Google Daydream’s Star Wars VR Experience Touts PC-level Graphics on Mobile

by VentureBeat • May 21st, 2017

The benefit of a tethered, desktop-powered virtual reality setup is that you can get significantly more visual fidelity from a PC with a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card plugged into a power outlet as opposed to the tiny, battery-powered GPU in a phone. But Google is claiming that could change.

Google has developed a technology called Seurat that makes it easier to render lifelike, highly detailed 3D environments on a mobile VR headset. While companies like Nvidia and Qualcomm have beefed up the graphics capabilities of smartphones in recent years, those tiny chips still lag behind massive PC cards. But instead of trying to brute force pixels onto its Daydream headsets with more power, Google is using software to enable developers to render beautiful scenes in real time. And Hollywood effects house Industrial Light and Magic’s experimental division, ILMxLab, has already used Seurat to bring some of the assets it built for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to life in a VR experience.

“When xLab was approached by Google, they said they could take our ILM renders and make them run in real-time in VR,” ILMxLab senior UX engineer Lewey Geselowitz said in a video about Seurat. “Turns out that’s true. I really think we’re onto something.”

Google’s not explaining exactly how this technology works — although it is promising to reveal more later this year. Bavor did imply that the magic is happening on the software side of things.

“It uses some clever tricks to help you achieve desktop-level graphics or better with a mobile GPU,” Google VR boss Clay Bavor wrote in a blog post. “Seurat enabled ILMxLAB … to bring the cinema-quality world of Rogue One to a mobile VR headset.”

If this technology works as advertised, then Google could expedite the process of making PC-based VR obsolete. That’s especially true if the company combines it with its dedicated headset that it is building with inside-out tracking that doesn’t require external sensors to determine your position in the world. When all of those elements come together, you could have a believable cyber world to explore anywhere that you can bring along a battery-powered VR headset.

This post by Jeff Grubb originally appeared on VentureBeat.

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  • Xron

    Would be cool, but I guess then pc hmd creators will use similar technique to decrease system req. too… or increase graphic fidelity.
    So if they will use it to catch current pc level, when pc apllies similar technique it will get away again.

    • Diego Cesaretti

      Well if we are truly talking CGI level detail there’s no “next level” for PC’s to achieve… I think Google could be onto something here… These “environmental boxes” could bring the cinematic experiences that im convinced are the killer app for VR… I can see miself buying a $400 aio device using this kind of tech and consuming bite sized content developed with these engine… Half our game and movie “extended trailers” for example… And volumetric video it’s also coming that will also be huge…

    • polysix

      no cos this restricts INTERACTIVITY!

      This is not the end game for VR, it’s a band aid for mobile, nothing more. It’s like a complex 360 photo. it’s a hack. the last thing VR ‘really’ needs. Removing interaction for ‘pretty’ is not a good route.

      • koenshaku

        Kind of like how everyone was wowed to see FMV from a CD-Rom game in the 90s then the novelty wears off.

      • What restriction? What are you talking about?
        This is FULLY INTERACTIVE MOVIE-LEVEL CGI.

        • Nicholas

          It’s really not. It’s a combination of high-quality pre-rendered imagery taken from different angles pasted onto a low-poly count environment with some basic lighting effects applied. Highly effective, but still smoke and mirrors.

          • I’ll not be a party to your hate speech and overall atmospheric coloring of non-inclusiveness, you cyberbully!

  • Simon Hughes

    I still don’t see why people would pay the same price for a mobile VR headset without wires as the Vive + TP cast. They also don’t say how the motion tracking works with the controllers, for the microsoft headsets, it has to have line of site with the controllers for the most part.

    • Nathan Casey

      No pc, have pc but it’s not good enough, ease of use. Plus It’s still going to be cheaper with less hassle and mobile. I bought a rift and sold it within days because while the steam tool said my pc was among the highest score my experience was horrible. With a headset like this I can use it anywhere without a pc and no set up and who knows maybe you can hook it up to a pc aswell.

  • jimrp

    Hope this is true.

  • polysix

    PC looking gfx, but failing at PC level interaction! major point. Not just talking about bad VR controls but the way this new rendering tech works, removes the ‘reality’ from virtual reality and is more akin to viewmaster with a bit of limited sense of freedom. Hardly Virtual Reality no matter how cool it feels till the novelty wears off.

  • Ben Orona

    This will be great for ads and promotional VR experiences where the player’s movement is restricted to a predictable path (on rails). This tech looks like a VR version of how Google captures the world in 3d for Google Earth. That tech turns aerial photos taken from all different angles into fully textured low polygon 3d geometry. It looks perfect from a certain distance, but breaks down when you get close. From the videos I’ve seen of Seurat, they are taking virtual “photos” of the scene from the angles the player will be viewing it from. Then creating a simplified low poly version of the scene and mapping it with the “photos”. It’s a more automated form of texture baking already used to generate most textures for games. I think it’s pretty misleading to make claims like “desktop level graphics on mobile” which is pure hype.

  • Andrew Stanley

    This article is BS. The biggest problem is tracking and hand inclusion in VR. Google has not figured this out. They are stuck on controllers and prerendered environments. This in no way touches PC VR. Shitty bloggers with no common sense need to stop trying to cut down PC VR because they cant afford it.

    • Justin Brunk

      Project Tango does hand tracking…

  • Diego Cesaretti

    I don’t understand if people don’t read or they’re just dumb… It’s been reported that you can walk around as pleased in this demo… No rails… Can’t understand how can you be against this kind of breakthroughs.. they add to the democratization of VR…

    • Ben Orona

      What I read is “achieve desktop-level graphics or better with a mobile GPU”, and we see video showing what appears to be some kind of POV based optimization. Regardless of whether you are on rails or if the scene only looks good from a “sweet spot”, there’s no magic way to make a mobile CPU/GPU suddenly have the power of a desktop CPU/GPU, so we are looking at some kind of optimization technique. The author goes even further when he claims that it could “expedite the process of making PC-based VR obsolete.” What is it they say about extraordinary claims?

      • Diego Cesaretti

        Well, the author has tried all the to tier hmds along with the best content about there, if he says this compares or in some aspects surpasess what he has seen I believe him…

        • Ben Orona

          Key words being “in some aspects” which you added. 😉 What about CPU intensive tasks such as AI and Physics? Assuming desktops are always going to be faster than mobile (a safe assumption) they will always be able to deliver a much more compelling VR experience.

  • Sean C

    Google could expedite the process of making PC-based VR obsolete – VENTUREBEAT

    Dumb/10

  • Instabuy.