Photographer: Stephen Schauer/Meta

The 3D hologram office

By Selina Wang

This post originally appeared in Bloomberg Technology’s newsletter Fully Charged. Subscribe here.

Imagine an office without computer monitors, cubicles or chairs. Everyone is wearing headsets that project their work in the form of 3D holograms. Meta, an augmented reality startup, is making that reality. Starting a few months ago, the company started ripping out everyone’s monitors and replacing them with AR headsets. To stand a chance against its deeper-pocketed rivals like Apple and Microsoft (who are making competing devices), Meta needs to improve and find use-cases for the technology faster than anyone else.

I made the trek to Meta’s California offices from New York to try the technology myself (be sure to check out the awesome video that my colleague David Nicholson shot for this piece; we recorded a podcast about it too). I was sitting in the office of Ryan Pamplin, Meta’s head evangelist. His office was bare — just a white desk with a headset sitting on it. I put the device on and suddenly I saw photos of him and his girlfriend plastered everywhere. There was also a bust of Steve Jobs and a mini Tesla model “sitting” on Pamplin’s desk.

Meta’s version of desktop icons is a holographic shelf holding a bunch of spheres. Each of the objects represents a different application. I grabbed the web browser. With my hands, I pulled the web page to be twice as large as my regular desktop. I read some Bloomberg News articles and watched a short video. I picked up a 3D model of a human eyeball. I made it as large as my head, and stared at the veins. I examined a model of the human body, standing up to see the whole thing since it was so large.

The experience wasn’t perfect. I didn’t like the way the headset felt on my head and I had some trouble grabbing the holographic objects. But the experience was so immersive that I was disoriented when the headset came off. The colors vanished and the world looked small.

Since that experience, I’ve become sensitive to how confining our devices are. We all spend hours a day with our eyes glued to our computer or phone screens. The moment a text comes up, we hunch over to respond. As much as I rely on my phone and laptop, I’m more than ready to give them up for a pair of glasses that would project anything I want into the space around me. It’s still a ways off, but how great would it be to have a movie theater-sized screen to take with me wherever I went? And never have to carry around a bulky laptop for work? Or rather than Skyping with a friend, have them appear as a hologram?