Are interpreters ready for their 3D close-up?

04/09/2013 | Hayley

Skype has revealed its intentions to focus on 3D video conferencing. A senior executive at the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider confirmed the decision in comments made to the BBC.

Mark Gillett spoke with the news corporation to mark Skype’s 10th anniversary, and said 3D video conferencing was something the company was developing. However, he revealed that although technicians knew how to make 3D images work while talking on Skype; it may be a while before the system is commonplace.

This is for a variety of reasons, the first being the capabilities of the 3D capture devices. While 3D screens are now available, it is more difficult to get hold of cameras able to record scenes in 3D. At the moment, numerous cameras are required, which all have to be precisely angled and pointed in a specific direction to capture an image in a way that can then be displayed in 3D.

The second problem is the public’s waning interest in 3D technology. The third dimension enjoyed a surge of popularity following the release of James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009, which was agreed by many to be a 3D game-changer. Then the arrival of 3D television sets saw more people investing in the technology to use in their own homes, and TV networks like the BBC got involved by broadcasting special 3D versions of certain shows.

However, this popularity seems to be slipping again, with John Lewis being among the retailers to report that fewer customers are showing an interest in the technology. If fewer people are investing in the devices necessary to display 3D, it stands to reason they will also be slow to purchase 3D capture technology.

Yet Skype, which was acquired by Microsoft Corporation in 2011, is still keen to focus on 3D. Indeed, Microsoft recently posted a job advertisement for a software development engineer interested in joining a team working on realistic 3D video conferencing. “We are developing the hardware and software necessary to have a realistic physical ‘body-double’ or proxy in a remote meeting,” the advert read. It added that the display would be so realistic it would allow the double to take up a physical seat at the conference table that could even turn and have a conversation with the person sat next to them.

In terms of the future of 3D, the corporate world might be a more realistic market than consumers. Remote conferencing is fast becoming a vital tool for businesses as more and more workplaces adopt remote working practices for employees. Not only does this mean firms can employ people no matter where they are based, but it also allows them to do business with people based all over the world.

No longer do managers have to spend hours or even days flying to another city to meet with a potential investor or partner. Instead, they can contact them and have a face-to-face conversation using VoIP technology like Skype. As a result, there are no geographical barriers to doing business wherever a company wants.

However, there remain language barriers. It is not much use being able to converse with a 3D double of someone if you cannot understand what they are saying. This is where interpreter services come in. Thanks to VoIP technology, a business does not have to pay for an interpreter to physically join them at a conference, but can instead have them contribute remotely. The interpreter can work from home and dial into a phone conversation or join a VoIP one from the comfort of their own living room. This provides employers with the benefit of the interpreter’s much needed language skills to bridge the gap between those at the conference.

The combination of VoIP and video conference interpreting is already helping to remove barriers in the business world. 3D conferencing may just be the final flourish.

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