Is 3D Video Calling the Future?

As you may have heard, Skype just confirmed it’s in the process of developing the technology that will make 3D video calling possible. Don’t get too excited, though: according to Mark Gillett, Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Skype, your dream of video chatting with a 3D virtual version of your girlfriend is still at least a decade off.

“We have it in the lab, we know how to make it work and we’re looking at the ecosystem of devices and their capability to support it in order to make a decision when we might think about bringing something like that to market,” Gillett told the BBC.

But the question isn’t whether 3D video calling is possible – it’s whether it’s necessary. If Skype (or someone else) can build the technology, will 3D video calling be the way of the future? Or will it, as Darrell Etherington at Techcrunch suggests, be a fad that fizzles out as quickly as it hits the market?

If we look to 3D TVs, 3D gaming devices and even 3D movies to predict the success of such a feature, things don’t look too good. While each initially had some traction, 3D as entertainment seems to be on its way out. The difficulty in use (especially for those of us who wear glasses), the often poor execution resulting in a mostly-flat landscape with the occasional object that pops out, and the higher price makes 3D more trouble than it’s worth for a lot of people.

But what if Skype can sidestep those issues and offer 3D video calling that feels natural, and is affordable and easy on the eyes? What if we can have Star Wars-style holograms? That would be awesome. And even if Skype can’t manage something quite that cool (hey, we can dream), if it can make the 3D a natural feeling enhancement to regular 2D video calling, people will use it.

Personally, I think we’re not dreaming big enough here. Bring back Smell-O-Vision! (Actually, considering some of the people I know, Smell-O-Vision video calling would probably be a nightmare.)