People love being together — to share, collaborate and connect. And this past year, with limited travel and increased remote work, being together has never felt more important.
Through the years, Google has built products to help people feel more connected. They’ve simplified email with Gmail, and made it easier to share what matters with Google Photos and be more productive with Google Meet. But while there have been advances in these and other communications tools over the years, they’re all a far cry from actually sitting down and talking face to face.
Google looked at this as an important and unsolved problem. They asked themselves: could they use technology to create the feeling of being together with someone, just like they’re actually there?
To solve this challenge, Google has been working for a few years on Project Starline — a technology project that combines advances in hardware and software to enable friends, families and coworkers to feel together, even when they’re cities (or countries) apart.
Imagine looking through a magic window, and through that window, you see another person, life-size and in three dimensions. You can talk naturally, gesture and make eye contact.
To make this experience possible, Google applied research in computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio and real-time compression. They’ve also developed a breakthrough light field display system that creates a sense of volume and depth that can be experienced without the need for additional glasses or headsets.
The effect is the feeling of a person sitting just across from you, like they are right there. As soon as you sit down and start talking, the technology fades into the background, and you can focus on what’s most important: the person in front of you.
Project Starline is currently available in just a few Google offices and it relies on custom-built hardware and highly specialized equipment. The company believes this is where person-to-person communication technology can and should go, and in time, our goal is to make this technology more affordable and accessible, including bringing some of these technical advancements into our suite of communication products.
Google has spent thousands of hours testing Project Starline as colleagues connected between the Bay Area, New York and Seattle. They’ve also been conducting demos with select enterprise partners in areas like healthcare and media to get early feedback on the technology and its applications.