One of the most excellent announcements at Google I/O this year was also one we did not expect: Google is working on holographic video calls — or something a lot like that — through a system called Project Starline.
Project Starline aims to make video calls more natural by using a large display that shows life-size, 3D images of participants. It’s not just 3D like a 3D movie, but rather it allows you to move around and change the angle you’re seeing of the other participant.
Here, it’s easier to understand if you watch it in action:
The goal is to make it seem like you’re there with the other person, and based on Google’s demo video — which appeared to be filmed on sight rather than a pre-rendered clip — it looks eerily realistic. While Sundar Pichai noted that it was a novel technology still in development, he says the company has been using it in a few of its offices in the Bay Area, New York, and Seattle.
The technology leverages computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio, advanced compression, depth-sensing cameras, and a fancy giant ‘light field’ display to make it happen. This screen allows you to view high-resolution 3D images without requiring special glasses, and the depth cameras ensure that you’re able to see multiple angles of participants. Just like, you know, real life.
While Starline isn’t ready for primetime yet, hopefully, it’ll be prepared by the next pandemic hits.