July 1, 2012

Seeing eye to eye for successful video conferencing

Up to now video conferencing systems have never been able to give people taking part in them that feeling of looking the person on the other side of the table straight in the eye. Yet eye contact is an essential part of non-verbal communication. A new technical component for video conferencing now makes it possible for people taking part in video conferences to establish direct eye contact with the person they are talking to.

People in video conferences could only look past one another

The Virtual Eye Contact Engine was presented at America's biggest trade show for information and communication technology, InfoComm 2012 in Las Vegas held in June this year. This technology solves the fundamental problem of eye contact in video conferences systems and was greeted with keen interest by visitors but especially by the leading vendors of video conferencing systems.

Vendors of video conferencing systems used to be faced with an insolvable problem: eye contact in video conferences can only be made when people look directly into the camera. Yet people in video conferences only look where they can see the person they are talking too – in other words they look directly at the middle of the display where obviously no camera can be mounted. Cameras are mounted on top of the display which means that people always used to look past one another.

Cameras compute 3D models of interlocutors

Developed by Fraunhofer HHI, the Virtual Eye Contact Engine now offers a component for video conferencing systems that enables conference participants to establish direct eye contact without looking into the camera. Three cameras mounted over the display record the person talking while software computes high resolution 3D models of him or her in real-time.

Direct eye contact in the highest technical quality

The system computes the 3D structure of the scene from the images captured by the cameras. In the first move the depth information of the scene is generated, then a 3D model of the person being filmed which the software uses to compute the view of a virtual camera. This virtual camera view is then positioned on the display in exactly the spot at which the other person is looking. This is how direct eye contact between two people can be established even though neither of them is looking directly into the real cameras. The virtual view generated by the software enables direct eye to eye contact in the highest technical quality.

HD quality in real-time

Data processing is in real-time with minimal latency while the film is rendered in HD quality. The software module is equally suitable for desktop and telepresence systems.