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3D video calls a step closer

January 2, 2014 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Drew Turney / The Age

"Help me Obi Wan Kenobi ... you're my only hope," might have been the first vision of a teleconferencing technology now in development at Iowa State University in the US.

A human-computer interaction expert and a mechanical engineer have created a system to scan and record a subject in 3D, compress and transmit the video across a wired or wireless network in real time and have it displayed at the other end as a hologram-like 3D image on any screen.


The finding has implications for the future of teleconferencing, remote medicine, telework and the way we use video on mobile devices.

It's partly the story of an amazing feat of data compression. Two cameras on each side of a light source are pointed at the subject, recording light and shadow distortions. They generate a huge amount of stereoscopic video data the team has managed to compress from 700 megabits per second (Mbps) to 14Mpbs - low enough to stream across any network to any connected device at 30 frames a second.

Where a person in a 2D image has the common (and slightly creepy) quality of staring directly at you from any angle, the new system is a much closer representation of reality, allowing people at opposite ends of a video call to interact as if they were in each other's physical presence, says developer Nik Karpinksy.

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