Microsoft wants to bring HoloLens users into a conversation with other folks who aren’t in the room, using a technology developed by its research division that enables “holoportation.”
It’s a product of Microsoft Research’s Interactive 3D Technologies group, which released a YouTube video showing different people appearing in a room alongside Shahram Izadi, a partner research manager. While Izadi was being recorded in person, the other people who joined him (including his daughter) were displayed as digital renderings while being recorded in another room.
The system uses a specialized capture rig to map how a person is moving around in real time, and sends a 3D image of them to the wearer of a HoloLens so that the two people can interact with one another.
There are still key parts of human interaction that are missing. Holoportation users can’t touch one another, of course, and it’s possible for one person to walk through the other in the middle of a conversation. There’s also the matter of the HoloLens’s field of view — users will only see their conversation partners through a rectangular window at the center of their vision.
That means people who holoport into conversations could look a bit like they’re floating in midair. It’s hard to know without trying out on the HoloLens hardware itself.
Alex Kipman, the head of the HoloLens project at Microsoft, showed off the capability at the TED conference in Vancouver last month. NASA scientist Jeff Norris joined him on stage digitally with the help of a specialized camera rig, and the two of them discussed the potential of the HoloLens as a tool for science.
One of the benefits to an augmented reality telepresence system is that people will be able to converse both with people who are physically present in a room next to them as well as with others who are holoporting. It’s an interesting capability that might make the device more appealing to businesses who would be in the position to purchase HoloLenses when they become available for general sale in the future.
Right now, though, it’s unclear if or when holoportation will be commercially available. Because it requires special cameras, it’s not going to be immediately usable by people who are getting the first wave of HoloLens developer kits, which Microsoft is sending out next week.
Microsoft will be hosting its Build developer conference in San Francisco next week, and it’s likely we’ll get some more HoloLens news there. Stay tuned.