The past few years have witnessed a remarkable crossover of string theoretical ideas from the abstract world of geometrical forms to the concrete experimental realm of condensed matter physics. The basis for this – variously known as holography, the AdS/CFT correspondence or gauge-gravity
duality – comes from notions right at the cutting edge of string theory. Nevertheless, the insights afforded can often be expressed in ways very familiar to condensed matter physicists.The aim of this short, introductory review is to survey the ideas underpinning this crossover, in a way that – as far as possible – strips them of sophisticated mathematical formalism, whilst at the same time retaining their fundamental essence. I will sketch
the areas in which progress has been made to date and highlight where the challenges and open questions lie. Finally, I will attempt to give a perspective upon these ideas. What contribution can we realistically expect from this approach and how might it be accommodated into the canon of condensed
matter theory? Inevitably, any attempt to do this in such a rapidly evolving field will be superseded by events. Nevertheless, I hope that this will provide a useful way to think about gauge-gravity duality and the uncharted directions in which it might take us.