Google is going to test its 3D video chat booth with more companies

Google is bringing Project Starline, its next-gen 3D video chat booth, to more companies starting later this year. As part of an early access program, “enterprise partners,” including Salesforce and T-Mobile, will begin using Starline, with Google deploying units of the booth in “select partner offices” for testing, according to a blog post.

Google first announced Project Starline at last year’s Google I/O. The idea is that you can sit in the booth and have a virtual conversation with another human being without squinting at a tiny Zoom window or wearing a virtual reality headset. The booth creates the effect of talking to a “real” person by capturing how you look with cameras and sensors and so it can recreate a 3D model for the person on the other side of the call. There’s quite a bit of hardware involved to make the technology work, but the end result, at least in the brief glimpses Google has shown publicly, looks quite impressive.

However, it seems as if Starline could be a long way from becoming a commercialized product. Despite announcing the project nearly a year and a half ago, Google is describing this expansion to companies like Salesforce and T-Mobile as only the “next phase of testing.” And I doubt the booth will come cheap. But as more organizations shift to a hybrid work model (including Google), Project Starline could be a useful way to connect with people who you can’t meet with in person — assuming the project becomes available more broadly, of course.

Google shared the Starline expansion as part of a swath of other Google Cloud and Workspace updates. My colleague David Pierce got to talk to the new head of Workspace about Google’s plan to crush Microsoft Office.