Beam me up to Hong Kong – Stephen Hawking calls in for a chat
New technology allows hologram of the scientist to speak to rapt audience members
The Hong Kong Science Park audience sat in rapture on Friday night as Stephen Hawking talked to them about everything from the beginning of time to Brexit – virtually.
In reality the world’s most famous living scientist was still at his office in Cambridge.
In what amounted to a double scoop for the local science community, Hawking appeared as a digital human hologram through technology called HumaGram, which was being demonstrated in Hong Kong for the first time.
The technology, created by ARHT Media, is at the frontier of the sort of 3D visual communication normally only seen in films like Star Wars.
The British scientist, paralysed by motor neurone disease, spoke in his signature Hawking “voice”, created by a technology that turns words “typed” by his facial movement into a human voice.
He started by giving a touching account of his early life, including being a student at Oxford and Cambridge. He said meeting his future wife gave him the momentum to be positive.
“If I get married, I need to finish my Ph.D. and get a job.”
There were also flashes of his sense of humour. Of his bestselling book A Brief History of Time, he said: “I am sure you have all read it from cover to cover, so I shall be asking questions later.”
In a question and answer session he talked about both current affairs and his current research, a project called “no boundary proposal”, which is “a model of the conditions at the beginning, when space and time becomes fussy”.
Things were much clearer when he talked about Britain’s exit from the European Union, which he clearly opposed, describing it as “short-sighted”.
He said people who voted for Brexit feared emigrants from Eastern Europe would take away their jobs, but in reality, “a few people will get mega rich but most people will be poorer”.
Because of Hawking’s difficulties in “talking”, the Post understands that questions were sent to him in advance, but he gave live answers.
One of the hundreds who sat listening in Tai Po said: “What Hawking said was really amazing. It is really good for Hong Kong’s technology that we have this event.”