It’s been nearly two years since Google first introduced Project Starline, a telepresence platform designed to facilitate natural-feeling remote communication between two people. While we haven’t heard much about the project, the company recently confirmed it’s still ongoing, recently revealing a more compact and affordable system.

Project Starline was first revealed back at Google I/O 2021, with the goal of making it feel like you’re sitting in front of another person, even though they’re remote. Using a bevy of sensors, a light-field display, spatial audio, and novel compression, Google says it’s able to recreate a very immersive likeness of the person on the other end.

We haven’t heard too much about Project Starline in the intervening years, but last week at Google I/O 2023 we got a small update confirming the project is still ongoing and improving:

The update introduces the latest prototype which shrinks the system somewhat from a large booth to a more streamlined setup that appears to use commodity depth cameras and fewer of them. Google says that makes the latest prototype “more practical,” and says that select companies are trialing the new version.

“Our earlier Project Starline prototypes took up an entire room, requiring complex hardware such as infrared light emitters and special cameras to create a live 3D model of the person you were talking to. While the results were impressive, the size and complexity of the system made it challenging to bring to many of today’s offices,” the company writes in an update on the project. “So for our latest prototype, we developed new AI techniques that only require a few standard cameras to produce higher quality, lifelike 3D images. Thanks to these advancements, our prototype now resembles a more traditional video conferencing system—going from the size of a restaurant booth to a flat-screen TV—that’s more deployable and accessible.”

Despite shrinking things down, Google confirms the system still uses a light-field display which creates a true 3D image without the need for glasses. However we still don’t know much about the specific display being used.

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The entire premise behind Project Starline is that representing remote participants more realistically leads to better conversations. To that end the company recently pointed out several studies providing evidence that the system can bring “improved conversation dynamics, reduced video meeting fatigue, and increased attentiveness.”

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • sfmike

    Have no fear as when Google realizes this won’t make them a quick billion they will drop it like they did 3D and VR.

    • ViRGiN

      Or like Valve, still not supporting in-headset room scale calibration after 7 years on the market.
      They abandoned Valve Index on release date, they just did not tell you about it.

      Other than that, this is definietly nothing more than a concept product not requiring you to wear a headset to see semi-realistic nearly-static person on the other side.

    • Zantetsu

      Well said comrade. Workers of the proletariat unite! From each according to his ability (to research and develop products), to each according to his needs (to do nothing useful and expect everything in return)!

      • Guest

        Useful? How are AI techniques to impersonate people ever going to be useful to them???

    • Anonymous

      I will never fully understand their fail fast fail often mantra. It just basically encourages irresponsibility and is basically trampling customer trust.
      It is a such a disgrace to entrepreneurs, including Google at its earliest stages, who all endured the hardship of tough competition, economic hardship, or naysayers.

  • Foxdah

    This looks like its using a screen similar to Looking Glass portrait. Looking Glass charges a fortune for small screens. I would be interested in how much this screen costs(and selling price) google.