High-end horse buyers are going ga-ga for a new technology that beams the magnificent creatures into a museum-quality showcase before their very eyes – either live or pre-recorded. The PORTL is a seven-foot by 4.5-foot white lightbox that comes completely assembled and self-contained. Plug the power cord into an outlet, connect the PORTL to the WiFi, check your time zone and connect with sellers in Argentina.
For our demonstration, available horses were walked back and forth, left to right and then back again, in front of a basic video camera and white backdrop in Argentina, while in Los Angeles, we viewed the three-dimensional images and even carried on a conversation in real-time with the hologrammed sellers. “This is too good to be true,” said an observer.
“It’s not too good to be true,” countered David Nussbaum, inventor and CEO of PORTL. “And it’s happening in real-time right in front of us.” The technology uses a patent-pending production process to create a realistic image with one camera. That image is beamed into the PORTL, a fully lit, self-contained, acrylic lightbox. Shadows are cast onto the projection, creating depth and adding to the magical experience.
“This will change the horse-buying experience,” remarked another observer. With travel bans in effect, horse buyers cannot travel as easily to see the animals personally. PORTL makes the experience, well, almost like being there. “It’s an emotional experience,” Nussbaum said. “This is far beyond a square on a screen.”
A basic production team is all that’s needed on the projecting end to create all of that magic, and in our case, cooperative horses, too. Sure, there are lights and WiFi connections, but it sure beats the hassle of an airport and 14-day required quarantine upon arrival in Buenos Aires.
Nussbaum’s original PORTL, which we demoed, is called The Epic, and there’s a five-month production backorder right now. He’s also in the process of finalizing the app to accompany it. The app will be a powerful and complementary tool that will take the power of a production studio and put it into the hands of a smartphone operator. Enhanced app features will make it easier to adjust lighting, shadows, effects and depth.
The technology has existed for years, Nussbaum explained, but in simpler scenarios. Take, for example, the meteorologist on the local news. The meteorologist records segments in front of a green screen, and then in production, the maps, effects and digital features are added. As far back as 1977, Star Wars fans were delighted with hologram messages of Princess Leia (“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”) projected by a droid named R2D2. In 2020, the hologram can be an Argentine stud for auction and the droid projecting it in front of you is PORTL.
The concept has already taken off in Japan and parts of the Middle East, where shopping malls and retailers have adopted early versions of The Epic. Three-dimensional, hologrammed models have replaced lifeless mannequins, showing clothing and accessories, either on a loop or interactively using artificial intelligence. The PORTL can also gather and report demographic information to retailers: how many potential customers walked by, viewed, engaged or dismissed the machine.
In the U.S., much of Nussbaum’s business has been projecting celebrities to awards shows or meetings they cannot attend in person. He was part of the production team that beamed Tupac to the Coachella Music Festival in 2012. For Easter one year, a megachurch requested that he beam Jesus Christ walking on water into the sanctuary. Prior to the 2016 debacle, he beamed Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy to a speaking gig. He’s beamed Jimmy Kimmel to the Country Music Awards and Jack Black to a meeting in London.
Up next for PORTL is a miniature version that will be only 18” high. Also in production is a machine called The Corner Office, which will be similar in size to The Epic but designed to fit into the corner of an office or conference room.
Nussbaum’s been on the cutting edge of the technology in this growing field of beaming for years, and he’s excited about the growth and potential for the industry, especially as companies grow weary of Zoom meetings and FaceTimes. “We’re making this (beaming) as easy to use as possible. If you can use a smart TV, you will be able to beam with our products.”
By: Josh Jakobitz