A concept being shown at Google I/O 2021 mightn’t come home all that soon, but it could change the way we talk to family, friends, and in business.
While COVID has changed the nature of how we work and talk to family and friends, the technology that makes this possible has largely connected the same way: video chat.
We’ve all become deeply connected with it in the past year more than we ever had before, because being near someone was risky and yet we all yearned to remain connected. For many of us, we sat with our friends remotely over Zoom, over Hangouts and Messenger and WebEx and maybe even Teams, joining them for lunches, dinners, cards, and nights in. And while it wasn’t completely perfect, it was something to help keep that connection alive.
But that lack of perfection might be why Google has been looking at technologies to change things, and working on a project that brings a few concepts together to let us connect almost behind windows. It’s one of the things Google announced this week at Google I/O 2021, alongside the introduction of Android 12 and the collaboration of Google and Samsung on WearOS.
A video chat isn’t quite a window, but Google’s Project Starline might get close, connecting cameras, 3D imaging, machine learning, spatial sound, and compression technologies into custom hardware and specialised equipment, essentially making a device that looks a little like a window you’d face, and yet delivers someone you know on the other side.
In action, Project Starline would provide a more realistic form of video chat to enable a more life-like conversation, as if you were seeing someone in front of you, even if you clearly aren’t. It’s something different and crazy and very futuristic, but clearly from Google’s video below, relies not just on custom hardware, but some professional lighting setups as well.
However Google’s Project Starline is something the company is actively testing in some of its offices, connecting employees across the US, with plans to trial it with other companies later in the year.