NextVR, a platform that specializes in recording sports, concerts, and other live events for viewing later in virtual reality, announced today at CES that it’s adding a new technology to make its recordings feel much more realistic. Called six degrees of freedom, or “6DoF” for short, the addition will make it so users of NextVR’s app can experience events with more freedom of movement than before.
With 6DoF, you can move forward, backward, left, right, up, and down, allowing you to shift your perspective in a pre-recorded scene as if you were experiencing it live. You can crouch down, move your shoulders, or even take full steps while the underlying technology behind the software used to edit the video takes into account the natural shift in perspective those movements involve.
Virtual reality games, in which the images a user is seeing are simulated by software, naturally have 6DoF so long as the headset you’re using tracks your head and body. That’s done either through an internal or external tracking system typically involving a mix of cameras, lasers, and sensors. For live scenes, however, 6DoF necessitates the video be captured with an advanced multi-camera rig that records dozens of simultaneous streams of a given scene. Computationally intensive stitching software is then used to combine those numerous streams into a single holistic VR video.
This software is typically able to replicate perspective changes by understanding depth and simulating the effects of moving through a physical scene, in effect allowing you to experience a viewpoint the original camera never actually captured. Facebook makes one of these rigs, called the Surround 360, but many companies like NextVR have custom hardware and software systems to perform similar feats.
By adding 6DoF to its platform, NextVR recordings should feel a whole lot more real. NextVR plans to make the feature available for pre-recorded, on-demand experiences first before it moves into trying to stream events live. The company also says that as lower-cost VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View receive upgrades in display resolution over time, NextVR’s platform will be able to take advantage of the hardware and deliver higher-res recordings.
In addition to its 6DoF announce, NextVR is also using CES to announce a new push into augmented reality, though it’s unclear what exactly that will look like that. NextVR says that by the middle of 2018, it plans to develop content to “transport NextVR experiences directly into the viewer’s physical world.” We’ll have to wait and see what that means, but for now, the company plans to make its new 6DoF feature available for experiences that debut throughout the next year.