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In an effort to improve user experience and make communication more lifelike and immersive, Google is currently working on an interesting project, a next-gen video chat booth. This video chat booth produces a 3D image of the person you are talking to right in front of you. It makes eye contact possible with the person and the person can be seen from different angles when you move around. A preview of this project was presented by Google during the I/O conference on May 18.
This amazing video chat arrangement is called “Project Starline”. This technology is possible with multiple cameras and sensors used to get the shape and appearance of a person from different angles. Thereafter, the data collected by the cameras and sensors are combined together into a 3D model which is then sent to the person on the other side of the video call. At the moment, Starline can only be used for one-on-one conversations excluding group calls. This is because both ends involves the use of sophisticated technology.
A demo video shows this tech in action. Users were amazed, and said it felt like the person on the other side of the call was right in front of them. One of the users even said, it’s “as if she was right in front of me”.
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This tech appears to be massive. It is an entire booth, complete with lights, cameras, and a bench to sit on. Google says it relies on “custom-built hardware and highly specialized equipment.” According to Wired reports, the booth is made up of over a dozen different depth sensors and a 65-inch “light field display” to bring out the 3D image of the users. Though there have been mention of Light field tech in some promising applications over the past decade especially in Lytro and Avegant, but it has not been used to represent people clearly in 3D.
Though the video chat booth is still at its late testing stage, currently it is available only in “a few” of Google’s offices. Google has plans to further test it later this year with business partners. According to Google, they are expecting feedback on this tech from health care and media industries.
“We believe this is where person-to-person communication technology can and should go, and in time, our goal is to make this technology more affordable and accessible, including bringing some of these technical advancements into our suite of communication products,” Google added.
The idea of a more realistic video call is amazing. Many companies are eager to have such tech especially after a year of reliance on video chat during the covid-19 lockdown. These companies plan on relying more on video chat. From Google previews, it seems this tech is just few steps away from being found in every offices even in homes. This means that Google is up to something far better than normal video calls we already have.