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Projected Man

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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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Masha, the Robot Buddy in Tokyo Mew Mew, can project a hologram of Ryou, his Teen Genius creator, when the latter needs to tell something to the girls and can't be there himself.
  • In The Mysterious Cities of Gold from the second season onward, the six Sages of Mu and Princess Rana'Ori appear as "lumino-projections" in some of the Cities of Gold. At one point in the final season, Ambrosius also makes a holographic message of himself as part of a trap.
  • Reinforce Zwei was depicted as this in the Distant Finale of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. She's become a lot more solid since.
  • Canal in Lost Universe is a Spaceship Girl in a Meido outfit. Notably, this is supposed to be impossible, even for the advanced space-faring races of the world in question. It's implied that Canel is only able to exist this way due to being an avatar of the Big Good, Volfied.
  • Blassreiter has Elea, a quirky AI who projects herself as a sexy imp. The epilogue introduces her successor, Maria.
  • The move Double Team is depicted this way in Pokémon.
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise: T-AI, an Autobot-aligned supercomputer, manifests herself in the holographic form of a Japanese policewoman.
  • The Duel arenas in Yu-Gi-Oh! use 3D holography to project realistic depictions of whatever is summoned by a particular card.

    Comic Books 
  • When robotic superheroes get heavily damaged (and they frequently do) they will often be projected until repairs to their bodies are completed. Examples include:
  • Miguel O'Hara, the Spider Man of 2099, had a personalized AI assistant who went by Lyla, and projected a Marilyn Monroe-like figure to communicate with him. She could take other forms, including an obvious lookalike of Aunt May.
  • 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 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.
  • The villain Optilux from Alan Moore's Supreme run was an alien intelligence (and Brainiac Expy) who existed as a living hologram. He also converted whole cities into light constructs and imprisoned them in prism-like structures (parallelling Brainiac shrinking cities and imprisoning them in bottles), believing that he was fulfilling a higher purpose by converting living people into light.
  • Superman:
    • Some have Superman's father Jor-El as a hologram who can walk around but he's usually portrayed as a Huge Holographic Head like in the movies.
    • In Strangers at the Heart's Core, the alien criminal trio known as The Visitors build a device called "The Voodoo Machine" which can project images capable of interacting with people and physical objects.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 Time Machine (2002). 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?"
  • In 1995's Hologram Man Kurt Decoda and Norman Galagher are transformed into holographic parolees in a Demolition Man-esque universe with Domed Cities.
  • Joi in Blade Runner 2049. Initially, she only appears thanks to a projection system in K's apartment, but then he buys an emanator that allows her to appear anywhere.

