Scientists have developed the world's first truly holographic video-conference system, which allows people in different locations to appear before one another in life-size 3D, as if they were in the same room.
Scientists have developed the world’s first truly holographic video-conference system, which allows people in different locations to appear before one another in life-size 3D, as if they were in the same room. Using a ring of intelligent projectors mounted above and around a retro-reflective, human-sized cylindrical pod, researchers from Queen’s University in Canada were able to project objects as light fields that can be walked around and viewed from all sides simultaneously by multiple users – much like Star Trek’s famed, fictional ‘holodeck’.
Capturing the remote 3D image with an array of depth cameras, the team has ‘teleported’ live, 3D images of a human from one room to another – a feat that is set to revolutionise human telepresence. Due to the display projects a light field with many images, one for every degree of angle, users need not wear a headset or 3D glasses to experience each other in augmented reality.
“Face-to-face interaction transfers an immense amount of non-verbal information,” said Roel Vertegaal, a professor at the Queen’s University. “This information is lost in online tools, promoting poor online behaviours. Users miss the proxemics, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact that bring nuance, emotional connotation and ultimately empathy to a conversation,” Vertegaal said.
“TeleHuman 2 injects these missing elements into long-distance conversations with a realism that cannot be achieved with a Skype or Facetime video chat,” he said. Vertegaal first debuted the TeleHuman technology in 2012, but at that time the device only allowed for a single viewer to see the holographic projection correctly. With TeleHuman 2, multiple participants are able to see their holographic friend or colleague, each from their individual perspective.
To test the system, Vertegaal had users judge angles at which a robotic arrow, mounted on a tripod, was pointing whilst physically present in the room, and whilst rendered on the TeleHuman 2. They did not judge the angles between the real and the virtual representation as significantly different.
“In a professional environment like a meeting, our latest edition of TeleHuman technology will do wonders for attendees looking to address colleagues with eye contact or to more effectively manage turn taking” said Vertegaal. “But it has potential beyond professional situations. Think again of a large music festival, and now imagine a performer capable of appearing simultaneously, and in true 3D, on TeleHuman 2 devices throughout the venue – bringing a whole new level of audience intimacy to a performance,” he said.
“The TeleHuman technology could even mitigate environmental impacts of business travel – enabling organisations to conduct more engaging and effective meetings from a distance, rather than having to appear in person,” he added.