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Google Experiments With Light Fields For A More Realistic Virtual Reality Experience

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The virtual reality experience continues to improve as the technology innovates. Google chooses to work with light fields, which apparently adds more realism to entertainment.

A new demo app was likewise released by the search firm that is compatible with the Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and HTC Vive. Users can take it for a spin to determine if the company's bold new approach really makes a difference from what is currently available.

Lighting Makes A Difference

Industry experts agree that although the current virtual reality technology is already immersive enough, how objects appear in the 3D space lack more realism. Others postulate that with the right amount of computing power available, developers can take advantage of the resources to add more reflections to the environment.

Nevertheless, scenes captured by cameras that intended to recreate the surroundings in the VR space often come out flat. Google's approach uses an array of 16 GoPro cameras mounted in a vertical arc to capture how light hits and reflects off objects from multiple angles all at once.

Advanced Algorithm For VR

According to Google's research, the current technology used for virtual reality cannot replicate how the light works on surfaces from various perspectives. However, it claims that light fields can reproduce a realistic effect courtesy of its advanced algorithm that captures, stitches, and renders the objects and environment.

"With light fields, nearby objects seem near to you — as you move your head, they appear to shift a lot. Far-away objects shift less and light reflects off objects differently, so you get a strong cue that you're in a 3D space," wrote Google on their blog.

Its "Welcome to Light Fields" app features several locations and the objects within them, such as the Space Shuttle Discovery, St. Stephen's Church in Granada Hills, the Gamble House in Pasadena, and the Mosaic Tile House in Venice. All these are currently viewable via the supported VR headsets detailed above. Users can move around and find out if it lives up to its claim of a better object representation within a VR environment.

Application And Limitations

Reports seem to suggest that its biggest challenge right now is the bandwidth required to send or process the data captured by their light fields equipment. Sources speculate that the video and image files generated by the system are possibly terabytes in size.

Yet the data from Google's experiment can potentially improve the overall quality of virtual reality applications in the future.

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