While common sense would suggest that the visual presentation of lower-powered mobile VR headsets will always lag behind that of powerful PC-based VR, Google has a new tool that it says can deliver desktop-level graphics – and beyond – on mobile VR headsets.
Google calls the tool Seurat, named after French post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat. Google didn't delve too deeply into specifics about how it works, but Andrey Doronichev, Director of Product Management at Daydream, gave a brief rundown about how Seurat can "take a high fidelity PC game and run it in mobile VR in real time."
Speaking to Daydream developers at Google I/O, Doronichev explained, "You define a volume in which you want the user to move around and view your scene. You also define target parameters, like number of polygons and overdraw. Then you let the tool do its magic. It takes dozens of images from different parts of this defined volume, and automatically generates an entirely new 3D scene that looks identical to the original, but is dramatically simplified."
Doronichev added that "you can still have dynamic interactive elements in it."
What's the catch? Based on that brief description, it sounds like the key is that there's merely a confined area that the user can interact with (the cube you see on the left, in the image above).
So if you're in a virtual hangar from Star Wars: Rogue One – as Google demonstrated with LucasFilm – it sounds like you wouldn't be able to walk through much of the rendered environment. Instead, the description suggests one small area where the user can move around, with the rest serving merely as a backdrop. Looking at it from this perspective, the tool is a bit easier to digest: It's less magic and more shortcut.
Could developers still use the tool to combine multiple confined areas, to allow the user to teleport to different spots in the environment? Thus creating the illusion of complete mobility and interaction with this high-fidelity virtual world? We don't yet know.
Even if the answer is no, Seurat sounds like a developer shortcut that's brimming with potential – at least for some experiences. For example, PC VR title The Blu is an underwater eye candy experience where you can walk around a confined area, while watching various sea creatures float by all around you. That sounds like a prime type of experience that Seurat could potentially bring to mobile VR.
Even if it doesn't end up being appropriate for highly mobile and interactive games, that sounds like an exciting innovation in the somewhat stagnant world of mobile virtual reality.
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