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Google's new 3D video call tech is both terrifying and impressive

Google Project Starline
(Image credit: Project Starline in action)

Over the past year, chances are you've become somewhat acquainted with the video call. Zoom et al came into their own in 2020 (thanks, of course, to the 'C' word), and we all got to embrace the joys of accidentally being on mute. It seems Google is keen to make the video call experience a little more life-like – and we're not sure what to think.

During its I/O developer conference this week, the company revealed a new video chat project called Starline, which uses machine learning and special display 'booths' to render video calls in 3D. It's all very sci-fi, and we're both terrified and impressed. Check out our best 3D modelling software if you fancy creating your own invention.

The whole thing is basically a super-fancy version of video calls, which involves sitting across from an ultra-realistic 3D-projected model of whoever you're talking to. It's not exactly suitable for working from home – as you'll see in the video above, it currently involves sitting in a custom booth, complete with lights, cameras and specific seating positions.

On one hand, it all looks very impressive – and could be a game-changer for remote workers or those in long-distance relationships. And it seems the models are realistic – "as if she was right in front of me,” one test user describes in the video.

Google Starline

Starline can create a 3D render of the subject and broadcast it in real-time to the viewer (Image credit: Google)

And yet, at the same time, we can't help but find it a tad dystopian. Putting aside the 'visiting time'-esque quality of the booths themselves, the idea of being rendered as a 3D hologram is a little too futuristic for our tastes right now. But hey, perhaps we'll get used to the idea. For now, though, we're still looking forward to being able to meet in person every now and again.

The project is still in its infancy, and Google says Starline is "available in just a few of [its] offices," but the company hopes to reduce the hardware and processing requirements in order to roll it out more widely "in time". Until then, we'll just have to make do with the best webcams available now. 

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