Google’s Starline 3D videoconferencing shows promise – and perils

Google’s Project Starline 3D videoconferencing system, unveiled last week, is well-timed for a post-pandemic world but still has a long way to go in seamlessly marrying the in-person and the virtual, three people who have used the system say.

Google and rivals, including Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, all view “mixed reality,” as it is sometimes known, as the next big new wave in computing – following smartphones – and all are staking out fresh ground.

Starline uses pricey cameras, sensors and cutting-edge screens to generate an illusion of depth, allowing users seated in special booths in different locations to see each other “life-size and in three dimensions,” as Google puts it. “You can talk naturally, gesture and make eye contact.”

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai touted Starline during the company’s annual developer conference last week, saying the technology has been years in the making and boasts breakthrough depth sensors, displays and media algorithms.

But Starline remains at an early stage: Google said it is planning trials with media and healthcare companies but did not identify them, nor did it announce pricing or say when the system would be generally available.

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