Ambarella’s New 4K and 8K Imaging Chips Could Have Big Benefits for VR

Ambarella has carved out a niche in video compression and image processing chips, generating $100 million a quarter in revenue. And today, the company is launching three new chips that will bring next-generation imaging features to cars, drones, virtual reality, and sports cameras.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Ambarella showed off the three new chips at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week. Ambarella’s chips are already used in a lot of high-end drones from companies such as DJI and Yuneec, and the company has also supplied a lot of chips to makers of action cameras, like GoPro, as well as home security cameras.

“We’ve captured high-market share in the drone business, or, as we call them, flying cameras,” said Chris Day, vice president of marketing and business development at Ambarella, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Now we’re moving into our first electronic mirror application.”

The first chip being introduced today is the A9AQ, which can be used in electronic mirrors in cars. The chip is a camera system-on-chip (SoC) that can process 4K images from multiple still cameras or video recording systems. The A9AQ features an 800-megahertz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 central processing unit (CPU) to handle imaging tasks in modern cars, from advanced driver assistance to user interface and wireless networking. The chip comes with a companion Serdes chip for high-performance video camera applications.

The single chip works with camera side-view and rear-view electronic mirrors, which show you a video of what’s behind your car as you back up. It has multi-exposure high-dynamic range (HDR) processing to provide visibility in low-light and high-contrast scenes. That means you may be able to see even if someone is shining LED headlights in your mirror. The mirrors are increasingly common in cars that assist drivers with tasks such as parking.

“It can take multiple video inputs to provide the output you need,” Day said.

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Inside IMAX’s Big Bet to Rule the Future of VR, By David Pierce

Photo: GRAHAM WALZER FOR WIRED

This is where Tom Cruise sits to review footage from his latest action epic, where Chris Nolan makes sure every soldier in Dunkirk looks exactly the way he should. Then, once filmmakers are happy with what they’ve created, it’s the job of the theater’s namesake—IMAX’s white-haired and suit-wearing chief quality officer—to replicate it perfectly in the more than 1,100 other screens it operates all over the world. Keighley is famous within IMAX for flying to random theaters on the release dates for big movies, to make sure everything’s just right.

For more than 45 years, IMAX has defined the absolute highest end of the movie-going experience by controlling every aspect of that experience, from building cameras to developing laser-projection technology to redesigning the seating arrangements so more people have better views. “Why do filmmakers come back time after time after time?” Keighley asks rhetorically. “Because they know the IMAX version of the movie is probably the best version of the movie.”

In recent months, though, IMAX has set its sights on a new technology: virtual reality. IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond believes VR is much more than a toy for gamers or a living-room furniture piece. He sees it as the future of the movie theater—even the future of movies. It’s just not the present. “Anyone who tells you that VR is ready for prime time in its current form is wrong,” says Gelfond, a stout man in his early 60s. “Wrong!”

But that’s precisely the opportunity. Virtual reality is poised to be the biggest shift in the history of filmmaking. “Everything is new, everything is fresh,” says Joe Russo, the director of movies like Captain America: Winter Soldier and the next Avengers flick. “The execution is different, the impact on the audience is different. Some people are going to take some big swings in it, and those are going to define the direction it takes.” From music to games to blockbuster movies, every aspect of entertainment will be changed by (or competing with) VR. And just as MGM and Warner Bros. made a killing at the dawn of the movie industry, there’s a gold rush happening around the future of frame-free cinema.

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‘HOLOSCOPE’ Headset Claims to Solve AR Display Hurdle with True Holography, By Dr. Oliver Kreylos

Holo-this, holo-that. Holograms are so bamboozling that the term often gets used colloquially to mean ‘fancy-looking 3D image’, but holograms are actually a very specific and interesting method for capturing light field scenes which have some real advantages over other methods of displaying 3D imagery. RealView claims to be using real holography to solve a major problem inherent to AR and VR headsets of today, the vergence-accommodation conflict. Our favorite holo-skeptic, Oliver Kreylos, examines what we know about the company’s approach so far.

