Skype is working on a technology that will no doubt be impressive when used once and then promptly ignored for the rest of time – 3D video calls. The project was revealed in an interview with the BBC to commemorate Skype’s 10th anniversary (which makes me feel old), but it could be another decade before we see that project bear fruit.
Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Skype Mark Gillett told BBC that Skype’s labs has been doing work on both 3D capture and 3D display of video calls, and while it’s impressed with the progress made in monitors and TVs that can produce a 3D image, the company still believes there’s a lot of work needed to be done before the 3D capture technology is where it needs to be. That’s because there’s too much tuning required to get the multiple cameras you need for producing 3D images angled as you need them for live video calls.
Gillett said in the BBC interview that Skype has the tech working in the lab, but needs the hardware ecosystem to be able to support it before it’s introduced. But he also said that 3D video chat would take longer to catch on with consumers than other 3D video tech in all likelihood, which begs the question of whether it ever really will.
3D movies and broadcast television efforts have been seen by many industry watchers as something of a flop, after all. The BBC abandoned plans to use 3DTV tech for its programming, citing weak demand and the need for glasses as part of the problem, neither of which helps encourage the massive cost related to filming and airing 3D content. Sony also seems pretty much to have discontinued (though no official proclamation has been made) its dedicated 3D display for PlayStation gaming, despite 3D gaming being one of the best use-case scenarios for the tech.
In the BBC article, Gillett says that Skype is looking in the near-term at more practical improvements, like bringing 1080p video calls to hardware beyond the upcoming Xbox One console. Building 3D calling capabilities in the unlikely event that the tech takes off in a big way may turn out to be a prescient move, but for now it seems like a case of building something no one likely wants. Maybe fix the way Skype syncs up IM conversations across platforms instead? Please?