Instead of experiencing distant videoconference interviewees on flat screens, participants in a tele-immersion conference feel they are all in the same room. First test runs of this future technology in the USA were successful. As part of the "National Tele-Immersion Initiative" (NTII), researchers from four universities and institutes have transmitted the three-dimensional images over long distances. The amounts of data that need to be transported in this fusion of 3D technology and communication still require very high bandwidths, but deliver real-looking images.
"With tele-immersion, the screen becomes a window to a faraway place, " explains Kostas Daniilidis, experimenter at the University of Pennsylvania, "The person you're talking to is projected in life-sized three dimensions - you can even go behind she or he is looking. "
Each conversation partner sits in front of large screens on which the constantly adjusted 3D images can be seen. Several digital video cameras illuminate the person from different angles. In addition comes a kind of position transmitter on the head, which registers changes in the posture. The recipient of the images uses 3D glasses with polarized lenses, which suggests a three-dimensional image to the brain.
Each movement of the filmed person has direct effects on the transferred image: If she leans backwards or forwards, her image also becomes slightly larger or smaller, as in real life. "It's kind of like the 'holodeck' of the Starship Enterprise, " says Daniilidis, "it allows us to interact with flat images as if they were living, breathing individuals right in front of us." Ad
In the test runs, the transmission quality was a bit shaky, and so far only one participant in the conference could see his distant colleagues. But Daniilidis and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brown University and the New York-based non-profit company Advanced Network and Services are convinced of the potential of the technology. You see in the tele-immersion the next revolution in telecommunications. Once young, thanks to this technology people from different corners of the world are supposed to get close to each other virtually. Physicians could be virtually present in the operating room, virtual actor rehearsals would be much more realistic, telephoto students and students would be very close to their faculty. And not least in conferences and important meetings one can perceive the partners more personally, say the researchers.Dörte Saße