Technology

Google Daydream tech makes VR headsets 'invisible'

Google Daydream tech makes VR headsets 'invisible'

One of the biggest critiques of virtual reality is that its fully immersive nature can be isolating.

By using a combination of 3D vision, machine learning (ML) technology and graphics techniques, Google, Daydream Labs and YouTube Spaces have been working on solutions which "reveal the user's face by virtually "removing" the headset and create a realistic see-through effect".

In a new blog post on the Google Research Blog (hat tip to The Verge), a few researchers from the tech giant discuss the process of replacing the blocky VR headset with an image of the user's face for mixed reality videos - videos that show both the VR user and the virtual reality around them. With some green screen magic, cameras, and compositing, Google is able to track the wearer's movement and combine it with a rendering of the VR world from the viewpoint of a spectator, but that still leaves one other problem: the headset.

The way the technology works is by creating a 3D dynamic model of the users face to accurately portray any facial expressions or emotions, and then layer it onto the front of the digital headset.

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This kind of mixed reality, while obviously confined to specially-equipped studios for now, could have interesting consequences for the future of shared virtual reality. This proxy is then used to synthesize the face in the Mixed Reality video, which makes it appear that the headset is being removed. "With this new technology, we're able to make a more complete picture of the person in VR".

However, it's not like this technology is going to be ready for prime time any time soon.

For onlookers, it's impossible to see what the user is experiencing, and clunky VR goggles completely obscure the top half of the face so it's hard to even gauge facial expressions.

The final step is to add the person into the virtual world, enabling viewers to see the person more-or-less naturally within that VR environment. "Headset removal is poised to enhance communication and social interaction in VR itself with diverse applications like VR video conference meetings, multiplayer VR gaming, and exploration with friends and family". The tech is also not now running on Google Daydream and instead uses a modified HTC Vive.


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