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Projected Man
Okay, Projected Monogendered Female-Looking Alien. Sue us.

A Robot Buddy who happens to be made out of light.

Holography is the very real technique of using lasers to create a three dimensional image. It's very difficult and requires precisely calculated conditions and a bunch of costly hardware, but it's visually stunning, at least the first few times you see one. Technically, what is popularly called a "hologram" in science fiction is really called a volumetric display, as a true hologram is recorded onto a visual medium that provides the illusion of volume.

In The Future, presumably, this will get a lot easier. The Projected Man allows an artificial character to be a ridiculously human robot without all the logistical problems that implies.

The character may be constrained by power or the availability of a projector to add flavor.

Can be made of Hard Light, or can be an Intangible Man. Generally, if the Projected Man is solid, he will be able to become intangible in a crisis.

Frequently coupled with Tin Man or Mission Control. The inverse (human projection inside a computer world) is the Digital Avatar. Compare Astral Projection, where a living person makes their soul similar to this.

Cross with Spirit Advisor to produce Virtual Ghost. See also Hologram Projection Imperfection for when holograms don't work properly and have visual static or other glitches.

The name comes from the British science fiction movie, The Projected Man, that was riffed on MST3K. The eponymous character was more like a mutated freak with electricity powers than an example of this trope.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comics 
  • When robotic superheroes get heavily damaged (and they frequently do) they will often be projected until repairs to their bodies are completed. Examples include:
  • The mutant who uses the nickname Blue has an area of cyberspace mapped out like TRON, and there he has his own Projected Man 'Clu'. The name "Clu" may itself be a Shout-Out to a minor character from Tron.
  • In the later Sonic the Hedgehog Archie comics, NICOLE appears as a lynx using this trope.
  • In All Fall Down, AIQ Squared appears as this.
  • Luther Ironheart, the robotic deputy in American Flagg, is something of a hybrid. He has a large human-shaped but clearly robotic body, and a hologram for a head. While his head usually appears as a friendly and obviously non-human cartoon image, he can also use it to impersonate other characters. He successfully impersonates Flagg at one point, and the image is apparently flawless, at least on a video screen.

    Fanfiction 
  • The Portal 2 fanfic Blue Sky has Wheatley transferred into a Hard Light body. It's so realistic that several characters don't even realize he's not human - at one point, he shows a plug in the back of his neck to the local technology expert, and the other character is so stunned he decides he needs a drink before the conversation can continue.
  • The HoloSmurf seen in a few stories in the Smurfed Behind saga of the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story series.

    Film 
  • I, Robot featured V.I.K.I, the AI/Positronic brain of USR, who usually appeared as a face in a cube, made by smaller cubes.
    • And before that, when Del Spooner first arrives at USR, he interacts with a projected recording of Alfred Lanning, who is capable of answering simple questions.
      • Unlike VIKI's face, Lanning's recording is two-dimensional, although it appears volumetric from the front.
  • Vox, Orlando Jones' virtual-librarian character in the 2002 version of The Time Machine. Uniquely, Vox doesn't "exist" in real space, but interacts with people through transparent "pillars." Also, Vox changes quite a bit. During Hartdegen's first stop in the future, Vox is a chic, acerbic 21st Century man; his appearance and movement are smooth and crystal-clear. By 802701, he looks visibly older (requiring glasses) and has significant Hologram Projection Imperfection. This is justified, as he's running on reserve power. He's neither as smooth nor as acerbic as he was; now, he's a little more jittery and a lot more haunted. In his words, "Can you even imagine what it's like to remember...everything?"
  • On Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Chester V has holographic clones of himself that make public appearances for him and also serve as his companions. In the climax, they try to save him from fallling into his own machine, but as they are not made of Hard Light...

    Literature 
  • A future human society in Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Space makes use of "limited-sentience projections" as messengers. Initially Nemoto appears several times via more ordinary holographic telepresence (it's really her, talking as if over the phone), making for an unexpected What Measure Is a Non-Human? moment much further into the future when another character asks the projection what exactly it is; Virtual Nemoto explains and then looks horrified before dissolving into light. (And you thought Star Trek holograms had it bad...)
    • Andromeda appears to have borrowed the concept, as in at least one instance, a message is sent in the form of an interactive holographic recreation of the sender.
  • Alfred Bester's The Computer Connection apparently used this technique to replace both telephones (called "projecting") and advertising. The latter reversed the traditional payment scheme of advertising in that consumers could pay a monthly fee to maintain the insulation in their homes to keep the advertising out.
  • Subverted in Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, when one character is being rude to what she thinks is a holographic avatar, only to find it's a real person she's talking to. "We used to use avatars, but they put up with too much crap."
  • The Skylark Series by E. E. “Doc” Smith has the Hard Light version of this, and may well be the Ur Example.
  • Jane, from Speaker for the Dead and its sequels, started out as an extremely complex game/psychology test, but eventually developed sentience, and chose a young woman as her preferred avatar. Although holographic displays are standard for personal computers in this universe, the displays can only project holograms in a limited range above themselves.
  • Colin from William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive manifests this way.
  • Wayfarer by Dennis Schmidt has a scene where the main character manages to get aboard a ship still orbiting the planet and meets a holographic projection of the colony fleet's (now long-dead) admiral. The computer running it is programmed with enough of the admiral's knowledge and personality that the simulation could actually exercise a limited degree of command in routine matters; this allows it to give the hero some useful advice based on the real admiral's mastery of Zen.
  • The DHI's from Kingdom Keepers become this upon sleeping, taking over for the hologram versions of themselves that serve as hosts in the parks. Finn has also shown the ability to briefly become one at will, complete with Intangible Man properties.

