Skype sees 3D video calling in its future

"We know how to make it work," Microsoft exec says. In the lab, that is. Now if only the technology could be harnessed for consumer devices.

Microsoft

Skype is working on three-dimensional video calling, but release is hampered until camera and video capture technology catches up.

In an interview with the BBC, Microsoft's Skype vice president Mark Gillett said that the popular video chat and instant-messaging app has the potential to support 3D conversations in the future, but it may be "many years" before the technology can be launched.

"We've done work in the labs looking at the capability of 3D-screens and 3D-capture," the senior executive commented. "We've seen a lot of progress in screens and a lot of people now buy TVs and computer monitors that are capable of delivering a 3D image. But the capture devices are not yet there."

Gillet explained that in order for 3D video calling to take place, multiple cameras have to be added to a computer system where they are precisely calibrated and pointed at the right angles to take suitable images. The executive told the BBC that Skype's research and development teams have been working on this system "in the lab" and "we know how to make it work," but the current ecosystem of devices such can support 3D technology is limited.

The three-dimensional viewing format has taken a beating recently, having failed to live up to the initial excitement surrounding its arrival. The BBC has ditched its 3D channels because of poor user demand, describing the technology as "hassly." Disney's ESPN has also announced the closure of 3D cable in the US, saying that the service may be resumed in the future "if or when 3D does take off."

While Skype's adoption of 3D technology could shore up flagging consumer interest, Gillet believes that video calling is likely to be low on the list of applications used by the technology in the future.

"You'll see much more penetration of 3D on TVs, on computers and ultimately in smartphones, probably, ahead of seeing it for sending a video call," Gillet admitted.

In the meantime, the senior executive said that Skype -- purchased by Microsoft in 2011 -- is exploring how to offer 1080p resolution video calls on devices other than the upcoming Xbox One.

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About the author

    Charlie Osborne writes for ZDNet, SmartPlanet, and CNET. She is based in London and is a freelance journalist, designer, and photographer.

     

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