Telehuman 2 cylinder and projectors

Life-size hologram system could revolutionise videoconferencing

Image credit: Human Media Lab, Queen's University

A researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, has developed what he claims to be the world’s first truly holographic videoconferencing system.

Called TeleHuman 2, the system allows people in different locations to appear before one another in life-size 3D, as if they were physically in the same room.

Using a ring of intelligent projectors mounted above and around a retro-reflective, human-sized cylindrical pod, Dr Vertegaal’s team has been able to project objects as light fields that can be walked around and viewed from all sides simultaneously by multiple users – much like the famed, fictional ‘holodeck’ in ‘Star Trek’.

Capturing the remote 3D image with an array of depth cameras, his team has ‘teleported live, 3D images of a human from one room to another – a feat that is set to revolutionise human telepresence. Because the display projects a light field with many images, one for every degree of angle, users need not wear a headset or 3D glasses to experience each other in augmented reality.

Telehuman 2 cylinder closeup

Image credit: Human Media Lab, Queen's University

“People often think of holograms as the posthumous Tupac Shakur performance at Coachella 2012,” said Roel Vertegaal, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at the Queens University School of Computing. “Tupacs image, however, was not a hologram but a Pepper Ghost: a two-dimensional video projected on a flat piece of glass. With TeleHuman 2, we’re bringing actual holograms to life.”

Dr Vertegaal first debuted the TeleHuman technology in 2012, but at that time the device only allowed for a single viewer to see the holographic projection correctly. With TeleHuman 2, multiple participants are able to see their holographic friend or colleague, each from their individual perspective.

“Face-to-face interaction transfers an immense amount of non-verbal information,” said Dr Vertegaal, who is also the head of the Queens Human Media Lab. “This information is lost in online tools, promoting poor online behaviours. Users miss the proxemics, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact that bring nuance, emotional connotation and ultimately empathy to a conversation. TeleHuman 2 injects these missing elements into long-distance conversations with a realism that cannot be achieved with a Skype or Facetime video chat.”

To test the system, Dr Vertegaal had users judge angles at which a robotic arrow, mounted on a tripod, was pointing while physically present in the room, and while rendered on the TeleHuman 2. They did not judge the angles between the real and the virtual representation as significantly different.

“[Telehuman 2] has potential beyond professional situations,” Dr Vertegaal said. “Think again of a large music festival and now imagine a performer capable of appearing simultaneously, and in true 3D, on TeleHuman 2 devices throughout the venue – bringing a whole new level of audience intimacy to a performance.

“The TeleHuman technology could even mitigate environmental impacts of business travel – enabling organisations to conduct more engaging and effective meetings from a distance, rather than having to appear in person.”

Telehuman 2 projectors

Image credit: Human Media Lab, Queen's University

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