Videoconferencing multiple parties

Apple’s iChat will, in the Tiger release, do this flash thing where, in a multi-party video conference, it tilts the pictures of the other attendees so that it looks like a conference room. Pretty cool. However, I reckon you could go one step better than that. After all, you’re not interested in the background. Moreover, the background doesn’t change, so it should be possible to strip it out on the fly and just show the heads. Excuse the quick mockup below: the people are just those I found in a quick Google Image search for “head shot“.

Is this possible? FaceTop seems to strip out backgrounds so I assume that it’s doable, although it’s possible that the FaceTop people are all sitting in front of black walls. I think it’s a pretty cool idea; all you need to do to each image is strip the background—grab the first few frames and see what doesn’t change, although you might end up stripping the person or their hair or something then as well—and then do a perspective transform on the image to tilt it (as iChat does). The Gimp does perspective transforms, so it’s doable (the Python Imaging Library doesn’t, but there is a patch to apply it to 1.1.4 available). I’d have a crack at it myself if PIL did it and if you could alter how GnomeMeeting works using Python, neither of which are true…

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