Holograms aren’t just for dead celebrities anymore. In fact, it may not be long before you’re in a virtual work meeting with realistic 3D images of your colleagues.
That’s the future Google is aiming for: The company says it’s expanding testing of its Starline project, a 3D video call booth where you can chat with holographic versions of your friends, family or co-workers. After testing the booths in its own offices last year, the company is now looking to place them in the offices of some of its business partners, including Salesforce, WeWork, T-Mobile and Hackensack Meridian Health.
Google says it will begin deploying prototypes by the end of the year, and the technology is already advanced enough to make it seem like the person you’re talking to is right there with you, even if they’re on the other side of the world.
It’s a “magical window where users can speak, gesture and make eye contact with another person, life-size and three-dimensional,” the company said in a statement released last week.
The technology combines machine learning, computer vision, surround sound and light field display systems, Google says. It relies on multiple high-definition cameras and custom depth sensors to capture a person’s shape and movements with enough accuracy to reproduce a 3D image for remote chat.
Google has yet to reveal its final plans for the technology, including whether it will eventually sell the 3D video booths to businesses, consumers, or both. In offices, cubicles could theoretically be useful for meetings with remote workers, job candidates or business clients in other countries.
Google notes that Project Starline is a response to the growing number of mixed work arrangements, where more companies allow employees to flexibly split time between working at home and in the office due to pandemic adaptation.
“As we co-create the future of hybrid work with our corporate partners, we look forward to seeing how Project Starline can help employees build strong relationships with each other, doctors build meaningful relationships with their patients, and vendors build deeper relationships with their customers and clients,” the company said in a statement.
Other tech companies are also promoting products to help employees and employers work in a hybrid or fully remote workplace.
Mark Zuckerberg and Meta are betting big on their future role in the metaverse by partnering with Zoom and Microsoft Teams to create virtual workplaces where meetings can be filled with cartoon-like 3D digital avatars representing you and your co-workers. Bill Gates predicted that in a few years “most virtual meetings” could take place in the metaverse using such digital avatars.
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