The Future of Video: Enabling Immersion
Today, televisions are widely available that offer 4K resolution along with expanded color depth and dynamic range that more accurately reproduce the color, brightness, and darkness we see in the real world. Our smartphones are capable of shooting and editing video, making content creation more accessible than ever. High-end professional cameras can capture scenes at resolutions as high as 8K, providing new creative possibilities for filmmakers.
Alongside these advances in video technology, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) is emerging as a new medium. To empower content creators to produce VR/AR experiences, new immersive video formats and camera systems will be necessary. Currently, 360-degree and volumetric video are two developing areas which point to how video will evolve as VR/AR technology becomes mainstream.
360-Degree Video Making Strides
When watching 360-degree video, a person can view a scene as though they were actually at the shooting location. Viewers can experience standing on stage at a concert, sitting courtside at a basketball game, or watching a boxing match from a ringside seat.
Multi-camera systems or a single camera with a specialized lens or mirror can capture 360-degree video. When played back in a VR headset, the viewing perspective changes with head movement; 360-degree video can also be experienced without a headset. In this non-VR viewing mode, touch swiping, mouse movement, or a mobile device’s sensors can change the viewpoint.
The 360-degree video content, technology, and distribution ecosystem is advancing rapidly. Both YouTube and Facebook now support 360-degree video playback, making the format increasingly available. On these platforms, 360-degree videos have received millions of views. In the next year, new 360–degree camera systems will be released bringing improvements in image quality and production workflow.
Volumetric Video Benefits
Though 360–degree video content can be very immersive and invoke a strong sense of presence, it restricts the viewer from moving in the scene. Viewers can look around in all directions, but they cannot move from the physical camera’s position.
Computer vision-based image processing and depth-sensing techniques can be used to capture scenes that a person can freely move within, overcoming the movement restrictions of current 360–degree video. Content produced using these techniques is often referred to as volumetric or free-viewpoint video.
In volumetric video, the distance to every point in the scene is captured in addition to image data. Using this information, the 3D geometry of the scene can be reconstructed into a navigable space. If a boxing match were captured with a volumetric video system, a viewer could choose to enter the ring and view the fight as though they were the referee or one of the fighters.
In addition to sports and entertainment applications, volumetric video has the potential to enable new forms of telepresence that move beyond today’s 2D screen-based video conferencing systems. By live streaming data from a volumetric video capture system and viewing it with a virtual or augmented reality display a person in Tokyo could appear to be in a meeting room in Los Angeles. In a sense, live volumetric video streaming can visually teleport a person from one location to another.
Though volumetric video is relatively early in its commercial development, developers can begin to experiment with this type of content today by capturing scene data using widely available commodity depth cameras.
Opportunities for Developers and Content Creators
The visual, aural, and interactive languages of 360-degree video, volumetric video, and other types of immersive media are in its infancy. Further defining it presents an exciting challenge. As the visual fidelity of these content formats advance, network bandwidth and data processing requirements will significantly increase. Innovation across network systems, cloud computing, client devices, user interfaces (UX/UI), and other areas will be necessary. Whether you are a content creator, technology developer, or both, your contributions will be key to video’s future as it evolves to drive the creation and delivery of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
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