Skype works on 3-D calling system

The Internet calling company Skype says 3-D calls are in the works.

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    The exterior view of Skype offices in Palo Alto, Calif., are shown.
    The Internet calling company celebrated its 10th anniversary this month.
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The idea of being able to have a business partner, friend, or family member materialize in front of you, in a three-dimensional form, is appealing, if not frighteningly futuristic. But having a “body-double” materialize might be the next big thing in online calling.

The Internet communication company Skype has developed this kind of 3-D calling system, says Mark Gillett, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Skype.

Mr. Gillett’s announcement came just before Skype celebrates its 10th anniversary on Thursday and could be seen as an attempt by the company to keep consumers interested at a time when international callers have an increasingly wide range of options for making calls abroad.

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“Today, companies like Whatsapp, Viber, and others are leaders in the mobile communication space – that’s something that Skype has to fight hard to get back,” Gillett told the BBC. A new type of online call might be a way to accomplish this.

There have been rumblings about this kind of technology for a while: Back in April, Microsoft confirmed that it was working on a way to have a realistic physical proxy appear in remote meetings, but there wasn’t any confirmation that the software was actually available until now.

In the BBC interview, Gillett warned that while this technology already exists, it would be years before placing 3-D calls would be readily available to consumers.

“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,” Gillett says. “We have it in the lab, we know how to make it work and we’re looking at the ecosystem of devices and their capability to support it in order to make a decision when we might think about bringing something like that to market.” 

While groups such as the BBC and ESPN have been abandoning the idea of 3-D channels, Skype is still pushing forward with this technology, he says. 

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