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Project Starline is Google's experiment in making holodeck-like 3D holograms

Project Starline is an experiemental Google project that is creating photo-realistic 3D human models for communication.

Published onMay 18, 2021

  • Project Starline was shown off briefly today at Google I/O 2021.
  • This experiment focuses on creating 3D photorealistic human models for videoconferencing.
  • The technology can be used to make it look like users are chatting with someone else as if they were actually in the same room.

Humanity may have gotten one step closer to experiencing the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation. At rhe Google I/O 2021 keynote we saw our first glimpse of Project Starline. The new technology is designed to make you believe you are chatting with someone else just a few feet away, even if that other person might be thousands of miles away.

As shown in the video above, Project Starline lets a person sit in front of a glass pane. He or she then sees a person in that glass. However, instead of a 2D video, the person in the glass in full 3D, and in a photorealistic manner. People were able to have this experience while chatting between California and New York City. According to Google’s blog post, this technology combines new features in “computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio and real-time compression”. Most importantly, Project Starline uses an all new display system that allows 3D images to appear to have depth and volume to the naked eye, with no special glasses required.

Wired posted an article with more information on this experiment. Project Starline uses custom-made booths that have over a dozen depth sensors and cameras to help create the 3D models of humans. There are also a few extra special effects added in, such as making some changes in the lighting and shadows. The 3D model is transmitted over standard WebRTC infrastructure.

Wired’s article stated the photorealistic image illusion goes away if you move a few inches to the right or left. Also, some random artifacts appeared while the reporter used the demo. However, keep in mind this is still very early days for this project. Google wants to shrink the hardware down to a more manageable level for future versions. The company is already conducting very early trials with some enterprise and media customers. It plans to open up the project to even more enterprise users later in 2021.

The demo video really helps sell Project Starline as a future way to handle videoconferencing, but the question is how long will it take to make it work for the general public or business user? For now, your guess is as good as ours but we’ll keep you up to date as we learn more.

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