The future of immersive video chat might not require a headset. Google showed off Project Starline, which uses a combination of specialized hardware and computer vision technology to create a “magic window” that can beam a life-sized, 3D image of the person you’re chatting with into a special display that makes it appear as if they’re sitting in front of you.
“To make this experience possible, we are applying research in computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio and real-time compression,” Google’s Clay Bavor wrote in a blog post. “We've also developed a breakthrough light field display system that creates a sense of volume and depth that can be experienced without the need for additional glasses or headsets.” Light field is a way to describe the properties and direction of light — AR startup Magic Leap is the most prominent example of a light field display to date.
For now, it appears Starline requires a fairly elaborate setup. Images shared by Google resemble a kind of photo booth, with several lights, sensors and a large display. But the result, according to Google, is an immersive video chat experience that feels like you’re actually sitting with the person you’re speaking with.
The setup is only available in a few Google offices for now, and the company says it’s already spent thousands of hours testing the technology among its employees. The company didn’t specify what its future plans for Starline might entail or how much the setup would cost, but it’s “planning trial deployments with enterprise partners later this year.” Eventually, Google says it wants to make Starline “more affordable and accessible” and that it could one day be incorporated into Google’s other communications products.