Lytro, the company known for its innovative light field cameras, is expanding into the growing world of virtual reality.
In a press release today, Lytro announced the Immerge virtual reality camera system. Not only does the Immerge look like it was sent from the future, but it's packed with Lytro's signature light field technology, which could very well represent the future of how virtual reality content is produced.
Here's the Immerge introduction video:
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/144034085
The Immerge contains five discrete layers of light field sensors, with the entire camera having hundreds of individual sensors in total. Here's what Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal has to say about how the image quality of Immerge will stack up against current VR cameras (sourced from Engadget):
One of the layers represents somewhere between three and four times the data and resolution of any VR camera that exists today. And we're doing that times five. It's a massive leap forward in terms of the way we capture and sample the real world.
The Immerge system isn't just about extremely high-resolution virtual reality content, however. It's also promising a more immersive and interactive experience thanks to the light field technology, which allows viewers to interact with depth cues in a more realistic fashion. Here, again, is Rosenthal:
Imagine a camera staying stationary, but being able to move your head around and getting further and closer away from an object in a scene, having the reflection and the light rays adjusting accordingly. What the light field volume represents is, we’re densely capturing all the rays in a given geometric volume, and then we’ve built software that lets us play back those rays at very high frame rates and at high resolution. It gives you the perfect recreation of the actual world you’re capturing.
Lytro is positioning Immerge as a complete end-to-end system for virtual reality video production. Unlike the other VR cameras on the market, which are largely comprised of an array of consumer cameras and require the user to process all of the data and stitch it together, the Immerge comes with a dedicated server stack in order to store and process the vast amount of data produced by the camera.
In addition, Lytro is producing plugins that will be compatible with professional NLE and compositing softwares (FCP, Premiere, and Nuke were all mentioned by name). These plugins will allow users to import and work with Immerge video inside of their existing post production workflows. Lastly, Lytro has developed its own virtual reality playback engine, which will be compatible with all of the most popular VR headsets like the Oculus Rift.
While there's no pricing information for Immerge as of yet, there's very little reason to expect that it will fit into anybody's definition of "affordable." Most likely it will come in somewhere in the low to mid six-figure range. Immerge is expected to be available for both purchase and rental during the first quarter of 2016, but you can apply for early access to a prototype through the Lytro website.