“The evolution of videoconferencing is coming, and holography — which is perhaps a misnomer — is just one part of the change,” says Wayne Kurtzman, IDC research vice president for collaboration and communities. “Within years, not decades, the videoconferencing we used during the pandemic will look so old to us. Online meetings will feel more personal — in some cases, amazingly more realistic.”
While such setups are not widespread now and require specialized hardware and significant bandwidth and data compression to perform optimally, experts and industry players think there is potential for holograms to upend office collaboration.
Collaboration Tech Providers Re-Imagine the Videoconference
In March 2021, Microsoft introduced Mesh, a mixed reality platform that the company says “allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences” on many kinds of devices. Mesh for collaboration is focused on letting people become digital avatars to interact with one another.
In May 2021, Google unveiled Project Starline, which relies on custom-built hardware and highly specialized equipment to create a 3D projection of colleagues into special booths, giving the appearance that they are speaking to each other across a window. Google says the technology, which uses an array of cameras and sensors, leverages research the company has made in computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio and real-time compression. Google has invited more than 100 enterprise partners in a range of industries to participate in demonstrations.
“The technology works like a magic window, where users can talk, gesture and make eye contact with another person, life-size and in three dimensions,” Andrew Nartker, director of product management at Google, writes in a company blog post.
And in October 2021, Cisco announced Webex Hologram, which uses AR headsets to create 3D holograms of colleagues that can interact. Cisco pitches the technology as a shared, immersive experience that lets users see what others are doing or holding and interact with digital icons.
Currently, because these technologies require specialized hardware setups, they’re not ready for the mass market. However, if the cost comes down, adoption could increase.
“Make holographic conferencing more affordable and generally available, and this becomes the next version of conferencing, not just an executive feature,” Kurtzman says. “It will be about bringing people together in a way that they feel together.”