Body double

The Alma Mater is back — kind of.

If you can't have a thick, juicy steak, would an augmented-reality steak do?

Probably not. There's a big difference between something meaty and something aspirational.

That's what all those University of Illinois graduates who aspire to success in the cold, cruel world will learn this weekend when they pose for iconic photographs in front of Alma Mater on the University of Illinois campus.

Well, not the real Alma Mater. She's on the disabled list undergoing the mother of all face-lifts — a $360,000 makeover of her external and internal features. When she'll return is not known.

Alma Mater's absence threatened to leave a significant hole in the graduation festivities. But, thanks to the brainiacs on campus, the physical presence of the 5-ton bronze statue will be replaced by a virtual Alma Mater.

There's no use trying to explain the intricacies of the plan — it's complicated. But the shorthand version is that the brainiacs created a computer app that, using an iPad or iPhone, can focus on a target poster attached to the real Alma Mater pedestal and produce a digital version of the old gal.

Got that? Didn't think so. But go point and click anyway. It's either cool or virtually cool. Whatever. You can't tell the difference.

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