Are you going to be represented in future meetings as a 3D video image of yourself? Such a future is a possibility, following the recent revelation by a Skype executive that the company, now marking its 10th anniversary, is developing 3D video calls that make a remote user seem to be in the meeting.
There had been speculation that the Microsoft division was working on such technologies, because of a job posting by Microsoft in April for a Software Development Engineer to work on a platform that could give a remote worker a 'body-double' or proxy in a remote meeting."
The R&D was revealed by Mark Gillett, the corporate vice president for Skype, in a recent interview with the BBC.
"We've done work in the labs looking at the capability of 3D screens and 3D capture," Gillett said, adding that this kind of technology would involve multiple cameras on the computer that were precisely calibrated and directed at the correct angle.
'Ecosystem of Devices'
Gillett said the technology was in the lab.
"We know how to make it work and we're looking at the ecosystem of devices" that would be necessary to make such a product feasible before actually bringing it to market, he said. He also indicated that, as the ecosystem is not there yet, actual commercial development is still years away.
Gillett did not specifically say the 3D technology under development would be glassless, but it's hard to imagine any normal business meeting where the participants sat around wearing those funny-looking spectacles.
There could be a variety of 3D video conferencing applications in business, telemedicine, engineering, education and other fields, not to mention general consumer use by grandparents wanting a better look at their children's offspring.
But 3D technology in general has hit some bumps in the road. It has not achieved the critical mass and sales among consumer TVs that some electronics companies had been hoping for, which is affecting its acceptance and technical development for other uses. Recently, ESPN and the BBC said they would drop their experiments with 3D.
Acceptance of Regular Video Calling
Roger Kay, an analyst with industry research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, told us it would be best for regular video conferencing to become widely accepted in the business world before Microsoft or others push 3D versions. Even at this point, when Skype calls or similar person-to-person video calling can be easily done, he said they are "not entirely accepted in our culture, or in anyone's culture."
Kay noted that the limited success of "large, expensive video conferencing setups" from HP and Cisco were currently the exception to video conferencing's acceptance by companies, and any 3D technology for business or consumers would have to offer some added benefit, at good quality and reasonable pricing.
In addition to 3D, Gillett also said Skype was looking at the possibility of offering 1080p high-definition communication to devices other than the new Xbox One console, such as tablets or laptops.
Microsoft is working hard to integrate Skype into every aspect of its business, including its Outlook e-mail service and the coming Windows 8.1 operating system, as well as developing special services, such as a marketplace for small- and medium-size businesses that use the communications technology.