Let’s Talk Tupac: Creepy, Amazing, Or Both?
Editor's note: This video contains graphic language.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Nothin' but a gangsta party at Coachella this past Sunday and guess who was invited? A hologram of dead rapper Tupac Shakur. He/It performed - shirtless (hologram abs are just as impressive) and tattooed - with the very much alive Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
A bit of local interest: the hologram was projected by San Diego's AV Concepts at the request of Dr. Dre. The company stopped talking to the press as of 10:30 Monday morning. A representative told me they are trying to preserve some surprises for this coming weekend's performance (Coachella spans two weekends this year). I hope to visit the company next week.
According to Time, the actual hologram was created by James Cameron's visual effects company, also responsible for the aging Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
I suspect some of my readers were at the concert. What was it like to be in the crowd? I've read the hologram fooled some people, causing real confusion as to whether Tupac, who died in 1996, was actually alive.
Did you find the hologram creepy? Exciting? Both?
It certainly is an amazing bit of technology. I've been talking to UCSD professor and cognitive scientist Ayse Saygin, whose research focuses on the uncanny valley. This is the hypothesis developed in the 70s identifying a line in the sand as to when a humanlike robot - or CGI depiction - gets creepy. A good example is the film "Polar Express" - some viewers found the CGI characters unsettling; lifelike but with vacant eyes. Dr. Saygin studies brain activity as it responds to robots and "virtual agents" in an attempt to learn more about the brain and the uncanny valley - where it begins and ends.
Saygin said she was impressed by the hologram. Many in her circle found it creepy, but she's unsure whether that's because it was of a dead person resurrected or because of the technology. (I'll share more of her thoughts later this afternoon).
Saygin did raise some interesting questions I've also seen posed around the internet. For example, where does this end? There are rumors of the holographic Tupac touring with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
What happens when a company wants to use the Tupac hologram to sell hamburgers, cars, or energy drinks? Should all celebrities begin working out the legal rights to future holographic portrayals of their identity post-death?
Saygin did point out that Japan has been way ahead of us on this - they have already have a holographic pop star.
I'll admit, I'm both amazed by the holographic performance and unnerved about what it portends for the future. I'd love to hear from you.