One of the more appealing characteristics of virtual reality (VR) is its ability to transport a user to a new environment. As such, there is a demand for technology that can increase this feeling of presence, and Google is experimenting with one of those possibilities – Light Field technology.
Light Fields are, essentially, a set of sophisticated algorithms that can capture, stitch and render 360-degree video or VR animations in a way that creates a sense of realism and ‘presence’ in the VR environment.
This involves creating a virtual world that reacts to the user. In the real world, if you move your head, the light and shadows will change as you move, with light bouncing of surfaces in different ways as the perspective changes. Light Field technology allows this to be replicated in virtual environment, allowing for a richer VR experience.
Google are demonstrating the potential of this technology with the release of a new application on Steam VR called Welcome to Light Fields. This app is available for free on Steam for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. This app will give users a guided tour of the Light Field technology and lets them explore some of the things that might be possible in future VR apps and videogames.
In order to capture the footage needed for Welcome to Light Fields, Google used a modified GoPro Odyssey Jump camera, bending it into a vertical arc of 16 cameras mounted on a rotating platform. This allows the camera to capture all the different rays of light entering the volume of space.
To demonstrate the technology, Google took its specialised camera rig to a range of remarkable places. Among them were the intricate ceramic tile patterns decorating the Mosaic Tile House in Venice, the stained glass windows of St. Stephen’s Church in Granada Hills and even a view of NASA’s retired Space Shuttle Discovery.
The Welcome to Light Fields app can be found on Steam for free, further information can be found on the Google blog and the Steam store page. VRFocus will continue to inform you of new and innovative VR apps and experiences.