Logitech built Google’s Project Starline video conferencing booth – without the holograms

For better or for worse, video calls have become an integral part of our lives. Whether you’re chatting with a loved one on the oceans, or collaborating with teammates across time zones, sitting in front of a webcam or holding up your phone is an unavoidable reality. That’s why many companies have developed products aimed at making video calls feel more natural – like NVIDIA’s Broadcast tool to make it look like you’re maintaining eye contact even if you’re not and Google’s 3D Presence demo or 3D kiosks. But Logitech offers something that uses dead simple technology to make video chats more like a real-world experience. The company announced Project Ghost in January, and recently invited us to check out a working version in New York.

The premise is pretty straightforward. Instead of playing around with holograms or algorithms that make your pupils look like you’re staring into a camera, Logitech simply embedded its existing Rally Plus video conferencing system in a booth that collaborated with furniture maker Steelcase to create it. The result is a booth that looks like a larger seat in business class (but not quite first class), with walls about 5 feet 10 inches tall. Light brown wood slats line the exterior, matching the interior panels. On one side is a recessed wall about two feet thick, with a screen in it and a mirror below, set at a perpendicular angle. Facing the TV is a light pink sofa and a side table with a touch control panel and some green plants behind it.

With its warm colors, soft curves, pink couch and greenery, the cabin felt very inviting. I quickly collapsed onto the couch and was a little surprised to see a woman staring at me. She looked life-size and felt as if our eyes met, even though she was sitting in a similar booth all the way back in Boston. Since the camera is built right behind the screen, it was easy for me to look at her face and at the other end of the call it seemed like I was staring directly at her.

Even though Logitech executives at the demo told me the video quality was capped at 1080p and streams were more likely to be done at 720p or lower, I initially thought the woman I was calling was rendering in 4K. But the clarity and realism that I assumed would result from the higher resolution was more likely because I wasn’t used to talking to someone on such a big screen. Normally, I take my calls on a 13-inch laptop, and even when I’m in a conference room with my colleagues’ faces taped to the 40-inch TV, it doesn’t feel like they’re in front of me.

The only time I felt some distortion was when I heard feedback from my voice during parts of the demo. I couldn’t locate the speakers and microphones in space, so I couldn’t adjust or learn how to move to avoid echo. But for the most part, the meeting went smoothly, and when company executives finally left the space for me to be alone with the caller, I was able to relax. Even though I was only looking at the person’s upper body, I could notice small changes in body language such as posture. It’s not an ideal replacement for a real-world conversation, but perhaps because I wasn’t on my laptop, I was more focused than I usually would be on calls.

Much of this sense of realism and privacy may relate to the booth setup. Behind the sofa is a black wall, while above the TV box is a horizontal light with a filtered effect, and together they make the communicator look well-lit and in focus. The fact that both me and the person I’m talking to are staring at our bodies and heads overhead with nothing else in the background eliminates any distraction.


Of course, you can achieve something similar by investing in a dedicated tripod, backdrop, and camera and spending a lot less money, but this product isn’t meant for the average consumer. Logitech said it has received a lot of interest from companies wanting to order kiosks for their office space, and that it has been looking into iterating the design to make it more suitable for different scenarios.

In addition to larger settings for multiple people (the current sofa is designed for one person), Logitech said it could also come up with something people could buy for home use. I could see Ghost being incredibly useful for calls to my therapist, telehealth appointments or even as a dedicated live streaming station. But considering Logitech estimates each unit sells for around $15,000 to $20,000 depending on size or style, that’s probably something I can only look at with envy. If you have that kind of money to spare, the company said it will be ready to sell it in the fall.

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