I’ve Tried Out Google’s Project Starline, and It’s the Most Amazing Video Call I've Ever Had

I’ve Tried Out Google’s Project Starline, and It’s the Most Amazing Video Call I've Ever Had

  • In a closed-door demo, Xataka On tested Project Starline, the immersive 3D video calling system that Google will commercialize in 2025.

  • With its spatial sound, 8K 3D display, and AI algorithms, Project Starline provides an incredible immersive effect.

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Project Starline

Google's newest product is for video calls, but it has nothing to do with the video calls we have now. Project Starline is a video calling product unveiled by the company in 2021 to talk to other people through a screen and have a super immersive experience, almost as if users were sitting in front of each other. After several years of development, Google recently announced that it will start offering this video communication tool commercially in 2025 through a partnership with HP.

I don’t have any images of my experience because Google hasn’t shown Project Starline to the public yet. However, I was able to test out the system for Xataka On, and I can guarantee you that there’s nothing like it in the market. In any case, the pictures wouldn’t do it justice either because the technology creates a 3D effect when users sit in front of the screen. However, I’ll try to describe what it’s all about. Believe me: It’s the most realistic video calling service available today.

The Evolution of Video Calling

Google describes Starline as a “magic window.” In reality, it’s nothing more than an 8K display, a six-camera system, AI algorithms, and a surround sound system to make the users feel like they’re standing in front of others during a video call. The result is more natural than traditional video calls where the “screen effect” is obvious.

Google conducted the Project Starline demonstration in a room with good lighting, a chair, a table, and a large screen with several camera systems and speakers. Basically, it was like sitting in front of a 55- or 65-inch TV. On the screen, the team in charge projected the image of another person, in this case, a Google engineer in another part of the building.

As the video call began, I noticed the depth effect, and it was stunning. The engineer on the other side of the screen appeared in 3D and looked ultra-realistic, with the room he was in fading into the background. It was almost like looking right through a window. I did notice that the edges of the other person’s face had some imperfections due to the 3D, but they were minimal. The effect of the realism and immersion overrides any minor imperfections. It produces that “wow” effect you get when trying something unique for the first time that you’ve never experienced before. It's similar to as the ultra-realistic image you get with Apple Vision Pro but without the glasses.

Project Starline is based on Light-Field displays, which are capable of creating a 3D effect based on light reflections. However, the viewing angle is limited to just over 90 degrees. If I got up from the chair or moved to the side, the system detected my movement and cut off the image with a warning message.

According to Google, Starline makes video calls feel much more natural. One report suggests Starline helps users recall 30% more from these type of video calls. The report also pointed out that the experience was 15% more visually appealing and allowed users to detect up to 50% more nonverbal communication.

In my case, the Google engineer gestured to give me an apple, and my first obvious reaction was to grab it. The 3D effect is so evident that I reacted without even thinking. I also suddenly moved toward the screen to see how the person on the other side reacted, who inevitably blinked and tried to avoid my movement. Yes, this was a video call, but the facial expressions and movements were different from when using traditional webcams.

Google’s Project Starline

In the age of remote work, video calls have become a solution but also a setback. A face-to-face meeting isn’t the same as a video call. Google wants to change that with Starline, and the first step is to start marketing it. One challenge: It won’t be cheap.

The company announced an alliance with HP Poly to sell Starline to other companies. However, this is a complete system that includes the screen, the cameras, the sound devices, and the algorithm behind it, all in a relatively minimalist design. Google says it will release more details later this year.

Today, the system that most resembles Starline is Project Ghost by Logitech and Steelcase. It’s also a room with a camera and a display where the other person likes like they're in front of you. The system costs between $15,000 and $20,000. At Xataka On, after testing both, we can say Project Starline is better, has a more natural effect, and is more compact and minimalist.

As explained by Google, the product shown in this demonstration is only a prototype, and its size and the number of cameras it uses could change. (At the end of the year, the company will present the final version it will commercialize with HP). Google has been carrying out these private demonstrations since 2021, improving the imaging algorithm slightly every time. Those who have been able to test it several times pointed out that the experience is similar but that the “wow” effect remains even if you've tried it two or three times already.

Google’s Project Starline

One of Starline’s requirements is high-bandwidth memory. Video already demands a lot of memory, but with Starline, you also have to account for high resolution, 3D images, spatial audio, and live processing. However, Google states that its system is pretty efficient and works with traditional office wi-fi networks.

Initially, Google will aim yo sell this communication method to companies that want to have super-immersive video calls between managers. However, company engineers joked about possible Starline-related business models beyond remote work, such as celebrity meetings or remote speed dating. I have no doubt that we'll see some of these use cases eventually.

I’ve been working from home for over a decade, and it’s clear to me that I want to keep doing it. But let’s face it: Wideo calls and meetings aren’t the same as in-person reunions. I’ve tried Starline and would love to use it again in a few years, but this time with my workers. I’d love to have such an amazing connection in my daily life. There’s still a long way to go, but hopefully, these communication systems will become the norm.

Related | We Tested Project Astra: The Next Iteration of Google’s Assistant We All Asked for Is Finally Here

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