Former Microsoft researchers now working on Facebook VR and AR tech

by Ian Hamilton • November 12th, 2015

If you’ve not used Hyperlapse from Facebook-owned Instagram you really should give it a try. The app was released in August 2014 and uses movement information captured from an iPhone’s gyroscope to produce stabilized time-lapse videos that look like something out of a movie. Around the same time the app was released Microsoft showed research of similar Hyperlapse technology. Nine months later, the tech giant released an app for Android that, to my eyes, produces inferior videos compared with Instagram’s app on iPhone. The Microsoft version also embeds an annoying logo at the end of the video.

Here are their respective announcement videos for comparison:

Facebook’s ability to put this cool technology into people’s hands quicker and with a more enjoyable user experience compared with Microsoft is notable when thinking about Facebook’s “Computational Photography” research group in Seattle, Washington now staffed by several former Microsoft researchers. Earlier this year Oculus leased 51,000 square feet of space in Seattle, according to the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Matt Uyttendaele is one of the research scientists at Facebook who worked on Hyperlapse at Microsoft. His interests include VR and mobile app development.  The group is being directed by Rick Szeliski, who spent 20 “years at Microsoft Research as manager of the Interactive Visual Media Group.” Michael Cohen, another scientist in the group, spent 21 years at Microsoft Research before coming to Facebook. He expresses a “desire to provide people more creative tools to communicate and express themselves.”

The group’s goal is to push “the envelope of computational imaging R&D” to “weave together new and exciting experiences” for uses such as “VR and AR content creation and sharing.” It is likely the group will collaborate closely with Michael Abrash’s Oculus research group based Redmond, Washington on future technologies and applications relying on the gyroscopes, cameras and processors we carry around with us all the time. The aim is to produce more impressive and immersive kinds of content beyond Hyperlapse and the 360 videos that started popping up in Facebook’s newsfeed.

“We do a lot of AR research actually in Oculus research,” Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe told UploadVR. “But it’s not the product path Oculus is on today, and it’s not exactly clear when that product will be ready for the mass market consumers.”

The researchers working for Facebook now might’ve left Microsoft for any number of reasons, but with Rift and HoloLens heading toward totally different price points and market segments it will be interesting to watch how their work ends up being realized at the social media giant.

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