OTOY demonstrates first ever light field capture of a real world environment, producing photorealistic, navigable virtual reality experience

Topics: Light Fields, ORBX, Company News

Landmark achievement is an important step to achieving photorealistic live action VR experiences that allow users to move around scenes rather than simply look around; moves industry closer to achieving full presence in a VR experience

FMX 2015, STUTTGART, Germany – May 7, 2015 – At FMX 2015 cloud graphics company, OTOY Inc., today announced the first ever capture of a spherical light field of a real world environment used to produce a completely accurate, navigable scene in virtual reality. In a session titled “Light Fields for Virtual Reality”, OTOY’s Chief Scientific Consultant, Paul Debevec, demonstrated the groundbreaking process used to capture the light field of a room using a prototype camera array. The light field data of the room was rendered instantaneously in VR, mirroring the reality and grit of the natural world, while allowing a user in that world to look in any direction and move around in the space as if they were actually there.

The groundbreaking demonstration marks an important step for the medium, opening the door to compelling, authentic virtual reality recreations of popular travel and tourism sites, and new sports and entertainment opportunities, while moving the industry closer to achieving photorealistic live action VR experiences using light fields and the ultimate goal of enabling a complete sense of presence when in a VR environment. Just as light fields have been used to capture feature film actors and actresses to create exacting digital doubles for special effects use, light fields can now be used to capture environments with the same level of detail for virtual reality.

“Imagine being able to step inside of the Great Pyramid or visit the Great Wall of China all from your own home with a completely accurate virtual recreation that was captured from the real thing,” said Jules Urbach, Founder and CEO, OTOY. “Today’s demonstration of the first ever light field capture of a real world environment will enable experiences just like that, and many more as the technology evolves. Just as light field capture of people was a tremendous milestone that advanced film and entertainment, we feel that today’s breakthrough will be equally as significant for the medium of VR and the experiences that are enabled by it.”

Until now, photographic content in VR has been limited to panoramic stereo images that while realistic, only afford a user to look around a scene, not move around in it, such as moving to look around a corner or an object. Today’s unveiling of environmental light field capture for VR enhances the realism of previous methods, while enabling parallax to deliver a full range of motion within a space. The sense of presence afforded as you move through a scene is not just related to the feeling of depth of various objects and elements, rather as you move the scene provides a sense of what materials objects are actually made of. Reflections off of jewels, marble or hardwood flooring move accordingly as one changes perspective. Every photon of light is accurate to where one is in the scene and the materials that light is interacting with.

Despite the complexity of the scene, the compression capabilities of OTOY’s ORBX media format produces a manageable file size for the light field scene while enabling the high frame rates VR applications need.

OTOY Light Field Capture 1

OTOY Light Field Capture 2

OTOY Light Field Capture 3

OTOY Light Field Capture 4

OTOY Light Field Capture 5

OTOY Light Field Capture 6 

About OTOY Inc.

OTOY Inc. is the definitive cloud graphics company, pioneering technology that is redefining content creation and delivery for media and entertainment organizations around the world. OTOY’s Academy Award®-winning technology is used by leading visual effects studios, artists, animators, designers, architects, and engineers, providing unprecedented creative freedom, new levels of realism, and new economics in content creation and distribution powered by the cloud. For more information, visit


Additional Resources:

  • See what else OTOY is doing with VR and light fields on OTOY’s blog here.
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