    Live Action Television 
  • The titular character of Automan
  • Rimmer in Red Dwarf, although he very definitely did not fit the mold of Robot Buddy.
  • Darien's sidekick Selma (Specified Encapsulated Limitless Memory Archive) in Time Trax. She is almost a Virtual Ghost, as her appearance was based on a photograph of Darien's late mother. For Darien's mission into the 20th century, Selma is disguised as a credit card and frequently used as such (she just hacks the computer to accept her). In one episode, Darien meets an old friend of his, who has traveled back in time to catch a certain criminal. He shows off his own computer called CINDI (Consumer Information Network and Data Interface), who looks like a ditzy blonde and doesn't do much except giggle and take up seductive poses, while her hologram occasionally glitches. Obviously an inferior version of SELMA, who is a little insulted.
  • The Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, and a number of other characters late in the Star Trek franchise.
    • Any humanoid-like being produced by the Holodeck counts.
    • The other noteworthy mention here is Stephen Hawking who as this type of character got to be the only person in Star Trek history to date to appear on the show as himself.
  • One of Andromeda's three selves in Andromeda.
  • Used by Mission: Impossible in a few of their conjobs, particularly notable in the episode Holograms.
  • Caravaggio from Starhunter. From the shoulders up, he's a posh British butler in a tuxedo. From the shoulders down, he's a skeleton for some odd reason.
  • Al from Quantum Leap isn't actually a hologram, but functions like one from Sam's point of view.
    • However, Sam and the world around him, appear as this to Al back in the present because he is in an "imaging chamber" much like a Star Trek Holodeck.
  • Similarly Asgard communications technology in Stargate SG-1 functions by projecting a full-body hologram of the user to wherever the person they want to talk to is, apparently without the need for an emitter at the recieving end, allowing for some handy Intangible Man shinnanigans.
    • The Ancients have this as well.
    • An interesting variation on this is used in an early episode by Sokar, who attacks the Earth gate's iris with a particle accelerator. He modulates the accelerator to make his face appear on the iris and even have his voice come out, informing the Tau'ri why he's punishing them.
    • The Asgard holo-technology is revealed to the public in one episode as a counter to a CEO revealing an Asgard as proof that the government is hiding something (it was just a mindless clone). Carter then went on national television and revealed that the government has been working on realistic-looking holographic projection technology and demonstrates this by passing her hand through a solid object, revealing that she wasn't really there.
    • A crossover SG-1/Atlantis episode involves Daniel searching through the Ancient database in Atlantis for Merlin's weapon, finally figuring out that his holographic guide is actually Ganos Lal (AKA Morgan Le Fay), an Ascended Ancient, secretly helping him.
  • Several characters on Babylon 5 are able to communicate this way while making use of the Great Machine. Two out of three characters who do this on the show tend to be Large Hams for some reason.
  • Cyber-Cam from Power Rangers Ninja Storm, who regular Cam created to handle some of his responsibilities when he became the Sixth Ranger and found that managing that and being the Mission Control was too exhausting.

