During the Tuesday launch of Google I/O, the company's CEO, Sundar Pichai, pulled off a Steve Jobsian "one more thing" move near the end of his keynote address that was simply stunning.
It's called Project Starline, and it's a (for now) internal project working to make remote video meetings a lot more immersive.
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The system uses high-resolution cameras, custom-built depth sensors, and what Google describes as a "breakthrough light field display" to deliver what appear to be 3D images of the person on the other end of the video conference.
So far, the system has been tested on Google employees in the company's Bay Area, New York, and Seattle offices.
It's unclear what technical hurdles Google has managed to clear with this prototype product, but the initial demonstration videos are promising. While it's nearly impossible to judge the full 3D effect by looking at a 2D video demo, the volume of the remote callers looked fairly realistic and free of visual artifacts.
Of course, this demo is Google showing off the best version of what Project Starline might be, but if it's anything close to what we saw today, then it could revolutionize video conferencing as we know it by effectively giving you holographic-like visuals of the people you meet.
Pichai didn't offer any details as to when this will be turned into a mainstream-ready product, but at first glance, it immediately makes the work that the Looking Glass team is undertaking look even more vital, beyond the realm of static displays to show off 3D art, videos, and photos.
And, unlike some of Google's other "moonshot" projects, it looks like this is actually destined to reach the public in the near future.
"Our goal is to make this technology more affordable and accessible, including bringing some of these technical advancements into our suite of communication products," reads the statement on the Google website. According to Pichai, Google will reveal more about Project Starline later this year.
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