The future of VR

April 8, 2015
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Let’s rewind back to Siggraph 2013, where if you were lucky you were invited to a secret white tent with some ‘new tech’ itching to be shown off. That new tech? Oculus rift. A year later bought for $2 billion (£1.2 billion) by Facebook, this ambitious start-up can easily be recognized as the first real promising step (possibly, leap) into the fascinating world of virtual reality. 

Fast-forward to now and buzzwords like VR and AR are now hot on everyone’s lips and something we’re asked about on a daily basis. As our chief scientist, Simon Robinson says "perhaps the most exciting thing about virtual and augmented reality is that no knows what the ultimate outcome will be." So, where do we think this technology is heading and what can you feasibly expect in the next three, five or ten years? Let’s indulge those questions.

The current consumer world in which we all participate demands high quality. So much so, that products once considered mind-blowing are now simply adequate, ticked off as "meeting expectations". Throw virtual and augmented reality into the mix and we've got a challenge. The problem? It must be perfect. The tech is awesome, but that first prototype from Oculus rift made us want to throw up. We don’t play video games anymore unless they immerse us into a real world with a story and graphics that actually look realistic, so we sure as hell aren’t going to be impressed if we’re given juddery scenes and motion sickness.

Getting the tech up to speed to help create the content that meets this level of perfection is top of mind here at The Foundry. If you missed our chief techology officer, Jon Wadelton’s Tech Preview at NAB 2015, you’ll want to catch up with that here. "You can use NUKE now to create live action VR like Mirada are doing at the moment, but we’re working on tools to make that process a lot quicker and easier."

Currently, we need to overcome various issues to reach that level of perfection needed for a flawless experience. Jon outlines these in his presentation, from camera alignment and stitching to compositing and rendering the shots. “We’ve had a rectilinear format for so long, there isn’t a large body of alternatives. We’re trying to understand whether we need to invent some new kind of spherical image format.”

Brad Peebler also caught up with Jon over on a MODCAST to discuss the work further and some of the challenges VR is presenting “How do you tell a story in this kind of world anyway?" said Wadelton. "People are still trying to work out how to make this an immersive experience that still tells a story.” You can listen to the full interview here.

Another area we’re working on is Augmented Reality (AR), the combination of CG elements in the real world environment. We're currently part of Dreamspace, a 36 month European FP7 funded project. The project uses tech that we have already worked on for NUKE, OCULA, MARI and KATANA. Dreamspace researches and develops tools that enable creative professionals to work collaboratively and combine live performances, video and computer-generated imagery in real-time. According to Dreamspace, “The goal is to create an environment and tools that make it possible to work with and combine all the elements in real time, at a high level of quality.” 

Our head of Research, Jon Starck has travelled the globe exploring the realms of reality and alongside Wadelton and the team at The Foundry is and has been at the forefront of this technology. Starck will talk about the Dreamspace project, including key innovations for Virtual Production at this year’s FMX show, which has a focus on "The Future of Content Viewing & Producing." 

If you'd like to catch up with all of our presentations from NAB 2015, head over here.


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Emma Handley

Worked in the software and CG industry for 3+ years. BA hons in Events Management with a digital marketing background. Usually found tweeting and eating.

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