Video conferencing may be the best thing to happen to college seniors since someone thought of serving alcohol inside red plastic cups.
The conquer-any-distance technology has already introduced a whole new form of employment through the rise of telecommuting, and opened up the traditional job market by letting students interview remotely for positions anywhere in the country.
Now it’s also helping recent and soon-to-be graduates clean up their image, and disguise the realities of low-income, shared housing during those online interviews.
New technology that lets video callers mask, blur, or even reconstruct their surroundings in-call means you no longer have to hang a bed sheet over the curtains just to present yourself as mature and professional. With a little imagination it could even be the key point of difference that earns that big professional break.
Blurred Background Video Calling
The technology in question is the ability for a camera, the software behind it, or both, to distinguish between foreground and background during a live video call. Once that distinction is made you can get all Hollywood green screen on the streamed image, and effectively abstract the caller from the world around them.
More specifically, you can retrieve the upstanding young graduate from the character-assassinating, stained, bare-walled reality of dorm room living that is common among college students.
The entry-level camera tech won’t make it look like you’re piloting a starship through deep space at a sci-fi movie level (at least not yet, though we’re sure that’s soon to come), but it is more than enough to remove a caller’s background and substitute it with something interview appropriate.
The tech is most commonly used right now by gamers who want to project their faces onto live head-to-head combat, and it’s the power behind Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial recognition login system.
RealSense and Personify
There are two dominant forms of camera trickery used to separate and manipulate a user’s video calling image. The first is the multi-camera version, which has already begun appearing on the newest laptop models. This version is almost exclusively provided by Intel’s RealSense cameras, the kind necessary to run Windows Hello.
RealSense uses a combination of color and infrared cameras and projectors to measure the distance of objects from the camera through reflected light–just like radar–and then crunch this information through amped-up geometry to establish foreground and background.
The second version is more software dependent, and has been pioneered by Personify. Their tech has taken the math and data from the reflected light 3D camera capture version and evolved it to detect depth of field from a standard 2D camera.
By standard, we of course mean cheaper–important if you’re still roaming the college grounds. You can see it here at work in partnership with a $100 Logitech c922 webcam:
Online Job Interviews
A big part of using the background removal technology effectively is understanding its limitations. As you can see from the video above, the tech works best where there are clean, clear lines of differentiation. Don’t wear a headset that comes up above your head too much during your interview, lest your potential employer become dazzled by the flickering light above your head.
It’s also best to keep yourself relatively still, so the software and camera can best keep you in-frame. Those tips aside though, the only other decision is what to broadcast in place of your Che Guevara poster.
The best choice for most interviewees is probably a passive, clean background that lets your image dominate, but if you’re particularly proud of your school or membership in a particular society or club it wouldn’t hurt to add a nice crest or logo to a corner of your reimagined room.
Let the technology evolve a little further though (Logitech has just released a new infrared depth of field camera that won positive reviews, albeit at a steeper price tag), and you could really get creative.
Provided foreground and background will reliably hang together, you could begin using your altered background to create a live-action demonstration of your skills and imagination.
You could extol your engineering virtues in front of a schematic you’ve designed, demonstrate your marketing acumen with a walk-through of logo designs, or wow with your economic projections and visual predictions.
And those are just static imagery. As these backgrounds are being projected onto your live stream there’s clearly potential to replace them with video streams.
Sure, it would be distracting to have projected fish swim behind you during an interview, but given the chance to sell yourself you could provide live narration of any number of videos of you in the lab, debating, competing on the field, or creating works of art. Maybe even a projected testimonial or two?
After all, anything’s better than wearing a crisp new suit while sitting in front of a cracked plaster wall.