You know how they do video conferencing in Star Wars, with the Jedi council spread out throughout the galaxy, yet appearing to all be in the same room via the use of holograms? Or how they can call someone on the other end of the cosmos and see them by way of a 3-dimensional projection in the palm of their hand?
Well, what if we could build something like that through the use of Augmented Reality?
I think we can.
So let’s explore. Step one is figuring out how to capture the participants in 3D.
How Do You Capture A User In 3D?
I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Andy Vanhook. Andy owns a video production agency known as Appeal Production here in Harrisonburg and they do some incredible work.
We had a great conversation about this, but sadly I did a bad job recording the audio so I’ll share some takeaways from the conversation along with some changes of my own.
So, my first thought was that we have companies who are already doing immersive VR experiences with video.
This is when a video gets recorded in 360 degrees from a single point and then you can put on a VR Headset and step into the video as if you were there.
So how does that work?
Well, the best way to do this is to have multiple cameras set up in a circle facing out. Kind of like a halo around your head so that you can record every inch of different perspectives in the same scene and then stitch them together with software.
But our use case is different.
We don’t want to capture a user’s 360-degree view of a video from his or her perspective. We want to capture the user in 360-degrees from an observer’s perspective.
So here’s my first thought experiment.
That halo of outward facing cameras I described earlier, why not convert that halo into a hula hoop? Making it way larger, and then face all the cameras inward instead of outward so that they face the user.
Then create a copy of each of those hula hoop camera rigs and put one at the user’s feet and another at the user’s torso. This gets us all the video coverage we need to capture an accurate representation of the user.
How Do We Isolate The User From The Background?
Well, this gets a little tricky and is pretty costly with all the cameras you would need.
This is becoming more and more of a tool for diplomats and executives who want the in-person feel without the time and cost of travel.
I think we would need to set up a green screen room dedicated to these calls. So that all the user’s backgrounds could easily be ignored.
Then, of course, there is the camera that would be picked up in the background. But I think we’d be able to easily remove those with the complicated stitching software that we’d create to combine the data from all the cameras feeds and use it to create the 3D representation of the user that we could then broadcast.
I will say that creating that stitching software would not be easy but I’m confident it could be done.
Problem Number 2: Group Chat
Group chat would be a little more complex.
For group chat, to make it seem like everyone was sitting together at a table, you know how I talked about that green room? Each call participant would also need to have a standardized 8 or 12 person conference room.
There would need to be a standardized table with fixed seating and call participants around the world would need to all be using the same setup.
With that being said, this is starting to create an opportunity for a third party company to build and rent one of these VR call studios as an alternative to paying for the installation of their own.
Remember though, this would be an alternative to traveling across the world for a meeting. So we’re talking about a huge amount of time and money being saved. This would hopefully make the set-up and space dedication worth it to a larger company.
Another thing is, we’d also probably need to drop to one halo of the camera rig. Two at most are needed, as we’d only be capturing what happened above the table.
Displaying The Broadcast In 3D
Firstly, I’m assuming bandwidth and internet speed isn’t an issue. Let’s assume everyone’s using a Google Fiber or working on direct lines into and out of data centers.
We’d have two basic options though.
Wear an AR headset or use a smartphone or tablet as a viewer, kind of like with a Pokémon Go.
The AR headset would be way cooler though because the hope is that it would feel like the person you were talking to was right there. The downside is that part of your face would be hidden from the person you were talking to.
So to get around that, everyone could take a profile picture, capture their face in 3D and then also add some scanners inside of the AR headset that picked up the portions of your facial expressions being covered by the headset.
Theoretically, this would give the software everything it needed to create and display an approximate representation of the facial expressions you were making and automatically remove the headset from the broadcast.
And just like that, I think we have everything we need to capture and broadcast ourselves in 3D and 360-degrees.
The Business Model
The business model on this one would be easy.
Sell to corporations, governments, and politicians and save them money on travel, and make money on the hardware and on the installation of new AR chat zones.
Obviously, there’s more to it than that but the case is there.
I did forget to mention the audio, but that’s because that would be simple, everyone would use a wearable clip-on lav mic or something of the sort.
Please note that this idea is probably riddled with holes.
I’m just having fun imagining possibilities and gave this thought about an hour. Regardless, I want you to poke holes at this idea and let me know what you think on Twitter @Chiedo.
If you want the idea and want to run with it, it’s yours. I personally don’t want to CEO any more companies. And I’m an advocate of sharing ideas. Because it’s not the best idea that wins. It’s the best execution that wins.
If you need some IT consulting and want to talk with me about the web and tech problems and possibilities within your company or startup, visit Chie.do/radio in your browser and drop me a line.
Thanks for reading, until next time!
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