Google has taken video conferencing to a new level with its latest endeavour Project Starline. Over the last year and a half, we’ve heavily relied on video conferencing to keep us connected as many activities shifted from in-person to virtual, including visiting with friends and family. While this project, which’s been in the works for five years, is not a direct response to the pandemic, its announcement is certainly timely.
Currently, in prototype, Project Starline is a communication tool by Google that mimics face-to-face interaction, by producing 3-D images of the person you’re communicating with onto a mirror-like screen. It uses booths that are equipped with more than a dozen different depth sensors and cameras.
You may be wondering how this differs from video conferencing platforms like Skype, Zoom, or even Google’s own Google Meet. The life-like images are a very different experience than normal video calls because of the size and quality of the image projected in front of you. It allows you to have a more natural conversation while being able to see all of the nuances in the person’s appearance and body movements.
This software uses computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio, and real-time compression as well as a light field display system in order to create an experience that mimics a person sitting across from you.
While there have been several virtual reality products with a similar goal, Project Starline wants the technology to fade into the background so the user can have the most authentic experience. That’s not really possible with bulky VR gear on your face and hands. It’s in this way that this product is totally unique.
While Project Starline is not yet available commercially, it has the potential to transform a lot of industries like healthcare, government, education, and legal, to name a few. The convenience of remote work or Telehealth visits comes to mind. Imagine being able to take a standardized test from your home instead of a cold, uncomfortable testing centre or having a doctor exam a body part while you sit in your living room and they in their office.
Whether this product will eventually become an everyday household device is yet to be seen, but Google is currently testing the product’s business use cases and making adjustments. Project Starline may be at an office near you before you know it.