The advantage of basing your AI-powered personal assistant off an existing fictional character is that you have a ready-made visual representation of the assistant. When said fictional character takes the form of a hologram, it is almost begging to be given a real-world form. In that sense, it’s almost surprising that there are so few implementations of Microsoft’s Cortana as a fully functional hologram that, of course, can tell you the weather as well.
Granted, it’s actually not that easy to create your own convincing holographic projection, which takes a whole level of DIY skill in itself. To get it working with the Windows 10 version of Cortana, which wasn’t exactly designed for this use case, only raises the stakes higher. Good thing, then, that Jarem Archer, a.k.a. unt1tled, was up for the challenge.
The hardware is already challenging. Archer couldn’t use a regular Windows 10 PC because of size constraints so he had to settle for a Windows 10 board that had 4 GB of RAM. The idea for the display is somewhat harder to address. To create a convincing “Pepper’s Ghost” hologram, Archer made use of a portable USB monitor that reflected its display on 3 panes of glass, each pane showing a different angle of the actual image.
The software turned out to be a challenge as well. It wasn’t enough for the Windows 10 board to react to voice commands and make Cortana work like normal. The holographic setup should be able know when Cortana “comes in” and “goes out” so that the appropriate animation could be played. As Windows 10 doesn’t exactly have the API for this, Archer had to settle for a clever but fragile workaround to get that info. He also added some basic face tracking to adjust the projected hologram image to follow the user’s position.
The result is a convincing manifestation of the fictional Cortana as an actual, interactive real-world hologram. It’s a shame Microsoft doesn’t seem at all interested in something like this that could knock the socks of any Echo or Home.