Google tech captures and streams immersive 3D 6DoF video over the internet

[UploadVR reports on a new Google video technology that provides a more immersive and realistic presence experience than other systems and can be streamed using currently available internet connections. TechCrunch provides a description of its capabilities:

“Google is showing off one of the most impressive efforts yet turning traditional photography and video into something more immersive: 3D video that lets the viewer change their perspective and even look around objects in frame. […]

The effect of high-definition video and freedom of movement gives these light field videos a real sense of reality. Existing VR-enhanced video generally uses fairly ordinary stereoscopic 3D, which doesn’t really allow for a change in viewpoint. And while Facebook’s method of understanding depth in photos and adding perspective to them is clever, it’s far more limited, creating only a small shift in perspective.

In Google’s videos, you can move your head a foot to the side to peek around a corner or see the other side of a given object — the image is photorealistic and full motion but in fact rendered in 3D, so even slight changes to the viewpoint are accurately reflected.

And because the rig is so wide, parts of the scene that are hidden from one perspective are visible from others. When you swing from the far right side to the far left and zoom in, you may find entirely new features — eerily reminiscent of the infamous “enhance” scene from ‘Blade Runner.'”

For more information see a story in Photonics, a press release via EurekAlert!, and the Google project page (which features a SIGGRAPH 2020 paper, a 4:59 minute explanatory video and many samples). For a related development see CNET’s story about the newly available LucidPix app for creating 3D photos. –Matthew]

Google Figured Out How To Stream 6DoF Video Over The Internet

David Heaney
June 28, 2020

Researchers from Google developed the first end-to-end 6DoF video system which can even stream over (high bandwidth) internet connections.

Current 360 videos can take you to exotic places and events, and you can look around, but you can’t actually move your head forward or backward positionally. This makes the entire world feel locked to your head, which really isn’t the same as being somewhere at all.

Google’s new system encapsulates the entire video stack; capture, reconstruction compression, and rendering- delivering a milestone result.

The camera rig features 46 synchronized 4K cameras running at 30 frames per second. Each camera is attached to a “low cost” acrylic dome. Since the acrylic is semi-transparent, it can even be used as a viewfinder.

Each camera used has a retail price of $160, which would total to just north of $7,000 for the rig. That may sound high, but it’s actually considerably lower cost than bespoke alternatives. 6DoF video is a new technology just starting to become viable.

The result is a 220 degree “lightfield” with a width of 70cm- that’s how much you can move your head. The resulting resolution is 10 pixels per degree, meaning it will probably look somewhat blurry on any modern headset with the exception of the original HTC Vive. As with all technology, that will improve over time.

But what’s really impressive is the compression and rendering. A light field video can be streamed over a reliable 300 Mbit/sec internet connection. That’s still well beyond average internet speeds, but most major cities now offer this kind of bandwidth.

How Does It Work?

In 2019 Google’s AI researchers developed a machine learning algorithm called DeepView. With an input of 4 images of the same scene, from slightly different perspectives, DeepView can generate a depth map and even generate new images from arbitrary perspectives.

This new 6DoF video system uses a modified version of DeepView. Instead of representing the scene through 2D planes, the algorithm instead uses a collection of spherical shells. A new algorithm reprocesses this output down to a much smaller number of shells.

Finally, these spherical layers are transformed into a much lighter “layered mesh”, which sample from a texture atlas to further save on resources (this is a technique used in game engines, where textures for different models are stored in the same file, tightly packed together.)

You can read the research paper and try out some samples in your browser on Google’s public page for the project.

Light field video is still an emerging technology in the early stages, so don’t expect YouTube to start supporting light field videos in the near future. But it does looks clear that one of the holy grails of VR content, streamable 6DoF video, is now a solvable problem.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this technology as it starts to transition from research to real world products.

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