Star Wars fans may be one step closer to walking the scenic beaches of Tatooine via virtual reality; the Walt Disney Corporation just took a major step in creating fully immersive images. Currently, the interactive technology is limited to 360° videos (monoscopic or stereoscopic) that are captured assuming a fixed location, which can break the immersion and cause discomfort to viewers’ eyes. But by compressing colors and depths separately and using a dispersed set of cameras placed where viewers could potentially be located, Disney’s engineers have created a real-time rendering algorithm suited for realistic VR applications.
The test case utilizes multi-view ray casting and view dependent decompression, with a compression rate of 150:1 and greater, confirmed by quantitative analysis of image reconstruction quality and overall performance. In layman’s terms, they sped up the conversion of cinematic imagery into immersive imagery. However, there is a caveat: The example scenes were purposely selected images with a single depth value per pixel, to help with direct mapping of depth and color pixels. That means the algorithm doesn’t currently work on other images that use common camera effects like depth of field and motion blur. The new rendering method does not solve for VR in cinema, but it could be the jumping off point.
This is good news for movie-goers but may be better news for fans of Disney’s intellectual property, whether that’s Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, or Aladdin. The company’s massive investment in VR is starting to pay off and there’s reason to believe that the public is going to enjoy the progress very soon. Not only is Disney a lead investor in the virtual-reality company Jaunt, which is targeted at an entertainment audience, they have very public plans to create fully immersive theme parks, including the highly anticipated Star Wars Land. This new algorithm may not be the finished product, but it could be the foundation for future virtual entertainment.
This is the droid they’ve been looking for–or part of it anyway.