Jan 11, 2024 - Technology

"Holoportation," robot romances: Futurist Faith Popcorn's latest predictions

Faith Popcorn, the futurist, seated in a chair.

Faith Popcorn, the futurist who founded BrainReserve. Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Fast Company

"Holoportation," three-way romances involving robots, extending the natural lives of dogs — they're all on the latest prediction list from Faith Popcorn, the flamboyant futurist and trend-spotter who introduced the world to terms like "cocooning" and "cashing out."

  • Popcorn's firm, BrainReserve, counts a staggering number of Fortune 500 companies as clients, and her "TrendBank" of "global trends that reveal the future" has proved uncannily accurate.

Driving the news: Popcorn is endorsing a device that lets people beam 3D images of themselves into other places using a frame-like device called the Proto Hologram (formerly known as the PORTL).

  • "I think it's the thing before time travel," Popcorn said in an exclusive interview with Axios. "I think we're a bit away from time travel, but I think this is the closest we've gotten so far."
  • The Proto enables what it calls "holoportation" — transmitting a real-time image of yourself to a box in a faraway place, sort of like a 3D Zoom call. (See a picture of Jennifer being "holoported" here.)
  • Popcorn, who's moderating a panel on biohacking this week in Las Vegas at CES, an annual consumer electronics show, will be promoting the Proto, which Mashable called out as one of the show's more bizarre contraptions.

Where it stands: The Proto is "designed to combat social isolation," per Mashable.

  • It's also being used by actor Howie Mandel (in his office, to project himself places he can't be in person), at trade shows and conventions, by companies to conduct more lifelike long-distance meetings, by sports teams, etc.
  • "It was featured on the latest season of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" too, where Kris Jenner pranked Khloe Kardashian with a holographic version of herself," as Mashable noted.
Kris Jenner appears on the Proto Mini to surprise Khloe Kardashian.
Kris Jenner appears on the Proto Mini to a surprised Khloe Kardashian during an episode of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." Image: Axios screenshot from a YouTube video

What they're saying: Popcorn, who coined the term "cocooning" in 1981 to refer to "the need to protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world," says the term is more relevant than ever — and it'll drive demand for the Proto.

  • "I think it is going to be in every wall — not on the wall but in the wall — in many places globally," she said. "It will come with your environment; it will be part of that cocoon."

What's next: Popcorn is also struck by the trend toward polyamory, and she predicts that robots will be part of the equation.

  • "When you have polyamory with a robot, don't think of a robot as looking all steely — a robot can be beautiful." she said. "That entity understands how to moderate between the two of you."
  • Artificial intelligence will be a boon, she believes. "AI can replace so many things that we do in a better way than we do them," she said. "It's kind of wonderful, except if you have one of those jobs that AI can do better than you can."
  • Popcorn, who has three dogs, predicts breakthroughs in extending pets' lives. "I don't want to clone a dog — I want to life-extend a dog," she said.

Between the lines: Popcorn's TrendBank of 17 trends has proved remarkably resilient, with predictions from yesteryear enduring into today.

  • "Cashing out," a trend spotted in the 1980s, was an early recognition of people seeking work/life balance. She defines it as, "working women and men, questioning personal/career satisfaction and goals, [opting] for simpler living."
  • "AtmosFear," from the 1990s, was identified well before climate change became widely accepted.
  • "Clanning," coined in the 1980s, refers to "belonging to a group that represents common feelings, causes or ideals; validating one's own belief system."

What's next: Popcorn foresees the Proto being useful for everything from galvanizing social movements (a Gandhi figure could holoport into your living room) to virtual attendance at a Taylor Swift concert.

  • "If you've ever seen water in the Proto, you feel like you could drink it, the resolution is so high," she said. "It's like the ultimate delivery system, I guess, in three-dimensional skin and bones — real life."
The Proto holoportation machine with four people flanking it, including actor Howie Mandel.
Showing off the Proto on Wednesday at CES, the Consumer Electronic Show were (left to right): Bari Hoffman of the University of Central Florida, who uses it for teaching: David Nussbaum, Proto's CEO and inventor; a virtual Howie Mandel, who was beamed in from Los Angeles and is an investor in Proto; and Danielle D. Duplin, president of Agency: Innovation for Living Longer and Aging Better. Photo courtesy of Proto.
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