At Google’s I/O conference yesterday, Google showed off the future of virtual reality — and not everything is made of cardboard. It’s surprising because Google’s previous ventures into space have been, well, a bit indecisive.
Don’t get me wrong: Google Cardboard, the minimalist virtual shell for smartphones, is certainly neat, but its limitations are obvious. This is one of the famous 20% of Google’s projects — a labor of love from a few employees, and it shows. Cardboard has a narrow field of view, motion blur, no positional tracking, and lousy latency. This is a recipe for bad diving and VR disease.
Google Cardboard doesn’t have a headband, and that’s no omission. Without a head strap, users must hold it over their faces, forcing them to turn with their torso. This slows them down with a noticeable delay. And this is normal — we are talking about a headset made of cardboard. It’s still a valuable tool for bringing people into virtual reality, but it won’t be a game changer.
All this is starting to change. Google uses a significant share of the world’s intellectual resources, and at this year’s IO conference began to demonstrate some of these capabilities in the virtual reality space. Ads three times.
- First, there is a significant improvement to the Cardboard headset.
- Secondly, there is a VR camera built to create a solid 3D image.
- Finally, there is Tango VR, a new VR/AR platform built on Google’s enigmatic 3D touch pad.
Ready? Let’s dig into.
New cardboard set
The new design for Google Cardboard is a definite improvement — it adds support for larger phones (up to six inches), includes iOS support, and adds a small physical lever on the side of the headset for typing. It is also designed to be easier to build and control.
Other than that, it’s pretty much the same story: small, standard lenses, a cardboard shell, and a lot of motion sickness if you use it for too long. It’s a notable improvement, but we’re pretty close to the limit for cardboard shells and Google is on hold until they start building something more useful.
To understand this software, you must understand the problem it is trying to solve. John Carmack of Oculus talks about problems with 3D panoramic capture.
«What they end up doing is you have cross-sections taken from multiple cameras, so straight ahead that’s proper stereo […]and then here it goes for that [угла]. But that means if you’re looking at what was right for the eyes here, but you’re looking out of the corner of your eye here, […] this is not a correct inequality for the eyes. And then, what’s worse, if you [закатываете голову]things get bad because it’s only tuned to the eyes. «
The jump is the way to fix it. Google uses machine vision technology to compare images and determine the scene’s 3D geometry. The software uses this reconstruction to create a clean, stitch-free perspective with perfect stereo from all angles.
Google plans to allow this sort of content to be viewed via YouTube using Google Cardboard — though there’s no word yet on support for more sophisticated VR headsets like the Oculus Rift.
This is already a huge victory. However, technology can be used to do more—much more. During the demo, Google shows a virtual camera moving around inside the ring, smoothly updating the perspective. Right now, Google is converting 3D data into stereo panoramas. The illusion will work from any turn, but will break if you turn your head or move.