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Spatial Debuts ‘Minority Report’-Inspired Augmented Reality Collaboration Tool

Hollywood gave them the idea for their product. Now, their product could help Hollywood come up with new ideas: New York-based augmented reality (AR) startup Spatial came out of stealth Wednesday with a new collaboration tool that seems like taken straight out of “Minority Report.”

Spatial’s 3D workspaces allow users to hold distributed meetings with the help of AR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens. Part video conference, part futuristic 3D white board, Spatial allows collaborators to exchange pictures, notes and ideas in a 3D space, complete with avatars to represent remote collaborators.

“We like movie UIs,” said Spatial co-founder and CEO Anand Agarawala during a recent interview with Variety. “Minority Report” and other movies with futuristic interfaces captured his and his co-founder’s imagination, he recalled. “We wondered: How can we bring this to normal people?”

The result is a collaboration service that lets users import photos and documents from their smartphones, web search results and more. Users can even integrate virtual 3D objects into their meetings. It also allows users without AR headsets to participate from their laptops, and is set up to incorporate VR headsets as well.

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The result is a better meeting experience that’s more like being in the same room, said Agarawala, whose team has been internally beta-testing its own service for some time. “We’ve been having meetings in Spatial for 8 months.”

To be fair, Spatial isn’t quite as advanced as the technology in “Minority Report.” The collaboration service still suffers from the narrow field of view of current-generation AR headsets, making it hard to look at just a few documents at a time.

Plus, using AR headsets isn’t exactly comfortable over extended periods of time. But Agarawala expressed optimism that these problem would get solved with future device versions: “That’s gonna get better over time.”

At that point, Spatial could also become a viable solution for movie studios looking for more secure solutions for their storyboarding — something that’s of particular concern for unannounced projects that could get leaked by rogue cleaning staff, or anyone else equipped with a cell phone camera.

Those problems don’t exist anymore if any of the notes and sketches pinned to the walls of a conference room only exist in augmented reality. Said Agarawala: “Anyone walking by doesn’t see anything.”

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