Microsoft brings augmented reality to your video conferencing

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Your video conferencing may soon get a lot more virtual: Microsoft showed off a beta version of a video-call technology using augmented reality, allowing you to “see” a projection of individuals in your meeting.

The innovation projects a person into a room hologram-style, so that they seem to be sitting in a chair across from the person with whom they’re speaking.

The technology riffs off another Microsoft Research project, Room Alive, that used the same set-up for augmented-reality gaming. as ZDNet writes.

To fully test the tech, the researchers looked at how successful Room2Room is at enabling participants in different rooms to solve a puzzle and compared the results with actual face-to-face meetings and two-dimensional Skype video chats.

They found it took around 7 minutes for the pairs to solve the puzzles to build the shapes in augmented reality, compared with the 9 minutes it took using Skype’s video chat.

Also, researchers asked participants to fill in questionnaires on the experience, and they found that task partners were “significantly more present” when using Room2Room, compared with two-dimensional images using Skype.

MIT Technology Review wrote Room2Room, which could be a useful workplace video-conferencing tech, still has kinks to work out.

While the depth-sensing and projection hardware needed to make it work is widely available, it’s bulky and can be a pain to set up. Also, it doesn’t produce very high-resolution images, says Tomislav Pejsa, who worked on Room2Room while an intern at Microsoft Research and was the lead author of the paper. The low resolution meant it could be hard to tell where a projected person’s gaze was aimed.

Microsoft Research will present a paper about the video-chat technology at the Consumer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computer conference in San Francisco next month.

For more on B2B applications of augmented reality, read our previous report here.

Photo via Microsoft Research

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David Silverberg
David Silverberg is the former editor-in-chief of Digital Journal Inc. He helped pioneer Digital Journal's proprietary technology to leverage content from writers from across the world. He was the host of Digital Journal's annual Future of Media event. David has been published in various publications, writing on everything from technology trends to celebrity profiles.