The Oculus Rift VR headset lets you see into another world — but not your own. It's not like Microsoft's HoloLens, where you interact with 3D objects in your world. At least, not yet. Oculus just bought Surreal Vision, a startup dedicated to pulling the real world into VR.
Surreal Vision specialises in something called "real-time 3D scene reconstruction", a fancy term that means "mapping out 3D worlds on the fly". Self-driving cars do it with LIDAR, Project Tango does it with cameras, and Microsoft's HoloLens, well... it sure does seem to have a lot of cameras and depth sensors on board.
Point is, if an Oculus Rift had the ability to reconstruct the world around you in real time, you could do some very interesting things. Want to see your Facebook wall on a real wall? Done.
Skip to 2:25 in this video.
Yep, that's an actual demo of one of the techniques developed by Surreal Vision's three PhDs, back when they were researching the idea at Imperial College London. And yes, the idea of letting (Oculus owner) Facebook capture my bedroom in real time is a little bit unnerving.
Here's what Surreal Vision says it wants to do for Oculus:
We're developing breakthrough techniques to capture, interpret, manage, analyse, and finally reproject in real-time a model of reality back to the user in a way that feels real, creating a new, mixed reality that brings together the virtual and real worlds.
Ultimately, these technologies will lead to VR and AR systems that can be used in any condition, day or night, indoors or outdoors. They will open the door to true telepresence, where people can visit anyone, anywhere.
That's not terribly different than Microsoft's HoloLens, but that's kind of the point — as of yesterday, we thought Oculus was all about virtual reality experiences. Visiting other places, other worlds. Someday, that might not be true anymore.