Skype Developing Futuristic 3D Video Calling

by Matt Klassen on August 30, 2013

Skype sees a future full of 3D video calls, according to Microsoft’s Skype vice president Mark Gillett; it’ll just be awhile before that future becomes a reality. In an interview with the BBC, Gillett explained that Microsoft’s Skype team already knows “how to make it [3D video calling] work,” it’s just a matter of waiting for video capture technology, particularly in the mobile world, to catch up.

“We’ve done work in the labs looking at the capability of 3D-screens and 3D-capture,” Gillett commented. “We’ve seen a lot of progress in screens and a lot of people now buy TVs and computer monitors that are capable of delivering a 3D image. But the capture devices are not yet there.”

Unfortunately, the problem for Gillett and the 3D future of Skype is that the general public seems, as I’ve said many times before, to have no appetite for 3D, and while I would guess there would be interest in applying such technology to video calling, as Gillett noted, the emergence of 3D Skype will require an established framework of three dimensional technology in order to work…and that framework isn’t coming any time soon.

In the interview Gillett explained that in order to establish a three dimensional video call, multiple cameras need to be linked to a computer system where they are correctly calibrated to provide images at the correct angles to form the necessary 3D image. Microsoft’s Skype team has been tinkering with such a setup “in the lab,” and Gillett assured the BBC that “we know how to make it work,” but adapting such a laborious process for the general public will take some time.

Further, as I mentioned, the current ecosystem of three dimensional devices is limited, thus the framework for supporting 3D video calling simply isn’t there. For his part Gillett remains optimistic that interest in such 3D technology is growing, and in his mind while 3D video calling may still be “many years” away from the mass market, its emergence is in little doubt.

While science fiction would tell us that a future of 3D video calling is an inevitability, it’s going to be a long row to hoe for this particular technological niche. Over the past several months the three dimensional technological form factor has taken a beating, with low consumer interest leading to many media outlets cancelling their initial 3D offerings. The Catch-22, of course, is that the genre needs content to draw consumers to the platform, and the content providers need consumers to stay in business.

The second Catch-22 in this scenario is that 3D video calling from Skype may actually help reverse the flagging interest in the new technological medium, but once again, Gillett admits that video calling is likely low on the list of future applications of 3D technology, meaning the rest of the 3D infrastructure will have to come first, and that’s the stuff no one is interested in.

In the end, Microsoft’s Skype team continues to be optimistic that three dimensional viewing will gain traction in all relevant technological genres—TV, computing, and mobile—but given the reality that once again no one cares about 3D, we may have to wait till the technology is revived for the umpteenth time somewhere down the road before we can really begin to explore the future of 3D video communication.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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