Google's I/O developer conference kicked off today, and among all the exciting announcements about fixing Wear OS and UI tweaks, the search giant unveiled a wild new video chat project it's working on. Called Starline, it uses machine learning and special displays to render video calls in convincing 3D. The result looks like something straight out of science fiction.

Project Starline is like "looking through a sort of magic window," Google says, "and through that window, you see another person, life-size and in three dimensions." As you move around the display, your view of the other participant shifts realistically, like they were sitting right in front of you. Or at least that's how it works in the video demo Google shared.

If this seems too good to be true, well, it sort of is. This is an ongoing project at Google, and it requires specialized (and presumably very expensive) hardware to work. So far, Google says, Starline is "available in just a few of our offices," but the company aims to get costs down and expand availability "in time." Google also says it's working not only to make the rendered image believable, but also to lower the amount of bandwidth the process chews through.

Starline may turn out to be one of those far-out efforts Google abandons partway through, but if it sees it through, it could be a meaningful step forward in telecommunications, more closely mimicking the experience of talking to someone in person.

For more on Google I/O 2021, check out our continuously updated announcements post.