaders and influencers from industry to give talks to students, therefore enriching the learning experience.”


The hologram technology was developed by Toronto-based AHRT Media and adapted by Imperial College Business School’s Edtech Lab. Lefevre says it will enable faculty and guest speakers to present to students in real time, via a hologram link, from studios across the globe — including locations in the U.S., Canada, and Singapore. “The hologram will enable lecturers and visiting speakers to appear as 3D, life-size entities within one of Imperial’s lecture theaters,” Lefevre tells Poets&Quants. “Rather than simply projecting a pre-recorded message, the technology enables those appearing via hologram to engage with their audiences in real-time, responding to audience reactions and taking questions via a camera link in the same manner as if they were physically present in the lecture theater.”

Eventually, he says, the technology will also make it possible for Imperial to host lectures in multiple classes and locations simultaneously, and to have discussion panels and round-table events with a mixture of both in-person and virtual speakers present.

“The course will largely be used to bring guest speakers, for example professors from other universities, to our campus for events and classes,” Lefevre says. “The hologram technology brings a greater sense of the speaker being present and also the ability for the speaker to interact with the audience in a realistic manner. The speaker sees a monitor which has been calibrated to accurately reflect the position of the audience. This means the speaker looks members of the audience in the eye, gestures to them and so on.”

Holograms are not yet ready for everyday use, Lefevre says. “At present, it still takes a few hours to set up a broadcast, so we will use the technology judiciously for now. But as the technology becomes easier to use, we will use it more often.” And that means everyone at Imperial: “I imagine the technology will be used across all degree programs. It is not specific to any particular subject or a particular program, either.”

Courtesy Imperial College


Put simply, holograms help to create more effective ways of learning, says Francisco Veloso, dean of Imperial College Business School.

“Investing in new technology is a vital part of our strategy to create more flexible and inspiring learning experiences for our students,” Veloso says. “Being part of Imperial College London, we are keen to grow our digital visibility as a business school and the new hologram represents the pioneering work our Edtech Lab is undertaking in this area.”

Now about that robo-tutor …


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