University of South Florida


Dean Robert Bishop, College of Engineering

Two places at once? USF leader-turned-hologram proves it’s possible

When USF College of Engineering Dean Robert Bishop was scheduled to be in two places at once, rather than declining an invitation, his team created a way for him to appear at both events.

While listening to a student’s dissertation in one room of the college, Bishop was simultaneously presenting to the USF Foundation’s Board of Directors down the hall, via hologram. 

“It’s been 54 years since we first saw holograms on Star Trek,” Bishop said. “At the College of Engineering, we have the drive to be at the forefront of technology through applied research and world-class teaching. This is just another example of our desire to push the limits of technology in all we do.” 

Karen Romas, the college’s director of development, suggested using holography because it was an opportunity to showcase the innovative side of the college and explore the use of new technology. 

“That’s how you learn! You have to get out of your comfort zone and that allows your growth,” she said.

Ryan Wakefield, multimedia designer for the college, brought the vision to life. Wakefield has worked as a multimedia designer for more than 20 years – he’s watched USF students interact with robots, 3-D printers, drones and laser cutters, but this is the first time he’s led a project involving a hologram.

When researching holography, Wakefield discovered Holofan. The device produces a high-resolution video that appears to float in the physical world. The holographic images are created by four fan blades that are home to a row of LED lights. The illusion of a hologram is created when these lights are spinning. To play audio simultaneously, the Holofan connects to a wireless Bluetooth speaker. 

Wakefield got to work! Prior to recording Bishop’s official video message for the Holofan, he experimented with sample videos to determine what works best. Crowds of fascinated students and faculty gathered to watch the Holofan during one of Wakefield’s tests, where he played a generic sample video of a fish. 

 One of his key discoveries: The color black becomes transparent on the Holofan because of the red, green and blue lights used. After a series of trials and errors – and making sure Bishop did not wear any black during his recording – the hologram was a success. The final result: Bishop “attended” two events at the same time.

While holograms are most commonly used in the military for mapping, many believe holograms may be the future of remote work because of their ability to create a life-like virtual experience, allowing others to read body language and enhance connection. 

The college’s team plans to use the Holofan for future events and presentations.  

“Until teleportation is a real thing, we’ve got the next best thing!” Romas said.

Return to article listing