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Summary form only given. A new approach to the problem of the quantum interface between light and atoms has been recently developed. The method utilizes free space dispersive interaction between pulses of light and spin polarized atomic ensembles. Entanglement between the polarization state of light and the collective spin state of atoms is established by measurement, more precisely by detection of light in a certain polarization basis. In the first demonstration of this approach we have generated a long-lived entangled state of two separate macroscopic atomic samples by a polarization measurement on light transmitted through the samples. We then have shown that this approach also works for mapping of a quantum state of light onto long-lived atomic spin state paving the road towards realization of the quantum memory for light. Recently we have also extended the free space light-atoms interface beyond the continuous variables in the proposal, where a coherent superposition "cat" state of an atomic ensemble is generated by a measurement sequence. Progress with other communication protocols such as atomic state teleportation and multiparty networks will be presented.