Not so long ago, there was much anguish over the ethics of making a hologram out of a dead pop star. There was the question of consent, for a start: the deceased legend had no idea they’d be flickering round the globe in perpetuity. Then there was the problem of developing technology: holographic entities, from Tupac Shakur’s to Roy Orbison’s, were unable to interact or make eye contact. And who would model the body of Whitney Houston, or Amy Winehouse? It was all too creepy to bear.
This November, in an as yet undisclosed central London location, 30,000 sq ft of premium space will be given over to the world’s first Elvis Presley AI spectacular. Elvis Evolution is a joint project between the Authentic Brands Group, the mega corporation that has managed the Presley estate since 2013, and Layered Reality, the tech wizards responsible for the recent immersive shows, War of the Worlds, and The Gunpowder Plot, currently running in the vaults at the Tower of London.
Andrew McGuinness, the CEO of Layered Reality, says his company is “in the memory business” – by which he doesn’t just mean they are making memories, but recreating the past through carefully built-up sensory illusion. The Presley show, he reveals from his office in London, employs, among many other things, “specialists in aroma”. The smell of Elvis? He won’t say what that is. “Smell is an incredibly powerful way of putting people in a place,” he points out. “You may not be aware of all the technology being used, but all your senses will be telling you you’ve been transported. You’ll get the feeling of what it was like to be Elvis.” Expect the humidity of Memphis Tennessee, evoking Proustian rushes of Graceland whether you’ve been there or not.
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