Holograms in banking: is it time to shine?
When people walk past the Workers Credit Union branches and see the life-size hologram janitor inside, their curiosity is piqued.
“Some people don’t know exactly what it is and are cautiously bypassing it,” said Don DeLuca, solutions architect for Workers in Littleton, Massachusetts. “The kids seem to really like it.”
The holographic image, which is projected onto a screen, is created by Prsonas, a division of nuMedia, a digital customer experience company. The avatar-like image is of a woman in a yellow button-down shirt and gray pants. The $2.4 billion-asset credit union dubbed her Olivia and placed her in its four PlanIt centers, its name for its more tech-focused branches.
Olivia speaks English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and American Sign Language; she is largely stationary, though she moves her hands to communicate in ASL. She frees human branch employees from the mundane tasks of greeting customers who approach her, providing information about Workers products, and pointing to the tablet where they can record their appointments. It also entertains the children whose parents discuss with the Centre’s financial coaches.
Life-size holograms are a nascent technology in banking, and few financial institutions spotlight the feature like Workers. Instead, banks are using holograms behind the scenes to send employees to speak at faraway events or conferences, saving time, money and environmental costs. Others are considering ways to integrate holographic tellers into branches. Companies that turn real people into digital replicas say it’s more personal than video and has more emotional impact on audiences, and that their technology allows holograms to speak and react to others, like other participants of a panel, in real time.
Workers Credit Union’s PlanIt Centers are more technology-focused than typical credit union locations. Besides Olivia, there’s a Pepper robot, digital pillars that display financial wellness quizzes, and video ATMs; Eventually, Workers will convert all of its locations into PlanIt centers.
“We decided that because PlanIt branches are a new concept, we were going to change the technology. We wanted to put things in there that you wouldn’t see in a typical branch,” said Joanne White, Information and Operations Manager at Workers. Currently, Olivia’s speech is scripted, but the credit union hopes to incorporate conversational artificial intelligence capabilities over time. The hologram will detect people approaching, instead of just passing by, and will activate automatically.
Prsonas software behind Olivia can be used in different ways. When projecting Olivia (or another human personality) onto life-size material, it’s a hologram; the company could also deploy its personalities on a digital screen, such as a tablet, as digital avatars.
Other hologram companies use a combination of off-the-shelf and specialized technologies to teleport people from one location using pre-recorded or real-time presentations.
During a demonstration of Arht Media’s “HoloPresence” technology at a WeWork studio in Washington, D.C., company CEO Larry O’Reilly, who was in Toronto, Canada, appeared on a black mesh screen and interacted live with attendees. There was no delay in the speech between the speaker and the audience.
The company uses proprietary software and three-dimensional displays to transmit life-size three-dimensional images of people over the Internet. He has worked with banks to send speakers to conferences without traveling, and says demand is growing as they prepare for more in-person meetings and conferences. In 2019, he sent a senior vice president of Royal Bank of Canada, Chris Phillips, to the Sibos conference in London from Toronto to speak at a panel on the future of data and technology in the banking sector.
“Transferring into Sibos as a hologram…not only saved me an incredible amount of time, it also allowed me to participate in an important and timely panel discussion on the future of financial services while using a state-of-the-art technology,” Phillips said in a press release. at the time. Several years ago, when Janet Yellen was Treasury Secretary, Arht Media teleported her from Chicago to Singapore to speak at a Bank of Singapore event and Barclays-sponsored session. Past clients have also included Citi, Deutsche Bank and UBS.
O’Reilly says a hologram creates a more memorable and engaging experience for attendees. The company says it encrypts communications end-to-end to meet banking compliance requirements.
Proto does something similar. Doug Barry, co-founder and COO, says Proto creates a 3D-like volumetric video effect that most people associate with a classic hologram. Simply put, the person to be broadcast elsewhere as a hologram will be broadcast in front of a standard video camera or mobile phone with the Proto app to record content or speak live. The device is connected to Proto’s proprietary global cloud network, and the hologram will materialize in a life-size “box” plugged into a regular electrical outlet that Proto’s customer purchases, rents, or leases from Proto. The box can be placed on a stage, integrated into another structure, or wrapped in corporate logos and designs.
The advantage over just connecting a speaker in a lecture or two people in a meeting over video is that studies show that such holograms “create a more emotional connection and chemical reaction than two-dimensional video traditional,” Barry said. The company is in talks with several banks, which it cannot name, to use holograms for tasks such as office-to-office communication that might otherwise require transporting C-suite executives to another country or the addressing customers in branches with greetings or possibly with live customer service. He has noticed an increase in interest over the past nine months to a year. Proto also spent time figuring out how to securely connect to banks’ networks.
“All banks are trying to cope with the same thing: improve customer experience, reduce costs, help improve the planet and adapt to a new hybrid work environment,” Barry said.
External reactions to the usefulness of holograms serving as greeters or diversions in branches are mixed.
Robert Meara, senior retail and corporate banking analyst at Celent, notes that several banks inside and outside the United States have experimented with bots.
“To my knowledge, none of them were anything other than novelty,” he said. “I suspect holograms will be another finicky effort. Most consumers take a fairly serious or sober view of financial matters. They won’t visit their bank or credit union for fun or experiences that have nothing to do with the financial institution’s value proposition.
Steven Dickens, senior blockchain, fintech and more analyst at Futurum Research, expects to see more innovative forms of engagement and interaction as businesses, including banks, move closer to the metaverse. “As banks look to cut costs at branches, they’re also looking to make banking more experiential,” he said. “Holograms, telepresence and digital twins” – virtual replicas of physical devices – “and avatars will all become options for methods of interacting with customers.”