  • Both H.I.V.E.mind and Overlord of the H.I.V.E. Series appear as floating holographic heads.
  • 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". Later in the series, Captain John Armstrong Brannigan, a Trans Human, manifests himself in the form of decaying servitors, but viewer uses augmented reality goggles to see him as he was six hundred years ago when he worked for an organization called "NASA".
  • 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.
  • The Sun Eater series by Christopher Ruocchio has the main hero Hadrian understand a passage from their sacred histories "...and the daughters of Columbia seduced the kings of the Earth". Columbia is the first American A.I. and her daughters are next generation A.I. To help sell other countries's governments on the adoption of A.I., these next-gen machines had holographic avatars of flawlessly beautiful naked women made of white light who offered gifts of more advanced technology and seamlessly efficient government.
  • 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.
  • OWEN from The Municipalists has his physical appearance generated by a projector disguised in Henry's tie clip.
  • N.E.R.D.S.: The Playground's AI assistant, Benjamin, is a floating orb that projects itself as a hologram of historical figure Benjamin Franklin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The titular character of Automan. The difference with him is that with enough power, Automan is able to have a physical presence in the real world that feels real and can interact with physical objects as if he is.
  • Halo (2022), like the games, has the AI Cortana, albeit now she looks more human-like, starting with being flesh-colored instead of blue (the producers said that even if Cortana is a hologram, she had to feel real standing next to actual human beings).
  • Rimmer in Red Dwarf, although he very definitely did not fit the mold of Robot Buddy.
    • Holograms in this franchise are Virtual Ghosts of Brain Uploaded crew members but due to the high energy costs, most ships can only generate one hologram at a time so they have to hope that nobody more important dies.
    • It was originally shown that Rimmer couldn't leave the ship without being contained inside a holographic projection cage but later episodes scrapped this and said he was maintained by a tiny, hovering "light bee" inside himself and could go wherever he wanted.
    • Holograms were specified from the start to be intangible but the writers kept forgetting this and had Rimmer lifting things. In "Legion", he was eventually given a Hard Light drive that made him solid and indestructible.
    • "Holoship" introduced the titular project starship, crewed by hundreds of holograms.
  • Darien's sidekick S.E.L.M.A. (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, S.E.L.M.A. 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 C.I.N.D.I. (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 S.E.L.M.A., who is a little insulted.
  • Star Trek
    • Any humanoid-like being produced by the Holodeck qualifies, although most don't seem to be sentient.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: A noteworthy mention is Stephen Hawking who, as a hologram, got to be the only person in the franchise's history to date to appear on the show as himself.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: The Doctor, a.k.a. the Emergency Medical Hologram, is the chief medical officer on Voyager.
    • Star Trek: Picard:
      • Index, a hologram with the appearance of a human woman, is the user-friendly directory at Starfleet Archives.
      • La Sirena has at least five emergency holograms (Medical, Navigational, Hospitality, Tactical and Engineering). They all look like Cristóbal Rios, the ship's owner, because he selected the self-scan option, but they all dress, talk and act differently.
  • One of Andromeda's three selves in Andromeda. One episode, which revealed that Gaheris Rhade killed Dylan in the original timeline and took his place as the re-creator of the Commonwealth, had Rhade create a hologram of Dylan, mostly as someone to play Go with, but also providing sage advice during crises. It's partly the hologram that makes Rhade realize that Dylan would do this job far better than he, so he goes back in time and throws the fight, allowing himself to be killed.
  • 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 back when the ship had been a luxury liner. From the shoulders down, he's a skeleton because his image files had degraded.
  • 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 shenanigans.
    • 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. The reporter interviewing her calls bullshit on that, claiming that she has never heard of a technology like that before.
    • 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.
  • "The Professor," the holographic advisor system installed in the captain's cabin aboard SeaQuest DSV. Notable for including several Real Life limitations: it couldn't travel (the image was projected on a fog "screen"), it wasn't tangible, it couldn't repair itself (either hardware or software), and it frequently suffered from Hologram Projection Imperfection.
  • 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.
  • Gideon in The Flash (2014), an AI from the future (with Morena Baccarin's voice) that keeps track of Barry's future for Dr. Wells, AKA the Reverse-Flash. As Barry finds out, Gideon is the creation of his future self.
    • Legends of Tomorrow reveals that the Time Masters have adapted the technology to creating multiple Gideon-like AIs, one of which is also named Gideon, but has a difference voice. These tend to only project their heads, although they have much more developed personalities.

  • The Squip from Be More Chill manifests for the user as a holographic human form, defaulting to Keanu Reeves. It has no real physical presence, unless Rule of Funny dictates otherwise (like zapping the lock off a locker). It also seems physical to users, possibly creating the illusion of touch by manipulating the user's nervous system.

