‘Holograms,’ touch screens—too much technology

By Kaylee King

I arrived in Grant Park at 3:30 p.m. on Election Day, not only to do some early reporting, but to snag a front row seat for one of the jumbotrons that broadcasted CNN feeds all evening long.

As I lay in the grass, I watched the usual talking heads blabbing on about what demographics mean, who is the better candidate and other political jargon that is usually pretty exhausting.

But every five minutes or so, Anderson Cooper would cut to Soledad O’Brien and John King, who stood in front of a vertical touch screen that displayed results, particularly a funnel-like demographic graph. The graph broke down the 50 states and ordered them by how they voted according to various demographics.

Sounds confusing, right? That’s because it was. CNN, along with other major news networks, seemed to have their techie caps on that night because everyone was trying to showcase the newest and most visually pleasing gadgets and devices out there.

Touch screens resembling giant iPods dominated the new wave of the tech-centric coverage, and from what I saw, there were no glitches (except an incident where King wasn’t tall enough to reach the top of the screen).

The new screens could resurrect poll results dating back to 1960 and zeroed in on some of the tiniest counties in America.

All of this looked pretty cool to us watching in Grant Park, but there was one thing that made most of us turn our heads like dogs begging to go outside-the CNN “hologram.”

When Will.i.am., frontman of the Black Eyed Peas, showed up out of nowhere in the CNN studios, most of us watching did a double take. Was this really a hologram? Cooper said it was. But it wasn’t actually a hologram. According to CNN, it was 35 high-definition video cameras in a circular room. The video cameras were 6 inches apart and at eye level, 220 degrees around the subject. It almost seemed unreal, and I particularly enjoyed the little arm wiggle the musician gave when he signed off.

“Holograms,” touch screens, demographic funnels-it all sounds pretty glorious, right? But is it really worth it? According to the Chicago Tribune, who talked with Andrew Orloff, creative director of Zoif Studios, the “hologram” technology could have cost CNN between $300,000-$400,000, a ton of money to be spending on a movie star flickering for 20 seconds.

Frankly, the demographic funnel was ultimately confusing and boring to watch. CNN should have spent more time and money finding new, interesting people to talk to on election night and ditched the talking head bonanza that, at one point, dominated, though viewers in Grant Park wanted to watch the stage as President-Elect Barack Obama was about to speak-a shot that CSPAN covered, and eventually the channel was changed.

Furthermore, I wish CNN could explain to viewers why Will.i.am., out of all people, was chosen to platform such a hot technology. Couldn’t they pick someone a little more election-oriented? I know he made that song, “Yes We Can,” but if we’re going by songs here, why didn’t we choose rapper NAS for creating, “Black President,” or get all of the hooligans in “Yes We Can” beaming live to us?

Besides the few blips of overkill the coverage included, the new technological additions were well-liked and beneficial to the night. But before CNN drops another $300,000-$400,000 on equipment, they should first consider examining their guests.