ESPN is working on virtual set technology that allows anchors or players in distant locations to appear as holograms on-screen. The cable sports giant plans to start using the technology on-air in the spring.
To demonstrate the virtual technology at a media briefing at its campus here Thursday, ESPN assembled longtime anchor Chris Berman and executive vice president of technology Chuck Pagano in a conference room, seated some eight feet apart, with a series of large HD displays behind them. Then longtime anchor Bob Ley magically appeared, seated on a chair between them, in hologram form on the TV screens.
"This is just an example of the cutting edge technology that will save us so much money on airfare for the World Cup," quipped Ley, who will host ESPN's coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa. Ley, who was actually seated in a green-screen set down the hall from Pagano and Berman, then engaged in some witty repartee before walking into the room in person to remember some of ESPN's highlight moments since its founding in 1979.
Ley's virtual appearance onscreen was remarkably realistic, without the significant image blurring seen in hologram technology used by CNN on Election Night last fall.