The hope: Soon we'll be chatting with our friends in life-size, 3-D, holographic form -- beamed right into our living rooms! Even cell phones will pop out little avatar versions of the person at the other end of the line.
The reality: Video chat services like Skype and Apple's(AAPL) FaceTime are something of a replacement for, er, face time. But hologram calls remain relegated to sci-fi movies and experimental labs.
What's the deal? Until very recently, the technology required to create hologram calls was overly complicated and expensive. 3-D was still a pipe dream. Videos were too large to transmit quickly.
Now, all of those technologies exist in our living rooms -- and researchers are harnessing those advances in order to develop hologram technology. It's still experimental and expensive, and most consumer Internet speeds are still too slow to make 3-D videos stream reliably. But the tech is getting close.
The Human Media Lab at Canada's Queen's University is working on holographic chat called "TeleHuman," which uses Microsoft(MSFT) Kinect sensors, a 3-D projector, and cylindrical displays. RGBD Toolkit, which is backed by Carnegie Mellon, works with Kinect-DSLR camera combinations.