Lytro brings Light Field tech to virtual reality
When camera maker Lytro launched in 2011, it offered snappers something a little different – the ability to shift focus after a photo has been taken. If you wanted light field video, however, you were out of luck. The company has now rectified that with the Immerge system, a four component platform that's billed as the industry's first end-to end hardware, software and related services solution for the production of professional-grade cinematic VR content.
The Immerge rig is the culmination of 8 years of research into light field technology, and has been developed to bring some photorealistic goodness to a combined real world/computer-generated virtual reality experience. It's built on a modular capture and processing architecture, benefits from a new light field processing engine and comprises four main components.
First and foremost is a spherical light field camera array that's reported capable of capturing "all the data from all directions at any location within a given volume" (meaning that views can be generated from anywhere within that captured volume, and from any direction or field of view). Since any videographer or crew would be "in shot" for a 360 video panorama, the rig will be operated remotely using a tablet.
Lytro promises content creators stitch-free capture, the ability to blend live action and computer-generated graphics seamlessly, depth information in each frame and accurate horizontal and vertical parallax. Where interocular baselines (the distance between human eyes) are usually set at the time of capture, light field technology makes the Immerge system capable of supporting baseline adjustment after capture.
The next part of the Immerge equation is a high bandwidth direct-to-disk storage and processing server to deal with the huge amount of data flowing from the camera over fiber cable. Lytro has developed a suite of light field editing tools that integrate with already-available visual effects tools to help with VR content creation, and there's a video playback engine for current and upcoming high-end headsets (though the tech is also reported compatible with mobile solutions).
The Immerge system is not ready for release just yet though, Lytro is currently asking for development partners to register for early access to the prototype. Eventual pricing has not yet been announced, but we suspect the technology will be very costly indeed. Availability has been penciled in for early next year.
In the meantime, the team explains the Immerge technology in the video below.