Google’s crazy idea of 3D video chatting is brought to life with Project Starline

Google held its annual I/O developer keynote today, and it spoke about all the usual stuff we’re used to hearing like Android and machine learning. One thing that came as quite a surprise, however, was Project Starline, a crazy ambitious plan to make video chatting three-dimensional.

Well, I shouldn’t say “three-dimensional.” You’re not putting any crazy 3D glasses on, nor are you wearing a VR or AR headset. Instead, you sit in front of a box with a bunch of projectors in it. You then initiate a video call and – bam, the other person shows up. Only it seems like real life, not just a screen under a sheet of glass.

Google touts the technology as a sort of “magic window” that can project whoever you contact through Project Starline and make it feel like they’re there in-person. You can make proper eye contact, gesture, and speak as naturally as you would if the person was sitting in front of you.

The company offers a brief and spec-less description of how Project Starline works in a blog post.

To make this experience possible, we are applying research in computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio and real-time compression. 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.

The effect is the feeling of a person sitting just across from you, like they are right there. 

Right now, Google isn’t going any further with the tech than outside its own offices and some enterprise partners in areas like healthcare. That means we won’t see any of these fancy projectors show up on the market any time soon, let alone see what a production version of the technology would look like.

That being said, Google said it’ll continue to work on Starline and eventually make it more affordable so people can adopt it into their home.

It’s a really crazy idea, and it’s one that only a company like Google could achieve. I’ll have follow-ups on this as more information surfaces.