Google has announced that it is experimenting with light field technology to improve its virtual reality content. The company detailed the work in a recent blog post, explaining that it has modified a GoPro Odyssey Jump camera so that it features 16 cameras mounted along a vertical arc, which is itself mounted to a 360-degree rotating platform.

According to Google, light field technology is one potential way to give users a “more realistic sense of presence” within a VR world. Light field-based content presents objects in different ways depending on the position of the user’s head and their distance from the object.

“Far-away objects shift less and light reflects off objects differently, so you get a strong cue that you’re in a 3D space,” Google explains. VR headsets with positional tracking take this to a new level by determining where the user is “located” within the virtual world.

Using its rotating Jump rig, Google is able to capture approximately 1,000 outward-facing viewpoints on a 70cm sphere, which ultimately offers a 2ft / 60cm diameter volume of light rays. The company explains how its translates that data into VR content:

To render views for the headset, rays of light are sampled from the camera positions on the surface of the sphere to construct novel views as seen from inside the sphere to match how the user moves their head. They’re aligned and compressed in a custom dataset file that’s read by special rendering software we’ve implemented as a plug-in for the Unity game engine.

Demo content has been released to the public via the Steam VR app “Welcome to Light Fields.” Users will need a Windows Mixed Reality, HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift headset to view the content. Light field VR demo experiences include a look inside the Space Shuttle Discovery, Gamble House, and Mosaic Tile House.

To learn more, head over to the full technical post on Google's Keyword blog.