By Pete Musto
16 October, 2018

A three-dimensional, moving image of former American President Ronald Reagan waved to a crowd from a train car on Wednesday.

This special computer-generated image, made of light, is called a hologram. The hologram of Reagan spoke to people outside the former president's official library in Southern California.

"We think we made a good beginning, but you ain't seen nothin' yet!" the hologram said, as balloons fell around it.

Former President Ronald Reagan appears in
Former President Ronald Reagan appears in "Western"-style clothing, as he might appear at his Santa Barbara country home, but as a hologram, on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

The sound the hologram used came from a speech Reagan gave in 1984. The former president was speaking about the nation's future.

John Heubusch is executive director of the Reagan Foundation. He told the Associated Press his organization wanted to make the hologram look as much like the real man as possible.

"It's a stunning experience," he said.

Reagan was the 40th president of the United States. He died in 2004 when he was 93 years old.

There are two other holograms at the former president's library outside Los Angeles, California. In one, Reagan appears in formal clothing inside a recreation of the Oval Office in the White House. In the other, Reagan is wearing special clothing and carrying equipment for riding horses at his country home. His dog, Victory, is next to him.

All three holograms went on display on Thursday.

The Reagan holograms began with a copy of his head that was made using a substance called silicone. The copy was then photographed by 300 cameras from many different positions. Next, the photos were used to digitally recreate an image of the former president's head over the head of an actor. The actor was dressed like Reagan and stood in recreations of the environment of all three situations.

Reagan's face comes to life using special movements of the mouth, nose, eyes, and other parts of the face. Computers control the movements.

The presidential library worked with Hologram USA, a Hollywood-based company. The special-effects company also created holograms of singers like Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday and Roy Orbison.

David Nussbaum is the senior vice president of Hologram USA. He said that, because Reagan had been a radio announcer, television star and movie actor, he understood and valued new technologies.

"He always thought many steps ahead," Nussbaum said. "If he was looking down right now on this project, I think he would give us his seal of approval. I think he would totally get this and support it."

Joanne Drake served as Reagan's chief of staff after the end of the president's two terms. She is now chief administration officer for the Reagan foundation. She said seeing such a lifelike recreation of her former boss was a little strange. But she also said it was "very comforting."

"It's fun to think that he's standing in front of us," Drake said.

She added, "You know it's not him standing there, but you see his facial movements and his arm movements and his body and that twinkle in his eye and that little grin that he always got, and it makes you remember really what he brought to the office."

Drake said future plans could include developing a traveling display of the holograms.

"I do think we're going to see Ronald Reagan back in Washington, D.C.," she said.

I'm Pete Musto.

Amanda Lee Myers reported this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Who else would you like to see a holographic image of? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.

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Words in This Story

three-dimensionaladj. having or seeming to have length, width, and depth

generate(d) – v.­ to produce something or cause something to be produced

stunningadj. very surprising or shocking

formaladj. requiring or using serious and proper clothes and manners

on displayn. put somewhere for people to see

seal of approvaln. an action or statement that shows approval or official acceptance

comfortingadj. causing someone to feel less worried, upset or frightened

twinkle in (his) eyeidm. a friendly or happy expression in someone's eye

grinn. n expression on your face that makes the corners of your mouth turn up and that shows happiness, amusement, pleasure, or affection