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What Is Project Starline? How This Magic Glass Brings Hyper Realistic Calls

project starline blog header

Project Starline. Sounds futuristic and like it would be out of something like Star Trek, right? Well its not out of Star Trek but it is something futuristic and frankly magic. With this device, video conferencing has taken a giant leap into a new world. Making general video conferencing something of the past. Google have been know to push limits with their technology, thinking and researching ways to bring something new and exciting into the technology world. 
Covid has pushed and pulled people away from each other, family members not seeing each other in months. Some cases years. Project Starline is a telepresence system to bring people together, in the most realistic form possible. Now we’ve heard of telepresence before within the business world. A group of screens able to bring companies together from around the world and make each member of the meeting feel like they are all the same room. But Starline pushes the limit.

Project Starline has already been introduced into Google offices around the United States Of America. With those employees using and enjoying the 3D imagining device to hold interviews, meet new colleagues and hold meetings. 

 

Breakdown Of Project Starline

If you break Project Starline down in to very simple terms, it is basically a 3D video conferencing platform. Making you feel that you are in the same room as the person you are talking to over Starline. To make it feel as immersed as it is, Starline is created within its own sort of cubby hole. Giving you a dedicated seat and background with the ‘magic glass’ in front of you with a table. Allowing the users to feel as though they are in the same room. This is miles apart from other telepresence system, Google really upgrading the game.

Alongside the look of Starline, the system if filled with cameras, microphones, sensors and tracking devices to present you in the hyper realistic way. Bringing those from across the world right into your office which a much more realistic and natural feel. Then if you were to use immersive headsets. A more natural feel as you wont need to be wearing a chunky headset, microphones or any controllers for your movement. Simply sit down and whoever you are meeting with will appear in front of you. 

Even though Google advertise the Starline as a great way for you to meet with friends and family, which it probably is. The Starline will most likely be used within corporate businesses. Bringing the most realistic one-on-one meetings when you might be thousands of miles apart.

Technical 

To follow you movement smoothly, Starline comes with face tracking with the focus of motion parallax and stereopsis. Now a quick breakdown of these two things, motion parallax refers to objects moving at a constant speed and stereopsis refers to depth perception. With these two terms in mind, Google has used the four face tracking cameras on the Starline to not only track your face but to render your face in almost perfect form. Whether you tend to move around a lot in meetings, with non verbal cues such as head nodding, the face tracking cameras will take motion parallax and stereopsis into mind. Following you head movements smoothly. No matter if you are up-close to the camera or as far away as you can get.

starline before starline after

Again, if are one of those people that move around during meetings, the audio pickup is important. If your appearance is rendered to almost perfect form, you voice needs to be at the same level and match up. Including four microphone array, the face tracking cameras aid beamforming to help the microphone pickup where your voice is coming from. Localising your voice. The microphones following the direction of your voice and outputting the sound to your participant from the right direction. Creating spatial audio. 

Going back to the cameras, the 65″ display will bring your colleague, interviewee, business partner to life. The 3D camera pod captures 120fps, focusing on the location of your eyes, mouth and ears. Estimating their location within around 5mm. Not exact, but obviously very close that your rendered self will pretty much look identical to your true self. Now with this in mind not everything is perfect, Google are open with the fact that some render images have limits. However, they aren’t big enough where Starline looses its charm. The stereo system can only capture so much, for example if there are a few frizzy bits of hair. The stereo system wont be able to capture them as they are too thin. But even then, if you have a bad hair day the Starline wont be able to pick it up. 

Camera Pods

To create your 3D form perfectly, the Starline includes 3 camera pods. These pods contain two infrared and one colour camera. The infrared camera focuses on creating the perfect 3D form, calculating your to make the right silhouette. This is done by the infrared backlight, this stops any noisy background data and then creates the right silhouette. Alongside this, the upper left depth stream, upper right depth stream and the lower centre depth stream will all capture separate parts of you. Then to bring the the final silhouette all together, the cameras will fuse together. Connecting together like a puzzle. Plus, the bottom camera includes an extra colour camera that focuses on your face. Zoomed in on your face for better resolution. Just like the depth streams, once the silhouette is found the colour cameras will all fuse and blend together seamlessly.

Who Likes The Starline?

Project Starline has been in the making for a few years. With Google finally coming to a final product, but as we said Google has deployed Project Starline throughout their offices in America. Many employees of Google have used Project Starline and loved the impact it had on their meeting. It has been recorded that users of Project Starline have had a better interactions, better memory and better focus. In fact users have used more non-verbal cues- normal in a real life conversation. 40% more hand movements, 25% nods and 50% eyebrow movements recorded. Making Starline a more natural and beneficial system than other 2D conferencing platforms. 

google starline

With better focus, Google recorded that 15% of people focused more on their partner with a eye tracking experiment. This ties in with 30% of users claiming to have a better memory when using Starline. Again making your meeting more beneficial with teams only having to have one meeting. Instead of having one meeting, then having to have other smaller meetings with each other as someone has forgotten details from the first meeting. A hassle and time waster for you and your company. So if the Starline is used for interviewing people, it’s most likely that the interviewer will remember more from the interview then the classic face to face or video interview. Giving the interviewer a more reliable pick on who to hire. Being able to see their facial expressions and hand gestures – body language can say a lot about a person. Starline allows for more personal human interaction. And not an interaction where you are staring into a screen straining your eyes, instead making you feel like you are looking through a window. 

Personal

Moving to a more personal use, the Starline can be perfect for family members to see each other again. A chance for families to feel whole again and chat naturally together. With Starline making the users as realistic as possible, it really feels as though they are there with you. The two of you just sat around a table having a chat. This can actually improve peoples mental health, if they are still stuck in Covid restrictions and not allowed out. Using something like Starline can bring back real human interactions, helping improve their mental health.

Just like Googles advertisement, imagine not seeing your niece or nephew for months on end. The only thing bring you together are phone call, texts and facetimes and even though that has done us good for so many years. Its time to take it to another level. Another level where you almost feel like you could reach out and hug the other person you are talking to. With years of research, now feels like a better time than ever to trial Starline, even if it is just in Google offices.    

Medical

Just like Telehealth, talked about in our last blog, using Project Starline to give medical help to people would be a huge step. However unlike Telehealth, Starline has the technology and high quality 3D imagery that could mean that doctors can do full body exams. Telehealth, as we mentioned, can aid with long term illnesses. Letting people have a break from travelling and spending time in the hospital. However with Starline, patients can get updates and help from their doctor. Feeling like they are actually they are there together. And because people have recorded 15% more focus and 30% better memory when using Starline. Those people who don’t like the hospital or going to see doctors can sit in the comfortable booth of the Starline and talk to their doctor without having that hospital fear. Making them loose focus of the important conversation. Plus with the events of the last few years, it show now more than ever that we need more solutions. In terms of giving medical guidance and help to remote people.

Natalie Horn

Natalie Horn

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