Microsoft developing holographic video conferencing tools

News 26 Apr, 2013

Redmond giant seeking software engineer to make ‘body-double’ dream come true

Holographic representations of remote conference participants could be about to step out of science fiction and into real life, two recent job posts by Microsoft Research suggest.

The first advert, for a principal software development engineer, asks for applicants who want to be responsible for redefining the way people telecommute, communicate and work.

We are developing the hardware and software necessary to have a realistic physical body-double

Microsoft said the successful party will work on what it terms a “groundbreaking new technology platform” that will “revolutionise communications and touch millions of customers around the world”.

“In the short term, we are developing the hardware and software necessary to have a realistic physical 'body-double' or proxy in a remote meeting – one that gives the remote worker a true seat at the table, the ability to look around the room, turn to a colleague and have a side conversation,” the advert states.

“Longer-term, this same platform will enable high-definition communication scenarios for consumers over Skype,” it adds.

The second advert, also for a software development engineer, refers to the “Microsoft Mesa project” – mesa meaning table in Spanish.

“Mesa offers an equal blend of software and hardware challenges so you will get a chance to work on unique technologies that are unlike any other part of Microsoft,” the advert states.

“We build on top of proven technologies like Lync and Skype, but also use new emerging ones like Windows 8 and Surface, adding unique Mesa specific technologies (like video processing),” it continues.

The Mesa Project is similar in nature to Viewport, a previous Microsoft Research project that aimed to build a “shared virtual environment for immersive telecommunication”.

However, as both the Mesa-related job adverts are listed as part of the Startup Business Group, and given the tone of the ads, it could be that Mesa will take the technology out of the lab and into the office and home.

Holographic telecommunications technology has long been the staple of the science-fiction genre, appearing in films such as Star Wars, video games such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, as well as novels by Jules Verne and J.G. Ballard.

However, as cloud computing opens up the possibilities of remote working, people are turning to new, unified communications technologies to deliver the immediacy of an in-person meeting, while still being able to work from another location.