You’ve finally secured a spot on the command bridge of a Star Trek starship, but you’re feeling more than a little uneasy. Staring straight ahead you can see into the unbounded realm of space. Looking straight down you can see the engineering controls at your fingertips. Looking to your left, however, is anything but awe-inspiring. Sitting in the captain’s chair is your friend Barry, and Barry, for all the years you’ve known him, is not a reliable type of guy.
This may only be a video game, but you’re sure Barry’s going to pilot you straight into danger. But you’re a team in here, and every team needs a leader. Barry won the coin toss, so it’s Captain I-forgot-where-the-car’s-parked Barry who’s leading your maiden voyage.
It could be worse. If video calling apps can learn from video gaming technology, you could one day be depending on Barry to lead your team through a real-world business meeting. Then you’re going to long for the relief of a Star Trek misadventure.
Game Technology in Virtual Reality Development
One of the industry voices currently promoting this new virtual reality Star Trek game, Star Trek: Bridge Crew believes its immersive, team-oriented format is a sign of where video conferencing is headed in the future.
The head of Sony’s Playstation Magic Lab, Richard Marks said the game demonstrated how virtual reality could improve the interactions of callers in a video conference. Communicating through online avatars, even ones dressed in Captain’s gold, helped callers with the “spatial cues” of a video call. It made it easier to maintain eye contact by placing people within a complete world, not a 2D one that leaves their fellow callers to guess at what is happening around them.
Within the game, each player is immersed within a realistic point of view as though they really were seated at a command console on the bridge. Turning their head shifts this view. Every other character is represented in 3D, and embedded with a shared world dominated by machines and displays and wandering crew members.
It’s a view of a future video calling world in which callers go beyond the face-to-face and actually walk the same floor. And there’s other video gaming tech currently available to make that experience even more personal and complete.
Creating a Video Calling Avatar
In May, Danish hardware startup Rokoko released its brand new video motion-capture suit, the SmartSuit Pro. Such technology has been used for years in video games to recreate the movements of real-world athletes. Actual players wear the wetsuit-looking devices and go through the motions of catching a football or dunking a basketball while their movements are recorded via sensors all over their bodies. This combination of muscle and skeletal movement is then mimicked in-game to make the action look as real as possible.
What Rokoko has achieved is a motion-capture suit that retails for $2,500, not the usual hundreds of thousands of dollars. That means gamers can now create realistic full body avatars of themselves for use online, a big step up from the face-only scanning that represents the current high-end of personalized gaming.
What’s more impressive is that suits can be worn while playing the game, and used as controllers so that characters move with human fluidity. Pair that technology with the Star Trek: Bridge Crew virtual reality format and you’ve got the ability to stage a fully immersive video conference call where every remote attendee can walk around a shared room, shake hands, and even accidently bump into one another–because why should a virtual social gathering be any less awkward than a real world one?
Gaming Is Showing Video Calling the Way
Both these products throw down a gauntlet to the current offerings of video calling apps and hardware developers. Altspace VR currently offers a range of video calling virtual reality spaces similar to the interactive world of Star Trek: Bridge Crew, but it has yet to match that game’s realistic point of view, or the Rokoko team’s fluid personal controls. If it could at least make its service compatible with the SmartSuit Pro, we’d have a whole new level of video calling interactivity.
But this technology can do so much in the real world, as well as in the world of gaming. On the business side of things, entire teams of representatives from partner organizations could strap on VR goggles and mingle in a shared third-party virtual destination to conduct a meeting or just to get to know each other.
Beyond business, it could turn a social group call into a dance party within a virtual disco, turn an online dating app into an online date, and turn a quick video call home for Christmas into a virtual Christmas dinner.
All it takes is for the right video calling developers to be willing to learn from latest advances in video gaming technology. If you can pilot an intergalactic space ship with your remotely located friends, why can’t you visit a virtual karaoke bar with them?