Tools to make online collaboration and communication easier were a key highlight of Google's I/O 2021 conference, which makes sense given the ongoing pandemic. To that end, it not only announced a bunch of updates to Workspace, but has also unveiled Project Starline. This is Google's technology project to enable organizations to conduct 3D video calls.
Although the video calls market is dominated by offerings from Zoom, Microsoft, and even Google itself, the company feels that they still lack the ability to convey the feeling of sitting opposite to a person. In order to solve this problem, the firm has been working on Project Starline for the past few years, which essentially builds and renders realistic 3D models of call participants, giving the perception of depth without the use of any glasses or headsets. This is made possible with techniques involving computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio, and real-time compression.
That said, this does not mean that the technology is software-dependent. So far, Google has been utilizing a bunch of sensors to render 3D models in real-time and it also uses a 65-inch light field display system to amplify the "magic window" effect.
As such, Project Starline is only being used at Google's own offices where it has been tested for thousands of hours. The company has also demoed the capability to enterprise partners in the healthcare and media space to gather feedback. Trial deployments of Project Starline with select enterprise partners are set to begin this year. Given the hardware requirements of the endeavor, it's clear that the technology is not ready for consumer use as of yet, and Google has not hinted at this being possible in the near future either.