In 2020, businesses had to adapt quickly to the restrictions caused by the pandemic. And the meetings, which we used to do physically, have been moved to videoconferencing tools.
Zoom, which most people have never heard of, has become one of the most popular apps in the world. And the competitors quickly activated. Google, for example, made its Meet tool available for free, and integrated it into Gmail.
But at the same time, the Mountain View company is already developing technologies that could one day replace videoconferencing. And one of these projects, called Starline, seems directly inspired by the Star Trek universe (holodeck).
Google wants to replace video conferencing with holograms
The health situation is better today compared to one or two years ago, but videoconferencing is not going to disappear. Indeed, while returning to the office is possible, many organizations have embraced hybrid working, allowing employees (when possible) to work from home on a few days of the week.
For its part, Google continued to develop its Starline project, formalized in 2021. But what is it? In essence, Starline allows users to communicate via a kind of hologram instead of traditional video apps like Zoom, WhatsApp, or Google Meet. On each end, users are in a station that contains a battery of 3D sensors, making it possible to reproduce the shapes of people, as well as their movements.
The speaker is displayed on “a revolutionary light field display system that creates a sense of volume and depth that can be felt without the need for additional glasses or headsets,” Google explains. He claims that when you use his telepresence system, you feel like the person you’re chatting with is actually in front of you. In order to develop this system, Google used its research in computer vision, artificial intelligence, but also compression (in fact, it was necessary to compress the data so that they travel in real time from one end to end).
Little by little, the Starline project arrives in the offices
As early as 2021, Google tested these holograms in its offices, allowing employees located in California and New York to communicate using this revolutionary system. And now, other companies will also be able to benefit from it.
Indeed, the Mountain View firm has given early access to this technology to a few American companies, including WeWork and the telephone operator T-Mobile. Before the end of the year, the prototypes of the Starline project will be installed in the premises of the companies selected by the firm.
Previously, Google had already given access to the technology to certain companies, but only in the context of demonstrations, to obtain feedback. But what would be the interest of these holograms compared to traditional videoconferencing tools? According to Google, Starline “can increase employee presence, attention and productivity”.
But for the moment, it is not known when Google will commercialize this technology. In any case, for the moment, it has not yet obtained the green light from the American authorities (the FCC) for marketing or rental.