Last night, my husband and I used Skype to meet some of the folks our older son, Eric, works with and teaches in Osaka, Japan. It was so very cool to have a chance to meet his boss, his co-workers and some of his young students (Eric teaches them English). He coached each of the girls to tell us in English their name, age and grade in school. It was so neat to see my son switch into “teacher mode” and to hear his boss praise him to the heavens. We had to stay up past midnight for the Skype session (that’s when Eric’s lessons start), but it was well worth some lost sleep.

We were all a little unsure what to talk about, so we did some show and tell via the Skype display. I brought each of my three cats to the computer. My son’s boss showed off a cute anime-type drawing one of her students had colored for her. They all laughed when they saw our “Japan clock.” It has Kanji instead of numbers and is set to Osaka time.

Of course, we’re used to using Skype to talk to Eric. We speak with him once a week, usually on our Saturday afternoon and his Sunday morning. It’s currently a 17-hour time difference (they’re nearly 3/4 of a day ahead of us). In March, we’ll “spring forward,” but Japan won’t, so they’ll only be 16 time zones ahead of us.

But even though Skype is old hat, it was still a wonderful experience to meet some of the folks he talks about so much. It was like we had a window between the U.S. and Japan. It was almost a magical thing, as if we could reach out and shake each other’s hands.

Skype could someday become even more cool. Scientists are now working on a holographic “telepresence” that could send 3-D video across the Internet. They’re using a special plastic that refreshes the holographic image every two seconds. It’s sort of like running old fashioned film through a projector and each frame is projected for two seconds before moving to the next frame. That might seem too slow (well, yeah, it is), but it’s actually world’s better than the older technology the military uses. That technique can take an entire day to refresh from one frame to the next. The full story about the new technology is here.

What makes this scientific development especially intriguing to me is that in my upcoming YA SF book, TANKBORN, I use holographic projections throughout the story. In the book, fanciful holo designs are projected onto the plain white exterior walls of the houses, and the designs can be easily switched from one to another. You could be living in a castle one moment and a circus tent the next.

I learned from the article that holograms need a “screen” to display on, just like the plain white walls of the houses in TANKBORN. It’s nice to know that what I imagined isn’t all that far-fetched. That the future is getting closer all the time.

I’m still waiting for my flying car, though.

Posted by Karen Sandler

Filed as: Science Fiction, The Writing Life, Young Adult, 3-d, holo, hologram, holographic, holographic skype, japan, osaka, skype