For what seems like forever, we’ve been consuming flat content on flat screens. We use traditional cameras to capture all of this, but those cameras aren’t suited for the new world of virtual and augmented realities. There needs to be a new way that can provide immersive experiences.
The solution is volumetric capture. The easy way to think about the technology is that it’s the complete opposite of another capture tech that’s proven popular in VR: 360 video recording. While 360 video cameras are placed in the center of something and capture everything around it, volumetric capture cameras are placed around something and capture every detail.
Microsoft recently invited me to check out its brand new capture studio in its newly renovated Microsoft Reactor in San Francisco. It turns out they were going to put me directly in the capture studio and turn me into a hologram.
Microsoft has been working on volumetric capture for the past seven years, says Steve Sullivan, general manager of of Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio. It started out as a project within Microsoft Research before moving to an incubator, where it was then graduated into part of the HoloLens project, which is now part of the larger Mixed Reality platform.
The newly opened Capture Studio in San Francisco is only the second version outside of the original on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. Sullivan says the company is already receiving a ton of demand from creatives to use the space, and is opening a third location called Dimension Studios in London in collaboration with Hammerhead and Digital Catapulti, giving European creators a chance to play with the tech without having to make the trek across the Atlantic and continental US.
Stepping into the Capture Studio is bizarre. It’s absurdly bright, with what feels like a thousand lights concentrated on you in every direction. All of those lights also mean that you can feel the temperature raise once you walk past the grey curtains that separate the recording space from the Capture Studios’ technical staff.
You stand in the center of the space, which Microsoft says is big enough to fit two sumo wrestlers into (they actually did do that). Around you, 106 cameras are trained on you and capturing every moment. Half of those cameras are, well, cameras that are capturing imaging data. The other half of those cameras are infrared cameras shooting dots at you. As one of the staff members told me, the tech is similar to the infrared cameras in the old Xbox Kinect.