It’s one of those storefronts that you’ve walked by a million times in New York City, but never paid much attention to because, well, like the subway, the magazine stands, and the thousands of other storefronts, Holographic Studiosis a part of the fabric of the city — barely calling attention to itself and the priceless treasures hidden behind its doors.
After learning about the colorful and intriguing history behind Holographic Studios and Jason Sapon (the legendary and colorful founder of Holographic Studios who is also a pioneer in holography), I saw an exciting opportunity to engage people in discussing one of the hottest, emerging technologies (3D, VR, AR), in a fun, unique way that would help them to embrace the technology, while offering a bit of historical context.
This, I believe, is crucial for educating the general public on frontier technologies (artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, internet of things, 3D printing, robots, etc.). While the giant tech companies, investors, and brands, invest billions, collectively, into developing emerging technologies that will disrupt every facet of our society in a staggeringly short amount of time (compared to past technological revolutions), educating the general public on these disruptive technologies seems to have been left in the dust. But, with the level of disruption anticipated as a result of these technologies, including potential mass unemployment, it’s in everyone’s best interest (especially the companies developing the technologies) to educate and engage the general public on emerging tech as soon as possible.
At Tech 2025, this is exactly what we are doing — reaching out to entrepreneurs, business people, and the general public to facilitate learning and discussions on how emerging technologies will impact them now, in the near future, and how they, too, can benefit from it all. We accomplish this through interactive workshops and live events. But another key way to do this is by having experiential tours of the many tech installations, companies and sites throughout the tri-state area. Our first experiential event convinced me that this is not only an effective way to engage people in emerging technology, it’s what they want.
Forty people purchased tickets to attend “From Holograms to HoloLens: an Interactive Tour of Holographic Studios with Dr. Laser.” Not only did this exceed the maximum number allowed for the tour, but I was informed by Jason Sapon that, up until an hour before the tour, people were calling Holographic Studios asking if it was too late to purchase tickets. Having done the tour for so many years, even he was surprised by the interest our promotion garnered.
What made people want to attend a quirky event called “Holograms to HoloLens”?
On the ticket purchase page, we asked attendees, “Do you currently own or use virtual reality gear?”. Of the 28 people who answered the question (out of 40 attendees total), 15 people answered that they currently own VR gear (with quite a few naming HoloLens, Oculus, and Vive), and 11 people answered that they don’t own VR gear (with a few saying they are interested in purchasing gear in the future). This mix of VR experts and VR novices is exactly what I was going for when developing our outreach strategy and, though this was a small group, it is representative of our larger network.
When asked why he attended the event, Paul explained that, as a HoloLens developer, he was intrigued by the idea of learning about the history of the technology and Jason Sapon’s unique story (like the rest of us, he had never heard of Holographic Studios, even though it has been a fixture in the same location for the past 40 years — gotta love New York!). Paul also explained that he is always looking for unique, fun ways to engage his HoloLens Meetup members. This, he noted, was intriguing.
Our group consisted of Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, and one adorable 8 year old girl whose mother emailed me to ask if her daughter (who is home-schooled) could attend the event because she was looking for ways to educate her daughter on VR/AR/MR. [Note: Days after the event, this mom emailed me to say, “My daughter truly had a great time and has asked me to organize a homeschool field trip so she can see Dr. Laser again!”].
An elementary school teacher attended because, although her school is not yet using VR due to budgetary constraints, she wanted ideas on how to introduce the technology to students when they do get VR gear. “This event,” she told me, “ seemed like a great way to get ideas to engage my students.” Another person mentioned that their boss forwarded them the invite and suggested they attend to learn more about “this new tech stuff.”
The diversity of our small group, coupled with the feedback from attendees about why they attended this quirky little event, tells us a lot about what people want and need in order to be engaged in learning and conversations about emerging technology. Almost everyone (even experts and developers) is overwhelmed by the daily onslaught of mainstream news about the Frontier Tech that will carry us into a new era of innovation — technologies we must learn about, embrace, and adopt now. It’s no wonder people are genuinely confused about where to begin and what to embrace. Stop the presses!
Below is our event description that drew the diverse group of attendees:
5 Reasons Why the Event Was Such a Success
Dr. Laser did not disappoint! Walking through the doors of Holographic Studios was like stepping into a time machine (photos of Dr. Laser with celebrities, a wall of autographs from celebrities who have come through his doors and had holograms made of themselves, film canisters (real ones!), his subterranean laboratory!).
He explained the science and the technology in a way that enraptured us all and with a witty sense of humor at that. He clearly understands the power of telling a compelling story as a teaching tool. As he bounced back and forth between how the technology developed through the years, and its connection to what we see today in stores (VR, HoloLens, etc.), you couldn’t help but think, “Yeah, this new stuff is cool, but the original stuff was truly groundbreaking!”
Attendees left giving me hugs and thanking them for the experience. I was pretty overwhelmed by the outpouring of appreciation and loved learning about each of the attendees and their own stories and connection to technology.
Here’s why I believe this event was such a great experience for them:
- It was different!
This was a unique learning experience that most people would never have thought to do on their own (we’re all so busy that even wonderful experiences like this can float under our radar or seem like too much effort to plan on your own). For those of us in the group who regularly attend tech events, I offered this thought in my introduction chat, “How many panels and conferences can you go to? How many workshops can you attend? I want to get us out of the rut of sitting through talks and panels, out into the world where this technology is all around us.” They were more than game, and boy was I glad!
- It challenged them to think differently about the technology they’ve been hearing so much about.
Most of the attendees mentioned wanting to get ideas on how to think differently about VR, or to learn about it in a unique way. One attendee who works with HoloLens developers mentioned wanting to bring his developers on the tour to get them to “think outside of the box” (and away from their computer screens!). If we want people to embrace frontier technologies, we have to ask them to do more than just play with the technology hands-on. We have to engage them in dialogue, experience, and stories that challenge them to think differently about the technology and to create experiences that do the same!
- It offered historical context on new technology.
We are all becoming hyper-focused on the future. The technological future is all anyone can talk about or write about these days. That’s all well and good (I’m obsessed with it too), but we should never underestimate the power of history to stir our imaginations and to help us grasp difficult concepts (like artificial intelligence). The emerging technology at hand is so challenging to explain and understand (especially with regards to its full impact and potential), that I believe it requires some historical context when teaching people about it. At the very least, it helps people to understand and to question the technology in a more substantive way. Understanding a bit of the history behind emerging tech reminds us how and why the technology was initially developed, and to understand how technology evolves over time, which is crucial for helping us to understand how it will be implemented in the near future. As I said on the event description page, “Let’s go back to the future!”
- Dr. Laser was funny, entertaining, patient and selfless.
That’s a tall order, but believe me when I tell you that Jason Sapan has earned every bit of great press he has received over the years. After doing three tours that day, he welcomed us into his Holographic Studios as if he were doing the first tour of the day. His excitement, humor, and love for what he does was palpable and infectious. He talked with us about the companies and big brands that commissioned him to do holograms (including the Olympics and celebrities), and ruminated on the future of the technology, among other things. Learning about technology from someone who loves it as much as he does, and shares it so selflessly, is a joy to behold and perhaps one of the most effective ways to engage people.
- Learning about technology together.
Let’s face it, learning about technology in an interactive setting, with other people from diverse backgrounds is fun. This group gabbed with each other, laughed with each other, exchanged info (networking!), and had a great time learning together. Live events (even small gatherings) are powerful platforms for engagement around technology and meeting new people who can help you to expand your knowledge base. For further proof of how awesome our group was, take a look at the photo below (view more photos on our Facebook page)!