Google's hologram video call booths want to make you 'feel like you're there'—and they might be coming to your office

Google's Project Starline is developing 3D video call booths where you can chat with lifelike, holographic versions of your friends, family or coworkers.
Source: Google

Holograms aren't just for dead celebrities anymore. In fact, it might not be long before you're attending a virtual work meeting with lifelike, 3D representations of your colleagues.

That's the future Google is working toward: The company says it's expanding testing of its Project Starline, 3D video call booths where you can chat with holographic versions of your friends, family or coworkers. After testing the booths in its own offices over the past year, the company now intends to place them in the offices of some of its corporate partners, including Salesforce, WeWork, T-Mobile and Hackensack Meridian Health.

Google says it will begin installing prototypes before the end of the year, and that the technology is already advanced enough to make it seem like the person you're talking to is right there in the room with you — even if they're on the other side of the world.

It's "a magic window, where users can talk, gesture and make eye contact with another person, life-size and in three dimensions," the company said in its announcement last week.

The technology combines machine learning, computer vision, spatial audio and light-field display systems, Google says. It relies on a series of high-resolution cameras and custom depth sensors to capture a person's shape and movements with enough fidelity to recreate a 3D display of them for a remote conversation.

Google has not yet revealed its ultimate plans for the technology, including whether it'll eventually look to sell the 3D video booths to companies, consumers or both. In offices, the booths could theoretically be useful for meetings with remote workers, job candidates or corporate clients in other countries.

Project Starline is a response to the increase in hybrid work arrangements, where pandemic accommodations have led to more and more companies giving workers flexibility to split their time between working at home and in the office, Google notes.

"As we build the future of hybrid work together with our enterprise partners, we look forward to seeing how Project Starline can help employees form strong ties with one another, doctors form meaningful bonds with their patients, and salespeople make deeper connections with their clients and customers," the company said in its announcement.

Other tech companies are also touting products meant to help workers and employers navigate hybrid or fully-remote work.

Mark Zuckerberg and Meta are betting big on the role of the metaverse in the future of work, partnering with Zoom and Microsoft Teams to create virtual workspaces where meetings can be populated with cartoon-like, 3D digital avatars that represent you and your coworkers. Bill Gates has predicted that within a few years, "most virtual meetings" could take place in the metaverse, using those types of digital avatars.

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