First Impressions With Google’s WorldSense; ILMxLAB VR Experience

WorldSense mobile VR tracking paired with Seurat could be a game changer.

Day 2 of Google I/O is in full swing and Google is shining some light on the core technologies the company is working on to make VR, AR, and immersive platforms accessible to even more people.

In a press briefing with Clay Bavor, Google’s VP of VR noted how at Google, they “don’t think of VR and AR as two separate distinct things, but rather two convenient labels for points on a spectrum.” It’s in this spectrum that lies all the investments Google is making within core technologies to enable “internally immersive computing.”

During day one of Google I/O, Bavor announced WorldSense and Google’s latest HTC and Lenovo partnerships to build standalone VR headsets with inside-out tracking. WorldSense, the positional tracking technology, is what makes these standalone VR headsets work without any external sensors—and it’s a pretty big deal. In a way, WorldSense is what can help usher in the next generation of internally immersive computing devices. Something we’ve been thrilled to see consumers get their hands on, and of course actually demo for ourselves.

Although Google didn’t have the teased Qualcomm reference design headset, or the HTC or Lenovo standalone device to demo, I was able to test an earlier hardware prototype running WorldSense behind closed doors Tuesday — and it was pretty sweet.

It’s important to reiterate that WorldSense is basically Tango optimized for VR. Google Tango gives devices the ability to understand depth and space, so it was only a matter of time until Google merged the capability with their Daydream platform. Unlike Tango, WorldSense makes use of two cameras instead of one, which seems like a dramatic improvement when in VR.

I was able to try two different demos, one where you’re standing in an underwater environment while sea life passes around you and another from the one and only ILMxLAB. You can probably guess which one I was most eager to try.

While the underwater trip was a great experience, it’s the ILMxLAB experience that made use of a new tool called Seurat. I know, there’s a lot of new tools and platforms to keep up with here.

Named after the great French painter, Seurat makes it possible to render high-fidelity scenes on mobile VR headsets in real time. It uses some clever tricks to help you achieve desktop-level graphics with a mobile GPU. So of course if you’re going to open up the tool to any content partner to put through the ringer, why wouldn’t you choose ILMxLAB.

The branch of Lucasfilm focused on immersive experiences, created a short Rogue One demo in partnership with Google. It was highly detailed. I found myself crawling on the floor to inspect light reflections and staring at the ceiling for parallax while walking in a circle. Keep in mind this is all on a wireless headset.

Over time, the tracking got better as the device continued to map my space. The frame rate was limited on the hardware side to 75fps, but WorldSense can support much higher with improved hardware.

Compared to other standalone VR headsets, it looks like Google got this one right. Even though the hardware demo with WorldSense I tried is a rough prototype of what will be released later this year, what I tried was a serious evolution of Tango and Daydream.

Being able to freely walk around without any wires in high detail from a device that will cost less than a Rift and PC combined — we are getting closer to a mainstream VR headset device that everyone may just need to have.

Price Note: The HTC and Lenovo standalone headsets are expected to range between $500 – $800.

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder of VRScout.

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