Microsoft is working on a “holoportation” system that will connect users to faraway family and friends using holograms.
Fans of Star Wars will be familiar with the use of holograms in communication, and now Microsoft wants to make the system a reality. The company is developing a form of “holoportation” that can send 3D models of people and other objects to any point on the globe.
Microsoft developing groundbreaking communications technology
For those who thought that Skype was a major advance in communication, holoportation could blow your mind. Used in combination with an augmented reality display, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, users can see, hear and interact with friends around the world in real time.
It essentially makes you feel as though you are in the same room as your friend even though they are thousands of miles away. “Communicating and interacting with remote users becomes as natural as face-to-face communication,” the Microsoft Research site said.
In a new demonstration video the system is shown off by research manager Shahram Izadi, who can be seen talking to and playing with his young daughter and some of her toys. Izadi’s image is captured in 3D by cameras positioned around the room before it is stitched together, compressed and broadcast.
Video shows off capabilities of holoportation
In this case his image is sent to another room in the Microsoft lab where his daughter was, listening and talking to him. She was also able to see him when she put on the augmented reality headset.
“Imagine using this type of capture technology to connect with family members who are thousands of miles away,” the researcher said.
Another potential use for the technology is in the business sector. Holoportation could be used to beam employees into meetings from abroad, or ensure that there is no excuse for missing annual reviews.
The technology can also record and play back the whole experience. Izadi says it’s “almost like reversing through time.”
Miniature 3D holograms coming to a coffee table near you
“If I wear my HoloLens device, it’s almost like walking into a living memory that I can see through another pair of eyes,” he continued.
The system is also capable of miniaturizing 3D content so that it fits on a coffee table, much like Princess Leia’s cry for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi. There is ample opportunity for exciting uses of the technology, which is still in early stages of development.
However the company is set to release its HoloLens Developer Edition augmented reality headset in a few days, which is a huge part of the holoportation technology. The $3,000 headset overlays holograms on the real world.
Microsoft is selling the headset as a tool for business as well as a nifty gadget for gamers. The HoloLens was first demonstrated more than 12 months ago, and it can only be a matter of time before Microsoft releases a consumer version.
It must be said that holoportation probably remains a long way off for most of us, given the huge amount of hardware required to make it work. However we will soon be able to see what developers from outside Microsoft think of the technology and its potential uses.
In addition the Microsoft Build developer conference gets underway next week, so keep your eyes peeled for the latest developments.