Holodome: Extending the boundaries of technology and storytelling
May 07, 2018
Set in a non-descript warehouse in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, members of Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. have been busy developing a portal to other worlds—Holodome. If that sounds like something from a sci-fi novel or movie, you’re not entirely off base. The Holodome brings its visitors to real and imagined places, but unlike the Holodeck seen in Star Trek, this “portal” is very real.
Unlike most current virtual or augmented reality technology, Holodome doesn’t require a headset –inspired by Allen’s desire to give people a shared experience. This next generation technology goes beyond the isolation of current hardware. Once you enter, you’re surrounded from floor to ceiling by enveloping audio and video, transporting you and up to six others to another place. No longer behind isolating goggles, the action unfolds around you and those beside you in the Holodome. When they laugh, you laugh together. When your friends are scared, you sense it, adding anticipation and suspense to the experience. It’s these shared emotions and reactions—the stuff that memories are made of—that distinguishes the Holodome.
To create these experiences, Vulcan’s technology team has spent the past four years developing the Holodome from idea to reality. Inside, four 4K projectors built with custom lenses map a seamless viewing experience. Its spheroid (or, pumpkin) shape eliminates any discernable corners, while its meticulously engineered surround sound and vibroacoustics fully engages visitors’ senses. While these are just a few of Holodome’s technical highlights, what’s more impressive is the platform the team has been able to create through their work and how it can move those who experience it.
The new shared immersive reality portal has given storytellers a new avenue to engage audiences. Previously limited by technology, the Holodome is an arena for creators to build new worlds and allow audiences to explore them. Seeing the Holodome as an extension of his universe, Allen’s Vulcan Productions, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) and the Seattle Seahawks have partnered to give MoPOP visitors the kind of experiences they might never be able to experience first-hand. From catching a touchdown at CenturyLink Field through the eyes of Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin to visiting a remote space outpost, people will step into Holodome at MoPOP and be transported into a world full of possibilities.
Holodome began like many of Paul’s ventures, stretching the boundaries of technology and storytelling. Much like the computer room at Lakeside High School gave him a creative outlet, this new shared immersive reality lends the opportunity to expand one’s vision and reframe what’s possible. While it’s unlikely that every home will have a Holodome, the goal of this first public version is to refine the concept and see how audiences will react. The aim is to prove a market for this types of shared, immersive technology – and spark creative ideas for new kinds of content that will take audiences places once only reached in the imagination.
To see the Holodome for yourself, visit MoPOP in Seattle. If you are interested in developing a new kind of content, click here.