Jan 22, 2016 | By Alec

Over the past decade or so, communicative tools have really changed dramatically. While online chatting was already possible at the time, we can now even have high quality Skype conversations wherever we are – provided there’s Wi-Fi. Despite all that progress, however, communication is still very much trapped in boxes. Although crystal clear, that does inherently maintain the distance between you and your conversation partner. But even that could become a thing of the past, as a new Microsoft project called Room2Room is working to create 3D hologram communication that makes it look as though the other person is sitting in a chair right across from you – and you in theirs.

Microsoft has already found a position for itself at the forefront of virtual and augmented reality breakthroughs, in which their sometimes criticized Kinect cameras have proven themselves to be a lot more capable than previously thought. Augmented reality – the concept of combining virtual reality with real life – is already expected to be part of their HoloLens (which is perfect for creating 3D printable designs). Back in 2014, Microsoft’s Research division also worked on a gaming platform called RoomAlive, that used Kinect depth-sensing cameras and digital projectors to set up a gaming space in your living room.

It seems as though Room2Room is essentially an expanded version of that RoomAlive concept. Using those Kinect cameras and projectors, they capture your image in 3D and project a life-sized version in your friend’s living room – and vice versa. Each person can then see a digital image of the other from a correct perspective and really communicate as though they were right there. It has the potential to really change the way you experience your distant friends and relatives, though will also serve as a stark reminder to get dressed before you call anyone. But the most impressive part is that these aren’t actually 3D projections – they are 2D projections using a parallax imaging technique to create projections that move with your perspective, creating the appearance of 3D communication. Room2Room using this same technique to create the appearance of people sitting down on furniture, making the whole thing a lot more realistic.

This interesting concept will be presented at the Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing conference in San Francisco in February, but several reports have already highlight what it is all about. In order to test what this does for communication, Microsoft already set up seven pairs of study participants, who had to build shapes in augmented reality through teamwork – one person built, the other gave directions. The quality of these 3D projections reportedly enabled them to collaborate very well and complete the challenge in just four minutes – similar tests through Skype took at least seven minutes.

However, there are still quite a few obstacles to overcome before this could show up in living rooms or board rooms. For one, the high quality projection tools are expensive, bulky and difficult to set up. According to Tomislav Pejsa, who worked on the project, the quality of the final 3D images also needs to be thoroughly improved. Nevertheless, University of California, Santa Barbara, professor Tobias Höllerer has argued that these kinds of systems could become commonplace within just a few years, if that quality issue is solved. In part, he says, it will ride the wave of VR popularity. “If you think about it, it took like 50, 60 years to get from the first demos of video telephony to where we are with Skype and everything else,” he says. “These are the beginnings of more immersive conferencing.”

While it would be an extremely cool tool to play with, it only remains to be seen if the unpopular Kinect – which doesn’t even come with the latest Xbox One – withstands the test of time. The projection technology will also have to come down in price a lot before this becomes something more than an overly expensive gimmick. But it would, of course, be extremely cool.



Posted in 3D Software



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Kem Royale wrote at 1/22/2016 1:47:18 PM:

You have knocked by socks off.

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