For decades, we've been waiting for oh-so-futuristic hologram technology to make the leap from Star Wars movies to our living rooms, and it hasn't. It sounds like it's right around the corner, though, after Skype announced that it had developed 3D video chat technology in the lab.
The Microsoft executive responsible for Skype recently disclosed the milestone in an interview with the BBC, but he did so with a healthy dose of realism. Indeed, Skype is making progress in its stated mission to project a "realistic physical 'body double'" during a Skype call. Despite the fact that many top-of-the-line displays now offer 3D capabilities, however, it will take a few years before Skype can offer the feature to the mass market due to limitations in widely available capturing tools.
"The capture devices are not yet there," Microsoft's corporate vice president for Skype Mark Gillett told the BBC. "As we work with that kind of technology you have to add multiple cameras to your computer, precisely calibrate them and point them at the right angle." He added, "We have it in the lab, we know how to make it work and we're looking at the ecosystem of devices and their capability to support it in order to make a decision when we might think about bringing something like that to market."
Skype isn't the only one working on making holographic video chats a reality. Earlier this year, holographic technology startup Provision 3D Media launched a Kickstarter project aimed at making the Princess Leia effect a reality for the average consumer. However, after Provision's Kickstarter page got taken down over a copyright dispute, it's become increasingly clear that this might be a job for the pros—more specifically, their deep corporate coffers.
Speed bumps and skepticism aside, all signs point to progress in the realm of futuristic video chats. Researchers recently developed a way to reorient faces in Skype calls so that you're always looking at the camera, and an IBM survey found that most researchers believed the capability for full-on 3D video chats would arrive by 2015. Well, it's already here. The only question now is when Skype will let us have it. [BBC, Motherboard]