    Video Games 
  • Cortana from Halo, who is also a Voice with an Internet Connection and arguably a Mission Control, with a good bit of Playful Hacker thrown in. She briefly gets Hard Light tech during Halo4 while on a Forerunner ship.
    • Ditto for Serina in Halo Wars. In fact, most AIs in the Halo universe (and there are several) use a holographic human avatar, though according to the novels not all of them are human, never mind hot women.
      • One particular example is Black Box (or BB for short) in Karen Traviss's novels. He is the most advanced AI in existence (yet another secret ONI project). However, he refuses to generate a human avatar, always appearing as little more than a featureless blue cube (unclear why blue and not black) who nevertheless manages to convey emotion by spinning and running lights over itself.
  • In the video game The Suffering, the hero has to, among many other things, deal with a Projected Man...using decades old technology. Much creepiness ensues, including having to destroy the projectors to stop him from reviving certain enemies.
  • Beyond Good & Evil has Secundo, an Ambiguously Spanish holographic AI who manages Jade's inventory and e-mail for her. He's also a Chekhov's Gunman, as his short on-screen appearance at the beginning of the game only hints at the fact that his computerized nature will prove very helpful at the game's end.
  • Nearly every Virtual Intelligence encountered in the game Mass Effect is a perfect example of this trope. The one exception is the rogue VI found on Earth's moon. Its rogue status may or may not have something to do with this.
    • These are actually special cases: when a VI is designed for interpersonal interaction (such as Avina, the asari VI on the Citadel) it has a human- or asari-shaped projection. There's actually a VI interface in almost everything, from your omnitool to your biotic implant to your assault rifle. The rogue VI on the moon didn't have a projection because it was designed for organising drones for combat simulations, not for directing people to the nearest bar or restaurant.
    • EDI in the second game inverts this in that she projects herself as a sphere of blue lights, but is a genuine self-aware AI.
    • Glyph similarly manifests as a blue sphere, although in his case he is a drone equipped as a sort of administrative assistant VI.
    • Holographic projections are also commonly used for long distance communication, at least for folks important enough to make direct calls to Commander Shepard, a list that is generally limited to leaders or representatives of powerful organizations.
    • In the third game, it is possible to encounter a VI with a very Flanderized version of Commander Shepard's personality, which projects itself as a hard-light projection of Shepard. Depending on if Shepard is a Paragon or a Renegade, the VI will either be obnoxiously supportive or comically bloodthirsty. Cue Do I Really Sound Like That? from Shepard.
  • The sequel to Knights of the Old Republic has the G0-T0 droid who hides behind his Secret Identity of Goto, a middle aged man communicating only through hologram projection.
  • In Destroy All Humans!, Pox becomes this when he downloads his conscious into a float disk just before their main ship was destroyed. He stays this way for a decade before finally getting himself a new body, though not what he expected.
  • Eliza of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is life live hologram.
    • Deus Ex: Invisible War also has NG Resonance, an international pop-star, whose holographic AIs are playing all over the world. The AIs can interact with people, and one is hard-pressed to tell that it's not an actual person. Interestingly, while the holograms are polite and friendly, the actual pop-star is a spoiled brat who doesn't care about anyone.
      • Expanding on this the AI starts to become personalized towards each person. You see it giving advice and comforting an office drone the first time you met it. As the game goes on it starts acting as your handler, which you can comment on. And to be fair to the Pop-Star she was panicking as she found herself in the middle of a war-zone.

    Visual Novels 
  • Sora in Ever17 (at least until the True Ending, where she becomes a Robot Girl).

    Web Comic 
  • The AIs that control ships in the Schlock Mercenary universe are usually represented by holograms, for interaction with "meatbags". And for the sake of exposition, as they themselves occasionally notice, even for direct interaction between AIs themselves. Some exceptions are Haban, who is embedded into a human and talks through him, Ennesby, who has a physical flying body and was talking through it or just speakers when he was a ship AI, and TAG, who speaks disembodiedly on purpose.

    Web Original 
  • All the AIs in Red vs. Blue project themselves in this manner at some point, with Delta notably using his projection to simulate a combatant in battle as a distraction once.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in Futurama, where a miniature Projected Man version of Hermes appears to the other characters to relay a message but is then carried away by a pigeon. When the (real) Hermes appears next, he is sporting various plasters.
  • Slight twist: In some continuities, Transformers have holograms of drivers in their vehicle modes so that they don't appear to be driving themselves. In the latest comic series, the driver avatars are Hard Light projections that can operate some distance from their robot bodies.
  • Sixshot in Transformers Headmasters projects copies of himself to fight; they're made of Hard Light. Prowl in Transformers Animated seems to have picked up a similar trick, but without the hardness (and a crimefighter in the comic named "Wraith" is able to project a moving hologram of himself that he controls from a nearby truck).
  • In Transformers: Robots In Disguise, T-AI is a sentient computer who projects a holographic image of herself. She even operates equally holographic keypads to make the computer (which is her) do stuff. Transformers Wiki summed up the Fridge Logic of this. note The Rule of Cool is definitely in effect.
  • In later episodes of Danny Phantom we see that Vlad made himself a holographic version of Danny's mother as his lab assistant. When Danny attacks his laboratory, the hologram and the AI glitches says it prefers to be with the holographic Jack Fenton than with him. He later fixes that "flaw".
    • In "Phantom Planet" it turns out he's using at least two holographic Maddies on his space station and at one point they fight over who's the favorite.
  • Synergy from Jem.
    • Jem herself doesn't count since it's more of We Will Not Use Stage Make-Up in the Future, but Jerrica has had Synergy project holograms of Jem (or holograms of Jerrica if she's in her Jem alter-ego) to prevent her cover from being blown when the need for both of them to be in the same room at the same time arises.
  • Iron Man's second season of the 90's cartoon featured an AI called HOMER who seemed to be this.


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