Chris Harrison and Scott Hudson of Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute have developed a method for 3D video conferencing using a single webcam.
Figure 1. The video conference window acts like a virtual portal into the remote participant's space. As the viewer moves their head, the perspective of the remote environment changes. Motion parallax provides a 3D illusion. Note how objects in the background, like the decorative vase, screen and table move relative to the remote video conference participant.
When conversing with someone via video conference, you are provided with a virtual window into their space. However, this currently remains both flat and fixed, limiting its immersiveness. Previous research efforts have explored the use of 3D in telecommunication, and show that the additional realism can enrich the video conference experience. However, existing systems require complex sensor and cameras setups that make them infeasible for widespread adoption. We present a method for producing a pseudo-3D experience using only a single generic webcam at each end. This means nearly any computer currently able to video conference can use our technique, making it readily adoptable. Although using comparatively simple techniques, the 3D result is convincing.
To see a video of this technique and download a PDF of their paper, go here.