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Let’s Talk Tupac: Creepy, Amazing, Or Both?

Editor's note: This video contains graphic language.

Video

Hologram of Tupac Performs at Coachella

Above: A hologram version of slain rapper Tupac Shakur performs at Coachella with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog.

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.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone, KPBS Staff | April 17, 2012 at 12:15 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Former KPBS producer Hank Crook was at Coachella and he's a longtime Tupac fan. He sent me these comments:

"During that part of the show, I was torn between thinking "this is one of the most revolutionary things I've ever seen at a concert" and "this is total sacrilege." I could see that kind of thing really catching on. Elvis' people should do the same thing, and the Beatles too. It was really cool how Snoop and Tupac looked like they were interacting with each other during part of the show (since the Tupac image was the same height as he was in real life).

I kept wondering how Tupac's people felt about this though. I'm sure they approved of it, and can make a ton of money doing virtual Tupac concerts. Still, it was kind of weird. If memory serves me correctly, Tupac and Dr. Dre weren't best buddies. I got the vibe that Dre thought Tupac was acting like too much of a ganster, hanging out with Suge Knight, and tried to distance himself from Pac during his final years (post-All Eyez on Me album). But now Dre and Snoop want to make a bunch of money using Tupac's image? That part of it didn't sit well with me...like "you didn't want to be around the dude during the final years of his life, but now you want to make money off of him?" I guess that's the music business though."

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone, KPBS Staff | April 17, 2012 at 12:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

On Facebook post, Christian Hertzog writes: "Inevitable. Once corporations can create replicas of well-loved celebrities, they won't have to pay living performers/actors."

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone, KPBS Staff | April 17, 2012 at 3:35 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

On Facebook post: Edward Wilensky writes: "Creepy. And I imagine many artists now should start coming up with a posthumous business plan and manager to represent their likeness and interests after death. On the plus side, I guess we can look forward to a Joy Division, Nirvana and Eliott Smith headliner next year at Coachella."

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | April 17, 2012 at 4:25 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

I wish they would do this with Bradley from Sublime too.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | April 19, 2012 at 11:44 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Definately creepy.

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