Since the 1990s, virtual reality has been one of those technologies that is constantly heralded as being 10 years away. But despite its appearance in Hollywood science-fiction movies, the concept of a fully immersive media experience has never come to fruition either because of technological limitations or lack of a compelling value proposition, or both.
But startup camera manufacturer Lytro thinks it might have finally cracked the VR code with a new 360-degree virtual reality camera designed for filmmakers. Today, the company unveiled the Lytro Immerge [pictured], a camera that uses a process known as light field imaging to capture images in which all elements of the foreground and background can be focused simultaneously.
Light Field Technology
A light field camera allows light to be captured from multiple vantage points, left to right, top to bottom, and all points in between. The light field is able to capture more visual data. Along with the colors of rays of light hitting the sensor, it can also measure their intensities and angular directions.
As a result, the camera can produce images with both color and depth by calculating the distances of objects from the angles created by the intersections of different rays of light from the scenes. Light field cameras are able to capture visual data that can be used to produce interactive “living pictures” with variable depth of field, focus shift and perspective shift.
The Immerge is able to capture the angular information from light, allowing it to create fully formed, three-dimensional images that can be virtually walked through. The company is pitching the Immerge as the world’s first professional light field camera capable of producing cinematic-quality virtual reality.
While virtual reality environments aren’t new, the difficulties associated with creating virtual environments that could be viewed from an essentially infinite number of vantage points meant that they were confined to computer-generated graphics. The Immerge, however, will allow filmmakers to reproduce real-world environments in three dimensions, either alone or in combination with computer graphics, according to Lytro.
“VR is the next wave in cinematic content, and immersive storytellers have been seeking technology that allows them to fully realize their creative vision,” said Jason Rosenthal, CEO of Lytro, in a statement. “We believe the power of light field will help VR creators deliver on the promise of this new medium.”
Cinematic, Scientific, and Industrial Applications
The Immerge platform, which is still in its prototype phase, will consist of a 360-degree light field camera, a server, and editing and playback capabilities. Although Lytro is promoting the platform’s cinematic applications, the company said it also foresees a number of scientific and industrial applications for the Immerge.
If the Immerge takes off, it could be the first step toward a future where moviegoers watch movies through attached headsets that allow for fully immersive experiences. Potentially, that could put Lytro up against the legacy camera companies that have traditionally supplied Hollywood with movie-making tools.
The company said footage recorded by the Immerge platform will be compatible with existing virtual reality platforms, including Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, Sony Playstation VR, Microsoft HoloLens, and HTC Vive. The Immerge is set to hit the market early next year, according to Lytro.
Posted: 2015-11-10 @ 2:55am PT
For an entry price to $250k, I am leaning more towards affordable VR cameras that can achieve the same with post editing software.