As virtual reality technology evolves, it is slowly expanding from being limited to just gaming and entertainment to becoming a part of our daily lives.
Experts from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), one of the largest technical professional organizations in the world, believe that holographic calls i.e. calls made using 360-degree video camera capturing and transmitting live video could soon replace regular voice calls.
According to Vikram Kapila, IEEE senior member and professor at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, this technology could project a person virtually using techniques such as motion capture.
Currently, this can be done using head mounted displays such as Microsoft HoloLens, which can produce holographic renderings.
“If Jane makes the call to John, then Jane’s headset will need to render John in a hologram using his 360-degree video (and similarly on John’s end the need to render Jane’s hologram). In addition, to be able to transmit high-data 360-degree live video on both ends, 5G wireless technology will be needed. To have immersive sound as well, perhaps appropriate audio modification will need to be created so that the sound appears to come from the holograms (3D sound technology),” he stated in an email to the International Business Times.
The functionality is a mix of technologies that are yet to go commercial such as 5G and holographic technology. However, according to Kapila, there is a lot of scope for evolution such as holographic conference calls.
Such technology has been demonstrated in the past by the likes of Facebook and Microsoft.
However, since you cannot wear a head mounted display for every call, for it to become a consumer technology, holographic smartphones would be needed. This is where smartphones such as RED’s Hydrogen smartphone come in — the device is being developed with a multilayered LCD capable of creating 3D effects, which could work with the technology.
Another possibility could be the use of holographic glasses similar to AR glasses that Apple is rumored to be working on.
Even though the technology seems to be pretty far-fetched right now, it has a possibility of becoming a consumer technology, according to Todd Richmond, IEEE member and director of the mixed reality lab at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California.
He outlined the challenges involved in an email to IBT.
“In our labs we have shared virtual environments between east and west coast using a combination of VR and AR (Vive and Hololens). For that to move into the widespread consumer market, there are technical and user experience challenges that need to be solved. Current AR/VR hardware is still rather clunky and is not particularly comfortable for long-term use. The technology needs to approach something closer to reading glasses or perhaps large sunglasses. Or projection (“hologram”) technology needs to improve (probably a combination of both),” he stated.
The biggest challenge for the technology, according to Richmond, is the portrayal of a person in VR and how these virtual environments will be navigated. If you want to text in such an environment — how do u draw letters?
Richmond says that the technology could be available for commercial usage around 2020, however, it might take a decade for it to become a consumer technology.