EDITORS CHOICE 27.01.16

Microsoft facilitates interaction via AR

microsoft room2room

Video chat, instant messaging and social media may be invaluable tools for connecting with colleagues and friends around the world, but what if you could communicate with a life-size projection of them in your meeting or living room?

After a relatively quiet few years, AR looks to be making progress in bringing technology with commercial potential to the market. One such project is Microsoft Research Study’s Room2Room system, which allows users to sit across from a life-sized digital version of a person.

The augmented-reality telepresence system facilitates co-present interaction previously applied in Microsoft’s RoomAlive AR gaming project. The difference with the new system is it incorporates two rooms, using the hardware, instead of one.

The system combines Kinect depth cameras and projectors to capture the 3D image of a person and then create an illusion of the remote person’s physical presence in the local space in real time. The image can be projected into an open space or onto a piece of furniture if seated, to possibly offer a completely new perspective to video conferencing.

Each participant can view the projection of the other person in perspective, and see each other from different viewpoints when communicating via verbal and non-verbal cues.

The research team has already tested the technology’s potential with seven pairs of study participants, with each pair collaborating to complete a physical task following instructions from the projected image of the other. Notably, the activity took seven minutes to complete over Room2Room, compared to nine minutes via Skype video chat, with the task taking four minutes to do when face to face.

There are currently two prototypes of Room2Room being tested. According to its creators, the system is currently low resolution and complex to configure, however its existence brings AR meetings one step closer to becoming a staple of everyday communication.