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Augmented reality video conferencing may come sooner than you think

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Don’t worry, you can still wear your pajamas

Augmented reality avatars looking at AR image Spatial

We’ve all been that person on the video conference screen; the disembodied voice that’s coming from a torso or left arm or wherever the camera happens to be accidentally aimed. For all the perks of working remotely—sending emails in your robe, getting to hang out with your dog—the truth is, video conferencing is not a great replacement for talking face-to-face.

There’s good news, though (or bad, if you’re the type who would rather never see their coworkers in the flesh): Augmented reality video conferencing is on its way, and it actually seems like it might work.

A company called Spatial recently showed off a prototype for a new piece of software that turns any room into an interactive meeting space. Take a photo of yourself, slip on an augmented reality headset like HoloLens or Magic Leap, and you’ll be placed into a conference room with photorealistic 3D renders of your coworkers.

Spatial calls its conferencing tool a “collective computing environment,” which is a fancy way to say, everyone in a conference call can interact with their surroundings. All of the tools and interfaces you typically use during a work meeting—desktop computers, sticky notes, mobile phones, and even video conferencing screens—can be imported to and manipulated in the virtual conference room.

According to Fast Company’s Mark Wilson, who recently tried Spatial, blending the physical and digital worlds is surprisingly intuitive: “Participants–wherever they are–all see one another as waist-up, photorealistic avatars, complete with real height that drops if they’re sitting, and articulated arms and hands,” he writes.

Next to Skype, it’s a pretty wild vision of the future, and one that might have major implications for the physical office spaces we’re used to. But the truth is, an AR meeting space is a lot closer to your reality than you think. Spatial is reportedly already working with big companies who want to test the software with their teams, and eventually, it will filter down to the rest of us. It might be hard to imagine now, but someday going into the office will be as simple as pulling on a pair of goggles.

Via: Fast Company