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Skyping in 3-D? They're working on it

Skype video
Skype is on many platforms, but none offer 3-D video just yet.

A Skype executive says the company is working on a 3-D version of its popular video chatting app. Don't get excited just yet — it'll be some time before it's ready — but making teleconferencing more like real face-to-face communication could indeed be a task highly suited to 3-D tech.

Mark Gillett, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Skype, described the company's efforts towards 3-D in an interview with the BBC. (Microsoft purchased Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion)

"We've done work in the labs looking at the capability of 3-D screens and 3-D capture," he said. "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."

In other words, it's not quite ready for prime time. After all, how many Skype users or people in general have multiple high-resolution cameras precisely configured to create a stereoscopic 3-D image? And how many users have a 3-D capable screen and use it as such? Apparently not enough just yet.

That may be because of flagging interest in 3-D content. After being hyped up for years, 3-D TVs and cameras haven't seen the kind of interest companies like Sony and Samsung hoped for. Although technical issues and competitions between formats have been largely resolved, there is little 3-D content on TVs or in theaters, and the feature isn't a big selling point for home systems.

Minoru
The Minoru, a 3-D webcam introduced in 2009, never caught on.

Live 3-D video of a friend across the world, on the other hand, may be something people will enjoy — and pony up for. 3-D chat systems already exist, but the high cost and lack of easy connectivity with existing apps like Skype and FaceTime mean few ever took advantage of them.

Other than revealing it had prototypes in the labs, Skype was close-mouthed about its plans for 3-D, probably because it's not a sure thing by any means. Instead, they're focusing on getting Skype on as many platforms as possible — not just your PC, but your phone, your TV, even your gaming console. But don't worry — when they go 3-D, you'll be sure to hear about it.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.