Alison K. Lanier
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net franky242
In the none-too-distant future, Skype sees the possibility for 3-D calling between its users. These calls would not only take place in state-of-the art boardrooms, but from the familiar spot in front of your everyday laptop. Or, the one that Microsoft hopes you will soon buy, installed with Skype’s specialized and precisely-aimed cameras.
The extremely popular Internet communication service, used for video and phone calls as well as text and picture messages, hinted in an August interview with BBC that to commemorate its 10-year anniversary the company looks to advance their personal and business communications in the Internet age.
Adding a New Dimension to Internet Calling
From the promise of 3-D calling to “body doubles” that can attend meetings in the stead of absent remote employees, entities like Skype have described launching more advanced forms of communication. They warn, however, that it could be years before the 3-D communication technique becomes practically viable because of the technology that users would need to have on their home machines.
However, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Skype, Mark Gillett, said in a conversation with the BBC that Skype has the technology to make the futuristic vision a reality, but perhaps not for the everyday consumer.
“We’ve seen a lot of progress in screens and a lot of people now buy TVs and computer monitors that are capable of delivering a 3-D image,” Gillett said. “But the capture devices are not yet there. As we work with that kind of technology you have to add multiple cameras to your computer, precisely calibrate them and point them at the right angle.”
The exacting science of creating a 3-D image on a run-of-the-mill laptop cannot be a technical reality as of yet, but the company seems eager to move forward and create a consumable product out of this Star-Trek-esque vision.
A Dip in the 3-D Trend
The 3-D format plan comes at a time when, as the BBC article describes, the extra dimension in popular entertainment seems to be running out of steam. The 50th anniversary episode of “Doctor Who,” initially planned to be aired in 3-D, will be broadcast in the flat, familiar format while Disney has abandoned its plans for an entire channel in the 3-D format.
Gillett appears to be voicing a reasonable level of hesitation about Skype’s futuristic service, saying that the service would likely take longer to catch on with users than Skype’s more basic services, like video chat.
Three-dimensional may have lived through its hey-day, some reviewers of Baz Luhrmann’s recent rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” claim, describing how the extra dimension skewed the filmmaker’s cinematography. However, one writer at The New York Times describes that 3-D was very well suited to the film’s particular needs, adding to the “amusement park” quality. And with the massive—in fact unparalleled—success of James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which made waves because of its revolutionary extra-dimensional technology alone, audiences at least seem to enjoy—or at least pay the extra few dollars—the thrill of the novelty format.
Mulling over Company Interests
Microsoft’s takeover of Skype resulted in benefits for the smaller company, Gillett stated. While avoiding comment on the question if the U.S. National Security Agency had access to Skype conversations since July 2012, Gillett described that the Microsoft buyout allowed Skype to integrate its application with Microsoft’s Outlook email program and, as the BBC reported, with Microsoft’s future Windows 8.1.
While it was not technically the first Internet service to offer free calling over the web, the BBC credits Skype with popularizing the concept of Internet video and phone calling. Skype has also inspired a multitude of rivals that feed off the voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP, trend. This includes numerous companies: Google Plus Hangouts, Apple’s FaceTime, Blackberry BBM, and Viber.
In a blog post celebrating their decade on the web, Skype stated that over 1.4 trillion minutes have been made via their program, and there will doubtlessly be millions of Skype users who will enthusiastically pursue a leap into 3-D calling, like iPhone owners lining up for the next identical-generation product.
According to TechCrunch, “Building 3-D 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.”
So while the possibility is exciting and Skype’s popularity would ensure success, provided of course that users had the requisite laptop equipped with cameras, the technology doesn’t seem to be called for yet.
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