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HRH: His Royal Hologram's Virtual Speech

HRH: His Royal Hologram's Virtual Speech
By Catherine Jacob
Environment correspondent
Updated:12:54, Monday January 21, 2008

Environmental enthusiast Prince Charles has delivered a speech to a green energy conference in Abu Dhabi - as a hologram.

He may not be known as the most modern of men, but the Prince of Wales' concern for the planet has catapulted him straight into the 21st Century.

He was keen to prove his green credentials by noting that if he had chosen to appear in person, his long-haul flight would have emitted around 15 tons of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas which is causing global warming.

So he appeared as a hologram to congratulate Abu Dhabi for its plans to harness the power of natural resources to create a new zero carbon city called Masdar.

As the 3D image vanished, he left the audience with the words: "I am now going to vanish into thin air, leaving not a carbon footprint behind!"

While the Prince appears to have taken it to heart, his brother Prince Andrew - who has been unkindly dubbed 'Air Miles Andy' - did appear at the conference in person.

The speech by the 3D version of Charles was recorded in person at Highgrove last year, using technology from British multimedia firm Musion.

Musion's Director Ian O'Connell told Sky News how it works: "It's based on a 19th Century Victorian trick known as Pepper's ghost.

"By using a high brightness projector, going through a special polymer foil that's invisible to the audience, you can project something that's 2D back into a virtual 3D image. The fact that it only uses one camera and one projector is why it's so attractive. It's simple."

Prince Charles is not the first famous figure to use the technology.

David Beckham recorded a message in LA, appearing as a hologram in London. Richard Branson has also given virtual speeches, as did Al Gore during his Live Earth concerts last year.

But the most exciting thing is that those behind the technology have already tried out a live hologram - in other words, they have the technology to make people appear as a hologram in real time from anywhere in the world.

Mr O'Connell said: "There has been one successful test which carried a full High Definition signal 11,000 miles from San Jose in America to Bangalore in India.

"The hologram that appeared was very similar to the one of Prince Charles, but it could interact with the crowd and the people on stage via special screens. I think that is the future for this technology."

While airlines may not be thrilled at the prospect of virtual appearances slashing the air miles travelled by celebrities and business bosses, environmentalists are.

Trewin Restorick, of the energy saving charity Global Action Plan, told Sky News: "Flying is a real environmental problem.

"It's been estimated it contributes 3.5% of the world's green house gases we're pumping into the atmosphere so businesses need to follow Prince Charles' example, perhaps not necessarily as a hologram but perhaps by using video conferencing or even by using the humble tele-conferencing more."

The decision to appear as a hologram follows stinging criticism last year, when Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall emitted 20 tons of CO2 flying to the US to collect an environmental award.

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