Google’s Cool Holophone Booth “Starline” Heading to the Market in 2024
Google’s experimental light-field display 3D telephone chat system, Starline is set to become a real product soon. Google’s Starline team has been further strengthened by the recent hiring of a former Magic Leap head of technology.
With Project Starline, Google aims to revolutionize telepresence calls without users having to put on clunky tech gadgets on their heads or faces by providing users with a more natural way of teleconferencing. In Starline, video callers are scanned frontally in 3D in some kind of telephone booth and the image is transmitted to the person on the other end of the call as a volumetric image via a new type of light field display.
The result should be comparable to what you would get when having a conversation with someone through a window pane, with the two of you facing one another.
According to Google, Starline offers a more qualitative teleconferencing experience than conventional video conferencing. Starline users not only use more hand gestures but they also nod more often and will move their eyebrows more compared to callers in a conventional video chat. Starline callers also remember the details of the call much better than callers using traditional video chatting platforms.
Google first presented the Starline prototype at its own I/O developer conference in May 2021. The device is currently being tested both internally as well as with select Fortune 500 companies. The first test reports sound promising.
However, Project Starline is not only extremely expensive but it is also massive. The system needs several cameras for 3D scanning, a bright background as well as Google’s light field display. Google’s XR manager Clay Bavor has in the past stated that the Starline technology is highly specialized.
Google is seemingly unfazed by the complexity and according to The Verge report, is planning to bring the technology to the market by 2024. However, before that is realized, the technology will have to be not only cheaper but also more compact.
The current Starline prototype costs tens of thousands of dollars and The Verge reports that Google is focusing on making the technology cheaper. The Starline pilot program will also be expanded internally and externally with several Fortune 500 companies.
The Verge, citing internal sources, reports that Starline will launch in 2024 alongside Google’s Project Iris AR headset. There is also the possibility that Google might miss out on the target launch year with both devices, given that Project Iris is still in its early stages.
Google has brought on board ex Magic Leap technical director Paul Greco to join the Starline team. Greco has been with Magic Leap for the last 9 years and should lead Starline to market maturity, helping overcome the familiar pitfalls of transforming a clunky and expensive headset prototype into a sleek consumer gadget.