    Video Games 
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt: In the second game onward, Copen is accompanied by a Robot Buddy called Lola, who can project a humanoid female form of herself. Played with in that it's not an inherent feature, but she gets it from analyzing the power of "The Muse" Septima, which lets the user holographically project their consciousness as an Idol Singer.
  • 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.
  • Defiance: Your EGO implant projects a blue flickering light lady into you field of vision to make the interface feel more natural.
  • 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.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War 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.
  • Eliza of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a life-like hologram.
  • Layla, the girl in the Sunset Cage in Fairune 2 looks like just another Mysterious Waif up until she suddenly flickers and shuts down. She gets better.
  • The Fallout: New Vegas expansion Dead Money has the holographic security system of the Sierra Madre hotel and casino. The holograms themselves cannot be damaged, but are capable of emitting lethal lasers, so the only way to deal with them is to hack the security system, find and destroy their projector, or run out of range. What's unsettling is that some of them are based on recordings of the casino's patrons' last moments after the bombs fell and everyone was sealed inside, so such holograms will be talking in a panicked voice to long-dead victims as they go about their patrol routes and shoot at intruders. Some bad endings for the DLC describe how the Courier becomes another flickering ghost to haunt the ruins.
  • In Halo, almost all human-made AIs use a holographic human avatar:
    • Cortana, a "naked blue lady" who's also Chief's Voice with an Internet Connection and Mission Control, with a good bit of Playful Hacker thrown in. That said, she's often stuck in Chief's helmet, which doesn't really have a projection system. In Halo 4, she's able to briefly manifest herself with Hard Light by using the technology on a Forerunner ship. In Halo 5: Guardians, she seems to have created a full hard-light body for herself.
    • Others examples of AIs with human avatars include Serina of the UNSC Spirit of Fire (from Halo Wars) and Roland of the UNSC Infinity (introduced in Halo 4).
    • One unusual example is Black Box (or BB for short), originally introduced in Halo: Glasslands. One of the most advanced AIs in the UNSC, he takes pride in his superiority by refusing to generate a human avatar, always appearing instead as little more than a featureless blue cube that nevertheless manages to convey emotion by spinning and running lights over itself.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords has the G0-T0 droid who hides behind his Secret Identity of Goto, a middle aged man communicating only through hologram projection.
  • In System Shock 2, the Von Braun's Recreation deck includes a brothel called the "Sensual Sim Center", where patrons can make out with holographic performers of both sexes. All the holograms are busted when you get there, though.
  • 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.
  • In The Suffering, Dr. Killjoy is the ghost of a deranged psychiatrist who manifests from old film projectors. Much creepiness ensues, including having to destroy the projectors to stop him from reviving certain enemies.
  • Uru: Ages Beyond Myst has one. Yeesha built a small imager in the Cleft that can project a full 3D hologram of herself, sound and all, and in one recording, a Linking Book even works while still part of the hologram. Somewhat justified, as holography is nothing new to the D'ni civilization, though their imagers more often use 2D holograms.
  • XCOM 2 has the Codex enemy, a flickering female figure that your head scientist speculates to be merely the projection of some sort of multidimensional being. They can teleport at will and clone themselves when they take damage, but are solid enough to shoot and will take advantage of cover.

    Visual Novels 

  • The Artificial Intelligences 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.
  • "Station", the Spaceship Boy in Questionable Content who controls the Ellicott Chatham Enterprises Space Station, interacts with humans through a holographic projection of a young man, which it can manifest anywhere within the Station or via remote drone elsewhere. Played for Laughs when people forget that he's not made of Hard Light, when he glitches out while "hung over" from modeling weather patterns, and when he stages paranormal activity.
    • May is a personal AI assistant projected through Dale's Augmented Reality Glasses (who, as a result, only he can see). She has her own robot chassis, but it's locked up in Robot Jail at the time (she tried to upload herself into a fighter jet) and she's essentially doing community service. Later on, she shows up "in the flesh".
  • In Leaving the Cradle, Quantum, the residential Artificial Intelligence appears as this to those speaking with them. Athough his appearance appears to be based on one of the aliens of the setting, the character page says that he has no actual self-image and chooses the form that's being the most convenient for the other speaker.
  • Serix: Seen all over the place, and a good amount of people in the setting exist mainly or solely in this form.

    Web Original 
  • All the A.I.s 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. In Reconstruction, the "ghost" form of Church is revealed to be one of these, blurring the lines between projection and self.
  • It's revealed in the Season Five Wham Episode of Puppet History that the Professor who supposedly Came Back Wrong is actually an Evil Counterpart named Concupiscence, who was a hologram made to entertain purgatory that was brought back to reality. He's only halfway to being corporeal and is willing to skin Ryan alive and wear his flesh to Become a Real Boy.

    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.
  • Transformers:
    • Slight twist: In some continuities, there are holograms of drivers in their vehicle modes so that they don't appear to be driving themselves. In one 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.
  • Hugo from Get Ace, who takes on the appearance and personality of The Jeeves and allows Ace to easily access the various functions of his spy braces via verbal commands. Only Ace can see him due to wearing special glasses.
  • 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.
  • The second season of Iron Man: The Animated Series featured an AI called HOMER. Unlike his comic book incarnation, who only appeared as a voice from the computers that ran Tony's armor-manufacturing facilities (with... this... representing his "face"), the cartoon portrayed him as a Projected Man.