Google Light Fields in VR ramp up reality in human vision

Google announced this week that they've been working with Light Fields for the most realistic virtual reality in the history of VR. Google is aiming to allow people to capture still images in VR that give the end user a realistic sense of presence by processing motion parallax and "extremely realistic textures and lighting." In an effort to demonstrate their work, Google released a demonstration app in Steam VR for HTC VIVE, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and Oculus Rift.

"When you're actually in a place, the world reacts to you as you move your head around: light bounces off surfaces in different ways and you see things from different perspectives," said Paul Debevec, Senior Researcher, Google VR. "To help create this more realistic sense of presence in VR, we've been experimenting with Light fields."

With Google's latest camera setup, they're able to record a massive amount of light rays coming into a volume of space at the same time. Google used a GoPro Odyssey Jump camera for their first public demonstration, creating a vertical arc of 16 cameras they then spun in a circle in the spaces they wished to record – like the flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery. You'll see a lovely GIF of that setup below this paragraph – look at it spin!

Google took the vast amount of information these cameras provided to create a 70cm sphere, creating then a two-foot wide diameter volume of light rays. Each photo captured was tied to positional information of each camera. The entire information set were compressed to be read by rendering software in the form of a Unity game engine plugin – also developed by Google.

The result – as a demo – is Welcome to Light Fields on Steam VR. This app is free to play, free to own, free top to bottom.