Jun 1, 2015 | By Simon

Although the concept of virtual reality has been in existence for a few decades now, the various offerings have only existed in video game environments or in extremely expensive kit options that were limited to those with fat wallets or research laboratories.   Thanks to recent developments within the past five years though, the costs of both absorbing and producing content have been dropping dramatically - such as Google’s announcement of their Google Cardboard VR headset - which ultimately proved that you don’t need a multi-thousand-dollar piece of hardware such as various offerings from Oculus Rift to be able to experience virtual reality.  Now, the Silicon Valley search engine giant has even bigger news for those that are interested in the near-future of virtual reality.

At their Google I/O 2015 conference this past week, Clay Bavor, Google’s Vice President of Product Management, announced the company’s new ‘Jump’ program; a platform aimed at allowing content creators to easily capture and share 360-degree virtual reality video.

As a part of the announcement, Bavor outlined Google’s partnership with GoPro, the action camera manufacturer, to produce a piece of hardware that arrays 16 of the company’s small video cameras in an array for capturing 360-degrees of live video seamlessly.  The new unit will also allow all of the cameras to sync and share a single power source - which will essentially convert all of the 16 cameras into one camera to make the user experience as easy and as straight-forward as possible.  

While this is huge news for anybody who has been interested in the near future of virtual reality, this isn’t the first time that GoPro has dipped their toes in the world of virtual reality; earlier this year the company acquired image processing specialists Kolor to stitch together multiple videos to create 360-degree footage.  However, this setup only used 6 cameras rather than the updated 16 camera setup that was announced this week - which will surely provide better footage.  The company even went so far as to provide the necessary STL files needed for creating your own virtual reality rig on a Thingiverse page.  

But while GoPro has certainly been making strides towards creating solutions for the creation of 360-degree video with the aid of 3D printing, perhaps the most exciting news for those in the additive manufacturing community is the announcement that Google will be releasing details of the 16-camera rig’s geometry, which will ultimately provide the framework for creators to build their own virtual reality rigs.  Coincidentally, Google’s own version of their rig that they presented was itself 3D printed during the Google I/O demontration.    

“We made (ours) out of 3D printed plastic. One out of machined metal. And for good measure of course we also made one out of cardboard, and (they all) worked,” said Bavor during his presentation.

“What’s critical is the actual geometry, and we spent a lot of time optimizing everything: the size of the rig, the number and placement of the cameras, their field of view, relative overlap, every last detail. And what we want to do is share what we’ve learned with everyone. So just like we did with Cardboard we’re going to be opening up the camera geometry with plans available to everyone this summer.”

While both the price for a pre-built system as well as where Google will be releasing the build geometry are yet to be announced, this is surely exciting news for those who are interested in creating virtual reality content - including a whole new generation of Google’s YouTube content creators that are likely to pave the path for the future of virtual reality.    



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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