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 (Fortune 500) 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 (Fortune 500) Kinect sensors, a 3-D projector, and cylindrical displays. RGBD Toolkit, which is backed by Carnegie Mellon, works with Kinect-DSLR camera combinations. ,
Consumer technology has lacked a wow moment recently. But flexible screens and four other promising advances could eventually lead to cool new devices.