Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor is very popular, whether it’s being used in its native environment to make beloved Star Wars characters rhythmically jiggle around, or hacked to an insane, powered skateboard to provide a gesture control system, it’s varied abilities are certainly being exploited.
Now a series of the sensors find themselves attached to the TeleHuman, a 3D display that “beams” a life-size representation of yourself to another pod in another location, so you can talk and interact with other people as if you were really there.
The TeleHuman is a cylindrical pod that stands just under two-meters tall and has a 3D projector hidden inside its base. This projects your image onto a convex mirror, which then reflects it onto the wrap-around acrylic screen.
It’s a complete 360-degree representation too, enabling the viewer to walk around the TeleHuman as they would if the person were really in the room, and although it’s not actually holographic, it looks exactly how we imagine that technology to appear.
There are six Kinect sensors mounted around the top of the TeleHuman, which capture your position, then another four are placed around the room to form a “square,” and they record your back and side view to complete the 3D picture.
Exciting, but expensive
Developed by the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Ontario, the TeleHuman has been designed with video-conferencing, teaching and medical work in mind. You can see one possible application in the video below, where a system called BodiPod uses gestures and an interactive 3D image to help teach anatomy.
In the same way that FaceTime has been embraced by the adult entertainment industry, we can see any future, commercial versions of the TeleHuman also being adopted for more “intimate” video conferences too.
So, the TeleHuman brings use one step closer to making our sci-fi communication dreams a reality, but there are a couple of drawbacks. First, one still has to wear 3D glasses to see the image in three dimensions, which will dim the image even more; and second, it’s quite expensive.
Professor Roel Vertegaal, Director of the Human Media Lab, told Wired.com that a “mass production” TeleHuman would cost around $5,000 — with at least $1,500 of that being taken up by the ten Kinect sensors — and as you’d need one for each person taking part in the conversation, that’s a big investment.
However, given that the parts used are almost all commercially available, it may not be that long until the price drops to something at least slightly more reasonable.