Google began experimenting with the use of clear field photography to capture more realistic virtual reality scenes, the company announced today in a blog post. A new demonstration application was also launched that will be available on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality headphones to show what the company's virtual reality team has captured.
The light field photography was made popular by the futuristic camera company Lytro. Instead of just capturing the light that enters directly through the lens of a camera, clear field photography captures the light rays of a scene and information about its origin. With the right hardware and software, the result is that you can reassemble those rays of light to create an interactive image, one that could refocus endlessly, as with photos from Lytro's consumer cameras. Or you can put the images in VR so that, when you move your head, you can see around the corners of nearby objects, an effect that adds to the realism of virtual reality.
One of the big obstacles with clear field photography is how to capture all that information. Compared to the $ 125,000 light-weight film camera that Lytro produces and rents, the solution that Google showed today has a much more intelligent, pirate and low-budget vibe. The VR team of the company essentially reused one of the circular platforms of 16 "Jump" cameras that Google developed a few years ago with GoPro. They removed the cameras from the ring configuration and placed them in a vertical arc, and then placed that on a platform that rotated completely around 360 degrees.
Google captured light-field VR images from a handful of locations, including the space shuttle Discovery's flight platform, and all those scenes are available as of today in the "Welcome to Light Fields" app that will launch today.
It is not entirely clear what Google will do next with this technology. The VR wing of the company could launch a series of plans for the platform, as it did with Jump, although the combination of hardware and software required to make everything work is much more complicated than spherical image sewing. This could also be a precursor to a more user-friendly solution, which is what happened with the Jump and VR180 programs.