Era of 3D video chat inches closer with demo at Barcelona fair

Slovakian tech company Matsuko is beginning to roll out its AI-powered 3D video chat software to businesses. Although people on the call all wear a VR headset in real life, you can see everyone's faces as if they were in the room with you. — Photo: Matsuko/dpa

BARCELONA: With an innovation that could soon make online meetings between remote workers far less tedious, a Slovakian software company has demonstrated a form of video chat where callers appear as three-dimensional images.

Announcing the market launch of its updated product at the MWC trade fair in Barcelona on Tuesday, the software company Matsuko showed how people in a telephone conference could wear VR headsets to see other participants in a space in front of them.

The new product, which could be a milestone in the establishment of a more immersive video chat, also allows participants to look at and discuss a virtual 3D object between them – such as plans for a building to be constructed.

Indeed, one of the first companies using the product is said to be a German construction company.

Matsuko plays a central role in the development of spatial video calls and the company has been working together with various mobile phone companies to bring the platform to businesses and consumers.

Although everyone on the call is wearing a VR headset, the software uses AI to render their faces without the headset, making it possible to speak relatively normally. This is possible because they have had their faces recorded beforehand by the software.

The AI changes the person's face to reflect how their facial area – covered by the headset in real life – would look in a conversation without VR headsets on.

Apple is already offering similar video chat using its VR headset, but requires all participants to wear its expensive headset to take part in virtual meetings.

The telecommunications industry has high expectations for hologram telephony, and the fast 5G mobile communications standard with its low latency is an important building block for this.

At a time where conversations on video chat platforms like Zoom still struggle to match the ease of a real-world meeting, advocates hope 3D meetings with reliable internet would improve the visual fidelity and make dialogue feel more lifelike.

And yet 3D video chat is likely to remain a niche technology in the coming years. Matsuko from Košice in Slovakia is only selling its product to corporate customers who expect a professional benefit from it. Private Matsuko customers in Europe are set to be able to make 3D calls from 2026 onwards, however. – dpa

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