Google advances with Project Starline, its project of videoconferences with holograms of people in 3D

Google never stops. This is one of its company policies and, in fact, it is something essential in the DNA of the technological giant since its inception: to continue creating and innovating in the field of technology and communications even if, at times, these experiments do not go out of their way. all good. Now it’s the turn of Project Starline.

It is an experimental technology – still in its early stages – that uses light field screens for the creation of holograms. Its function is that of allow long-distance video chat using that very thing, holograms, and not the more traditional methods. A project that has even begun to be tested outside of Google’s facilities, in real offices and, like any project, to check for errors, improvements and maximum utility in organizational environments.

Project Starline was announced at the Google I / O 2021 keynote but has had to be postponed for a year after the accumulation of projects. At present, the company assures that its tests in companies are going well but expects Starline to be “more accessible” in the near future.

In other words, what is the difference between hosting a Zoom video conference with people from your company or other organizations and doing it with Starline? That with Zoom, communication is limited to a traditional camera. But with Starline, is given to own chat of a 3D life thanks to a cabin of just over 2 x 2 meters, with the feeling of having the person in the same room with us.

It is not an easy project. In fact, using a light field display and multiple cameras means the use of highly complex hardware. And, therefore, more expensive than the one used in common videoconferences, something that could hinder its implementation on a ‘large scale’.

Project Starline Technical Data

On a technical level, the screen side of the video booth has 14 cameras and 16 IR projectors, which work to create, capture, and track a photorealistic 3D avatar in real time. Also, four microphones and two speakers that not only reproduce speech. And it is that, the audio and the dynamic formation of light beams make the speech sound as if it were coming from the mouth of the avatar itself.

Sending a 3D avatar over the video chat connection allows Google to correct the eye line. When a webcam at the top of a screen makes it impossible to make eye contact while looking at a screen, a 3D avatar can bypass the disconnect between the center of a camera and the center of a screen, allowing mutual eye contact. Google is processing all of this data on a robust dual Xeon workstation with four NVIDIA GPUs, two Quadro RTX 6000 and two Titan RTX.

The Starline screen is a 65-inch 8K 60Hz autostereoscopic lenticular panel which generates a glasses-free 3D view of a life-size avatar. While the other side of the cockpit features infrared backlighting and a fairly rigid looking bench to constrain the user to the 3D sweet spot on the screen and limit the scope of the entire avatar generation system.

Google is hopeful about the project as it has commented from its own blog: “Today, Project Starline prototypes are in Google offices throughout the United States, with employees using the technology every day for meetings, onboarding employee and peer-to-peer networking (…) beyond Google employees, we’ve also invited over 100 business partners in areas like media, healthcare, and retail to participate in demos at Google offices and provide us with feedback on the experience and applications for your business. We see many ways that Project Starline can add business valuel in a number of industries, and we remain focused on making it more accessible.”

Is there a market for this type of state-of-the-art video conferencing? Time will tell.

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