Holograms aren’t meant for deceased celebrities anymore. In fact, it might not be long before you attend a virtual business meeting with realistic and 3D representations of your colleagues.
This is the future Google is working toward: The company says it’s expanding Project Starline testing, 3D video call kiosks where you can chat with 3D versions of your friends, family or co-workers. After testing the kiosks in its own offices over the past year, the company now plans to place them in the offices of some of its corporate partners, including Salesforce, WeWork, T-Mobile and Hackensack Meridian Health.
Google says it will start installing prototypes before the end of the year, and that the technology is already advanced enough to make it look like the person you’re talking to is right there in the room with you — even if they’re on the other side of the world.
In its announcement last week, the company said it is a “magical window, where users can talk, gesture and make eye contact with another person, both in life size and in three dimensions.”
Google says the technology combines machine learning, computer vision, spatial audio, and optical field display systems. It relies on a series of high-resolution cameras and dedicated depth sensors to capture a person’s shape and movements with enough accuracy to recreate a 3D view of them for a remote conversation.
Google has yet to reveal its final plans for the technology, including whether it will eventually look to sell 3D video kiosks to businesses, consumers, or both. In offices, kiosks can theoretically be useful for meetings with remote workers, job candidates, or corporate clients in other countries.
Project Starline is a response to the increase in blended work arrangements as pandemic accommodations have led to more and more companies giving workers the flexibility to divide their time between work at home and in the office, Google notes.
“As we build the future of hybrid work alongside our enterprise partners, we look forward to seeing how Project Starline can help employees form strong relationships with one another, form meaningful bonds with their patients, and salespeople make deeper connections with their clients and customers.” , the company said in its announcement.
Other technology companies are also promoting products intended to help workers and employers navigate hybrid or remote work entirely.
Mark Zuckerberg and Meta are betting big on the metaverse’s role in the future of work, partnering with Zoom and Microsoft Teams to create virtual workspaces where meetings can be populated with cartoon-like 3D digital avatars representing you and your co-workers. Bill Gates predicted that within a few years, “most virtual meetings” could take place in the metaverse, using those kinds of digital avatars.
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