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Microsoft Wants You to Say Hello to Augmented Conference Calls

Microsoft Wants You to Say Hello to Augmented Conference Calls
technology

An AR study projects life-sized callers into in-office conversations

Jennifer Passas
  • 21 january 2016

Have you ever been on a conference call and wondered what the person you were speaking to looked like and what they were doing during the call? Room2Room, a Microsoft Research project, is helping answer these questions by providing a life-size 3D projection of the person you are speaking to a chair across from you.

The digital images can be seen from different viewpoints allowing everyone in the room the ability to interact with the projection.

While the idea of augmented reality—combining digital images with real life—has been around for years, it is only recently that technology has started to catch up. Microsoft is one of the companies testing and hoping to popularize augmented reality.

Building on an augmented reality project called RoomAlive, which uses Kinect depth-sensing cameras and digital projectors to create a room-sized augmented-reality gaming arena, Microsoft research is trying to advance the technology with Room2Room. Rather than setting up just one room, Room2Room sets up two similar ones so they can scan an individual sitting in each room and project the image into the other room.

room2roomx519.jpg

Research is still being done to see if augmented reality really enhances phone conversations. At this stage the depth-sensing and projection hardware needed to make Room2Room work is cumbersome and quite difficult to set up. In addition to the equipment being a barrier for consumers, the current projections are not high resolution which makes it hard to tell where a projected person’s gaze is aimed which is distracting and takes away from a conversation rather than add to it.

It is expected that the resolution of real-life projections will drastically improve in the coming years and experts that study augmented reality like Tobias Hollerer, at the University California, Santa Barbara, believe systems like Room2Room will grow in popularity. With growing public interest and acceptance of augmented reality, coupled with the release of consumer-geared headsets from companies like Oculus, we might have the opportunity to say goodbye to awkward remote communications and hello to more intimate and responsive conference calls.

Microsoft Research

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