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Virtual Reality: Are We There Yet?

Video Appliances

Virtual Reality (VR) is a new technology that was introduced in 2015 with the release of Samsung Gear VR™, followed up by Facebook Oculus Rift™ and HTV Vive ™ in 2016, and the yet to be deployed Sony PlayStation™ VR. While those platforms were mostly conceived for video gaming, video (in 360 or 180 degrees) is now recognized as a potential application. As is the case with any video service, content quality is king. Not only will storytelling need to be adapted to VR, the way the content is produced, compressed and distributed to head-mounted devices (HMDs) will also require a change.

In May 2016, Harmonic became one of the first video infrastructure providers to demonstrate Ultra HD resolution (3840x2160x30) via a Samsung Gear VR HMD live during the France- Russia soccer game. The workflow involved using classical equirectangular mapping of the stitched 360 video, which was then reconstructed on the HMD. The problem with this approach is that there is a limited field of view. As a result, only 1/10 of the content can be viewed. When the content is expanded to match the HMD’s VR resolution (2560×1440), a fuzziness sensation results. Does this signify the end of the road for VR? Absolutely not! We are only in the first development year of many VR years to come.

Harmonic has spent significant time evaluating different VR technologies that could solve the quality problem. During IBC2016, Thierry Fautier, VP Video Strategy at Harmonic, will share his expertise on VR technology as a conference session presenter. The session, dedicated to new ideas in VR and 360-degree immersive media, is slated for Saturday, Sept. 10, at 10:45 a.m. at the RAI. Fautier’s presentation, titled “VR Video Ecosystem for Live Distribution,” will explore the different technologies that can be deployed to solve quality and bandwidth issues for VR.

Working with TNO, a technology provider that has developed a HEVC tiling solution that provides native UHD resolution to the HMD, Harmonic has the inside scoop on the future of VR. We expect a significant improvement in terms of quality of experience, but new challenges will arise, such as scalability and latency. If you want to see the technology in action, visit us at IBC2016 at Stand 1.B120. Harmonic’s stand will be a VR playground, with content, servers and the Oculus Rift on display!

– Thierry Fautier, Vice President of Video Strategy at Harmonic and President of the Ultra HD Forum

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