Google just boasted about a new tool called Seurat which is named after the great French painter and designed to make high-end film-quality 3D scenes playable on mobile devices.
To show off the technology, Google collaborated with Lucasfilm's ILMxLAB. They took a high-fidelity digital set from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, compressed the polygons — from over 50 million down to 72,000 — and textures then ran it through a prototype WorldSense headset in real time. By contrast, the scene takes hours per frame for the computer to render. Seurat just takes 13 milliseconds.
The scene, which featured a dark Imperial Hangar, incorporated real-time reflections and sophisticated lighting effects, in addition to an animated K-2SO included in the demo. Reports say it wasn't as visually compelling as watching it inside the cinema, but it's heaps better than what you'd typically see on mobile hardware.
What's more, it's quite impressive that the entire rendering process is being handled by specs with less power than a dedicated computer for rendering, especially if you take into account that these 3D scenes typically can't be accessible, or better yet — "consumable" — in real-time. What takes hours and hours for computers to create, you can jump into and explore as if you're there.
How Seurat Works
3D rendering is a complex art and science, which means attempts to simplify it comes with compromises, as the Seurat sure does. The tool works by taking renders of a scene from various angles and positions, which are then used in mapping a low-polygon VR environment one can navigate around in.
Seurat isn't as sophisticated as dedicated software for 3D and virtual reality rendering, so the tool likely won't be useful in creating high-profile VR games, especially those which focus on interactivity. Yet Seurat is a promising new venture to create more immersive experiences using only mobile hardware.
When Will Seurat Be Available?
Ultimately, as ILMxLAB executive in charge Vicki Dobbs Beck makes clear in Google's video, the goal is to make "immersive, premium, story-based entertainment experiences." ILMxLAB wants people to fully step inside their stories, specifically into the world of Star Wars, which no doubt several millions of people would probably want to step into at a moment's notice.
Google didn't say when it plans to launch the tool to content creators — or if it'll ever release it at all, at that. It makes sense, however, for Google to start experimenting with new tools that can enable graphics-intensive software to run on mobile-level specs, seeing as how this technology could complement the standalone VR headset Google is planning to launch in the future.
But Seurat and its focus on bringing high-end graphical quality on mobile phones is a staggering innovation, one that's poised to help Google's Daydream VR platform find the foothold it needs as it hopes to become the standard for mobile VR experiences. Time, however, will tell.
Thoughts about Seurat? Do you think Google can use this tool to get ahead in the VR race? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!