Google’s New Light Field App Is A Tantalizing Look At VR’s Future

by David Jagneaux • March 15th, 2018

The future of VR content lies with increased resolutions, higher image fidelity, wireless tracking, better form factors, and the removal of any and all other barriers that remind users they’re not actually inside the digital world. Light fields, like the stuff groundbreaking tech company OTOY is working on, are at the heart of that future evolution.

Yesterday, Google released a free app on Steam called Welcome to Light Fields that shows a quick tease of what this technology is capable of producing. Using a special camera (shown below) Google is able to capture 3D images that can be freely explored as if they were rendered in a game engine like Unity or Unreal. It’s sort of like a 360 photo, but it’s not flat and has actual depth. It really feels like you’re there.

Source: Google

The special cameras scan real-world environments so that when you visit them inside of a VR headset it really feels like an actual place. The difference in image quality alone between this content and images you might see in any 360 photo app or 360 video is monumental. Imagine exploring a version of Google Earth that has areas that were scanned using light field technology instead of just standard photographs.

Google’s Welcome to Light Fields app is essentially a small collection of scanned environments (including the actual Discovery spaceship) that you can walk around and experience. There is a brief tour mode as well that gives you a quick synopsis of several and lasts around 5-10 minutes.

As a result, the Welcome to Light Fields experience itself is extremely short and serves as little more than a tease — but that’s the point. Since it’s free, anyone with a Rift, Vive, or Windows VR headset should check it out for a taste of the future.

Let us know what you think of this impressive still-developing technology down in the comments below!

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  • Andrew Hally

    Looking forward to checking this out. I still haven’t been in any lightfield captured environments and they sound awesome.

  • polysix

    ” It’s sort of like a 360 photo, but it’s not flat and has actual depth. It really feels like you’re there.”

    So, uhmm. Virtual reality then? ;P

    This is exactly what VR was meant to be aiming towards, not this cesspool stream of constant garish, underpowered, cartoon third person character games that are an abuse and momentum killer for VR (in that more and more people get bored with ‘VR’ and see it as a gimmick while that trash gets put out for it from goldrush devs).

    I’m not saying, btw, that VR can only be ‘serious photoreal scientific’ stuff…. even fantasy worlds done right are fine, so long as they feel and look tangible, I’m not and can’t ‘buy’ into any so called virtual world that has graphics that I wouldn’t buy into even on flat screen gaming, the thrill of VR itself is NOT enough to keep the feeling going while in rudimentary, half baked (no pun) worlds which have scant regard for physical reality or visual idealism.

    VR so far has been 75% garbage thanks to people jumping onto the bandwagon who have no clue how good VR is meant to be and what it’s mean to feel like.

    Stuff like this (google LF) is a step in the right direction, so long as FULL interaction/agency is maintained or increased as we go. Then we can start thinking of gamifying these kinds of ‘real’ worlds instead of sticking boring trad games (with foxes and mice characters) into VR and calling it “Virtual Reality”.

    /rant over

    • polysix

      P.S I think lighfield tech will be the future of time travel (in VR). Once the tech exists a whole array of miniture drone bots (possibly nano) with VR cams will scan the entire earth, recording video (and tons of physical data) constantly, forever, and at any time in the future we can get in VR and skip back to anywhere on earth and be in that recorded but live earlier reality, store all that data on… well they may have to build another sub-planet (moon 2) just to store the data but, it’ll happen…. 😉 it’ll be the only form of reverse time travel we get for a long while.

      • Tom VR

        “A whole array of miniature drone bots” Sounds like insects to me, ever wonder why a fly’s eyes have multiple cameras just like that light field camera? And that sub-planet is obviously the moon, which is a cold storage device. Simulation FTW.

    • Justin Davis

      You sound really hung up on graphics. Current GPUs simply can’t push the graphics you want in stereoscopic 3D at 90fps. I have a 1080 Ti FTW3, and it feels underpowered.

    • dk

      recording the light field is really hard…..and we don’t even have proper light field displays ……and both won’t be solved completely and won’t be convenient to use any time soon
      but the shortcuts we r taking right now work pretty great

  • HAHAHAHA, more vaporware to excite the sheep that will NEVER see a release.
    Seurat, anyone ….? lol

    • dk

      xD loool man let me guess u hate them so much u don’t even use gmaps or google …….the app is already released and many companies r trying to record the light filed…. hell it might get to street view one day but definitely not any time soon

    • Juan Ritz

      Vaporware? A release? They are simply experimenting with new visualization techniques, and releasing the results at no cost. I realize that you’re just in troll mode and I have no idea if you’ve actually tried this, but the results, limited as they may be, are brilliant.