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Stretch: Interactive Holograms

John Beaty By

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It feels nice to finally be able to share what I've been up to since I last wrote for All About Jazz more than two years ago. In those articles I chronicled my journey from first learning Jazz, attending Music School and finally life as a touring Jazz musician. Through this process I came to understand some very fundamental problems with the current state of jazz. I also came to realize that there was a great difference between the reality I was living and my childhood dream of being a professional jazz musician. Of all my millennial peers, none have excelled in the way in which the young lions once did back in the late 80's and early 90's. My generation inherited a musical industry that is almost all industry and very little music. Suffice it to say, jazz has struggled within such a musical climate. My peers and I knew something had to change, and we started with what we called our music: "Stretch..." then, as far as everyone was concerned, I simply disappeared. In my time 'away' I don't think the Stretch Movement has grown into anything that has been setting the world on fire. Especially without offering any sort of easy to understand musical innovation. I can imagine that to many people, what I did in those original articles was career suicide. As much as my generation enjoys pointing out the flaws in the world around us, we are equally criticized for being lazy and self-entitled. And though I'm sure that is how I came across as well, it was my intention to avoid that fate.

I realized fairly early on with The Stretch Movement that no one would care unless we offered something truly revolutionary and unique. Simply rebranding or renaming what we already had essentially changes nothing. We needed to move away from the what jazz is in the traditional sense and avoid the baggage of that word as well, if we had any shot at actually reaching larger crowds of people. I also realized that we needed something that was uniquely our own; something that I could own and protect. In my last articles I briefly alluded to the tech world being a key to our future success. While writing the last article I had been asking myself the question: "If I was to be transported 100 years into the future, what would music performance look like" To me the answer was obvious: Interactive holograms:

So I disappeared to start Stretch Tech LLC and pursue patents on the invention. Unfortunately, pursuing those types of patents requires secrecy hence my absence. It took me and my friend and co-founder Jamaal Sawyer two years to get those patents on our invention as well as build and develop the software needed to be able to make the system work. Finally we are nearing completion of both the software and the hardware development and will be able to launch in the first half of 2014.

The first step we took was to see what other inventions were currently on the market that would allow on-stage performers to interact with holograms. While true volumetric holograms are still some years away, the best looking current ones available are the 'Pepper's ghost' holograms. These use a projector and a series of screens that allow the hologram to appear on stage. This technology first made headlines in 2012 when Tupac was 'resurrected' to perform at The Coachella Festival. The flaw in the 'Pepper's ghost' hologram is that performers on stage can't see it from on-stage, which makes it fairly difficult if not impossible for them to interact with it. My initial idea was to play my saxophone on stage and to have butterflies appear and fly from the bell. So the thought was; if we can't see the holograms, maybe we need the holograms to somehow see us.


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