Google's new Jump program is more than a ring of GoPro cameras. It's actually a whole system involving the cameras, Google's servers that assemble all the footage, and customizations to YouTube to enable true, stereoscopic VR. It's a process for stitching together video in a seamless way without making the directors or editors become computer science experts. There's a lot to Jump.
But the most important part is the results: is the actual stereoscopic 3D video you can look at on Cardboard any good? In two words: yes, but.
Yes, it's very good: I looked at three different demos, and each one felt markedly different from the 360-degree videos I've looked at in Cardboard before. I watched a guy fix up a motorcycle in the shop and I was able to toggle between standard 360 video and Jump's stereoscopic video, and with Jump the machines popped and separated out. It was subtle, but it was noticeable. In another demo I was able to just look around the shop a bit. Even though Jump can't create 100 percent 360-degree video (it loses the top and bottom), it's nevertheless impressive to look around and not see any seams anywhere.
Then there's the but. Even though I was watching these videos on a Galaxy S6, I was still hoping for a little more resolution. I was also disappointed to find some of the videos weren't quite as sharp as I expected. Some of that could be chalked up to not having great vision myself, but the folks at the booth agreed that the videos they're showing today aren't the full extent of what Jump can do. The third and final demo was an Avicii music video, and the singer's face was a vague puffy mass instead of a human visage, so the whole thing made me think the video needed to spend a few more days on Google's server farm. Also, it was Avicii, so that didn't help.
The other big part of Jump that we got to see was the camera rig. Two of them, actually. One was 3D printed by Google and the other was made by GoPro. Google will be releasing the plans so that anybody can make one of these camera rigs later this summer. Even when it does, though, you'll still need to queue up to get access to Google's servers to process what you shoot.
Of the two rigs, GoPro's looked a little sturdier, but both needed to sit on a tripod, and both had 16 GoPros packed in, waiting to be synced up and start recording. So it seems like Jump is more suited to stationary video than a full VR video experience — but maybe some enterprising director will surprise us someday. Until then, on the tripods they stay, looking like kind of imposing, techno lightpoles.
Jump videos will be available on YouTube for Cardboard users later this summer.
Correction: the device we viewed the Jump videos on was a Galaxy S6, not an iPhone 6 Plus. We regret the error.