This is a big day for Virtual Reality. Today, Lytro is proud to announce “Moon,” the first ever live action 6DoF VR experience in history.
To understand why this is a historic day for VR, let’s take a step back and look at the current landscape. Today, there are two kinds of experiences available in VR.
High Immersion (6DoF), Low Realism. The first type of experience is produced using real-time game engines. These experiences are highly immersive – they allow the viewer to move around a virtual space in six degrees of freedom – 6DoF (3 to rotate your head, and 3 to move around in the space). But, the imagery these experiences can show is limited to computer-generated content that renders in just a few milliseconds. Despite advances in real-time game-engine technology, these experiences cannot yet be photorealistic. And of course, they cannot capture the real world.
Low Immersion (3DoF), High Realism. The second type of VR experience available today is 360 video. These experiences are “high realism” – they can show imagery created by filming the real world or by spending tens or hundreds of hours rendering a single computer-generated frame. But, these experiences aren’t “high immersion” because the viewer is stuck to a single point in space – in fact, the viewer is really just watching video projected on a sphere around her head. We call this 3DoF – the viewer has only the 3 degrees of freedom to rotate her head.
Neither of these brings us the “jet-packs and flying cars” future VR has promised. The true promise of VR is to transport us to real and fictional places with full fidelity – to feel like we’re there with all our senses, and to believe that we’re there because of the realism of our new surroundings. This promised future requires BOTH “high realism” AND “high immersion” (6DoF) – a combination that no technology has been capable of. Until now.
“Moon” is the first VR experience of its kind – combining live action and film-quality graphics with true 6DoF movement in a seated experience. This is the first taste of the true promise of VR.
We created “Moon” using our Lytro Immerge Light Field camera, processing pipeline, and playback technology. The piece demonstrates several key benefits of Light Field tech for VR:
Parallax or the ability to look around objects. This is a key ingredient for an immersive experience where you feel like you’re “there.”
Truly correct stereo. No matter what part of the scene you’re looking at or how you’ve tilted your head, “Moon” displays correct stereoscopic images. This is in sharp contrast to stereoscopic 360 video, which only really works if your head is level, and if you’re looking at the horizon.
Seamlessly integrated live action and film-quality computer graphics. The CG in “Moon” is not bound by the constraints of real-time rendering so it can seamlessly integrate with the live action elements.
View-dependent lighting effects like reflections. Only Light Field technology can accurately reproduce shiny or mirror-like real-world objects like the astronaut’s helmet in “Moon.”
No stitching artifacts. Because capturing the Light Field gives us an accurate reconstruction of the scene, “Moon” exhibits none of the stitching artifacts common to 360 video.
Of course, these are early days for Light Field technology in VR and for VR as a whole. “Moon” is the first experience produced with Lytro Immerge – since we filmed it, the engineering team at Lytro has improved the system by leaps and bounds. Future experiences will be easier to film, faster to process, lighter-weight to download and play, and – above all – will look even better. At Lytro, we’re unapologetic about building for the long game, and we can’t wait to continue working with content producers to make the true promise of VR a reality.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be writing much more about the production of “Moon” and the Light Field technology that powers it. Watch this space for more. Onward!