Imagine a video camera installed on a Formula 1 car, or on the helmet of a parachutist, or in the audience at a rock concert. And then imagine playing the film back in 3D wearing virtual reality (VR) glasses. The screen is, so to speak, right before your eyes.
“This means that from the comfort of your armchair you’ll be able to experience exactly what it’s like to be a racing driver”, says Petter Risholm at SINTEF. “You can see straight ahead and to the rear and both sides of the car, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the crowd cheering you on. And it’s you who decides where you look at any one time”, he says.
A collaboration project involving MakingView AS, Innovation Norway and SINTEF with a budget of NOK 22 million.
It is defined as a user-driven (BIA) project, by which the company in question receives funding from the Research Council of Norway to procure research services. The Council is providing between NOK 7 and 8 million.
360-degree panoramic video
MakingView AS is a small company based in Hamar that has been working for some time to develop a 360-degree panoramic video camera that can record video images in all possible directions.
The company currently has the technology to record and play back so-called “spherical video” images. The images are recorded simultaneously in all directions around the camera, and can then be played back on a mobile phone, computer screen or using VR glasses.
But something’s missing – the feeling of actually being present in recorded three-dimensional space. No-one working with spherical video has yet managed to re-create this intense experience. This is where innovation comes into play.
Getting the 3D effect
“Currently, the content MakingView creates can be played back using both VR glasses and mobile phones”, explains Risholm. “But users aren’t getting the most out of the VR glasses”, he says.
“In order to record a video in a sphere around the user and then play it back in 3D you need an enormous amount of data processing and storage capacity. This means advanced algorithms – a field in which SINTEF researchers can offer help”, he says.
Right inside the aquarium
Sitting in the cinema and watching a 3D film with your glasses on, it is still the director who decides on the viewing angles and how the three-dimensional experience is presented. Many people associate 3D cinema with looking into an aquarium. In order to give an entire cinema audience a 3D experience a lot of compromises have to be made that reduce everything to its lowest common denominator.
On the other hand, VR glasses have undergone some dramatic recent developments which have generated a multitude of new opportunities to perfect the 3D experience and make it much more realistic.
“Progressing from 2D to 3D represents a quantum leap in visual presentation”, says Risholm. “When you put the VR glasses on, everything becomes alive and leaps out at you off the screen. You become part of the action. Now you’re right there inside the aquarium “, he says.
More and more people are looking into the potential of 3D and virtual reality technologies, and major companies are now investing in VR glasses that can detect the direction in which you’re looking. The glasses use your head and eye movements to adapt what is being shown on the screen, just as if you were standing in a room and turning around. And suddenly you’re right in the middle of what’s going on. Of course, the technology has been developed primarily with video games in mind.
“But a video camera creates opportunities for applications other than games”, says Risholm. “For example, you might want to place a camera on stage during a concert so that after you get home you can put on your VR glasses and watch the event from all angles. Just by turning round you can see first the drummer, then the audience, and then the guitarist”, he says. “The glasses put you right in the middle of the action, and YOU decide where the action is”, says Are Vindfallet, General Manager at MakingView.
“The 3D market is experiencing dramatic growth and if we develop a successful 360-degree 3D technology, major investors will be queuing all around the block”, he says.