Dead celebrities appearing via optical illusion not unprecedented, but typically purview of concerts and museums
Six years on from her Paper magazine cover shoot, Kim Kardashian West’s ability to break the internet remains unrivalled. Just one day after a string of 40th birthday tweets led the reality star to instant meme-ification, she has wrestled back her narrative by sharing another birthday-related message.
One from beyond the grave.
As a birthday gift, her husband, musician Kanye West, arranged for “a special surprise from heaven” – a birthday message from her late father Robert Kardashian, who rose to fame as one of OJ Simpson’s defence attorneys delivered in holograph form.
“I am a proud Armenian father” the holograph says in the message, referencing Kardashian West’s heritage and her ongoing efforts to draw attention to the struggles of Armenian people.
The hologram also expresses pride in Kardashian West’s decision to become a lawyer “and carry on my legacy”. In a humble nod to West, the hologram refers to her husband as the “most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world” and early in the video dances to the Barry Mann song Who Put the Bomp.
Robert Kardashian is not the only departed celebrity to be resurrected in holograph form. Tupac Shakur, Amy Winehouse and Ronald Reagan have all received similar treatments – albeit for live performances and museum exhibitions rather than as birthday gifts.
These projections are not technically holograms but instead rely on an optical illusion, first discovered in the 19th century called Pepper’s Ghost to create the appearance of a three-dimensional image. True hologram technology is still far from any commercial application.
A production company named Kaleida has claimed responsibility for the “holographic resurrection” of Kardashian. According to their website, the project was displayed in Tahiti, confirming the “secret” location of Kardashian-West’s 40th birthday party.
The company specialises in a a very thin gauze called Holonet, which is likely how the effect was achieved.
In 2012 MTV reported that the development of the Tupac hologram cost between $100,000 and $400,000. However, as Deepfake technology improves, manipulating the visage and voice of dead people is likely to have become significantly cheaper.
Although they do not advertise their rates online, there is another existing service, Artistry In Motion, that creates “holograms” of dead people for “high-wealth clientele”.