RealView recently announced plans to turn their previous desktop holographic display tech into the HOLOSCOPE augmented reality headset. This new headset is similar to Magic Leap‘s AR efforts in two big ways: one, it aims to address the issue of vergence-accommodation conflict inherent in current VR headsets such as Oculus Rift or Vive, and AR headsets such as Microsoft’s HoloLens; and two, we know almost no details about it. Here they explain vergence-accommodation conflict:

Note that there is a mistake around the 1:00 minute mark: while it is true that the image will be blurry, it will only split if the headset is not configured correctly. Specifically, that will not happen with HoloLens when the viewer’s inter-pupillary distance is dialed in correctly.

Unlike pretty much everybody else using the holo- prefix or throwing the term “hologram” around, RealView vehemently claims their display is based on honest-to-goodness real interference-pattern based holograms, of the computer-generated variety. To get this out of the way: yes, that stuff actually exists. Here is a Nature article about the HoloVideo system created at MIT Media Lab.

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Facebook plans to invest more than $3 billion in VR over the next decade, By Lucas Matney

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees virtual reality as a future computing platform that his company has a chance to own, though he admits it may take 5 – 10 years to bring it to the masses.

Members of the press had a rare opportunity to get a more unfiltered view into the future of Facebook’s virtual reality ambitions as Zuckerberg took to the stands today to testify in a $2 billion lawsuit surrounding the origins of Oculus, a VR company it acquired in March of 2014.

At the heart of its case is the claim that Oculus acquired information from former ZeniMax employee and current Oculus CTO John Carmack that was instrumental to the creation of the the company’s core technology, help that ZeniMax was never compensated for.

Zuckerberg told the courtroom that the company will likely invest more than $3 billion over the next decade to bring VR to hundreds of millions of users, the NYTimes reports.

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Hands-on: PiMAX’s 8K Headset Proves that High FOV VR is Coming, By Frank He

While there were many perhaps questionable Chinese VR headsets shown off at CES this year, Pimax’s new 8K, 200 degree prototype actually stood out from the crowd. Moreover, Pimax perhaps even showed both some of the potential that high spec headsets might provide along with the challenges associated with getting the details right. Not only was I able to give the new headset a try, I was also able to learn more about how exactly they intend to address the significant challenges behind powering a headset that boasts a 3840 x 2160 per eye resolution.

The exterior of Pimax’s new prototype bears some resemblance to Starbreeze’s 210 degree StarVR headset (and the InfinitEye before it) but uses a PlayStation VR (PSVR) style mounting mechanism. Each of the headset’s displays (one per eye), are placed at a canted angle, just like StarVR’s. In terms of heft, the Pimax unit didn’t seem that much heavier than the PSVR upon use, although as ever, it’s hard to judge this accurately given that it was just a short demo. One thing’s for sure though, the bulky shell makes it look heavier than it actually feels.

The headset’s resolution was probably the best thing about the headset. Whilst inside, I couldn’t discern individual sub-pixels no matter how hard I looked – whereas with the Rift or Vive I can. It took some effort to even discern individual pixels. The result was that it felt like I was looking at a slightly textured surface or film, similar to the current headsets, but much sharper and transparent. I can imagine I wouldn’t be distracted by the resolution.

The FOV (Field of View) was also impressive, feeling close to the aforementioned StarVR’s. Of course, the ultra-wide FOV was beneficial to peripheral awareness, but in terms of actual added immersion, I’m not sure if there was much of a real benefit. However, there were a few issues which perhaps hindered this. Issues include low brightness from the displays, weird inconsistent warping or geometric distortion when getting farther away from the center of the lenses, an inaccurate distortion profile in general, a low binocular overlap (the volume of FOV that overlaps between both eyes), and a very little bit of ghosting and/or smearing in motion. All of these issues unfortunately formed a barrier against proper immersion in the game. The low binocular overlap seemed to be the biggest immersion killer alongside the warping/distortion, whilst the low brightness and smearing were slight – far beyond that found in the Oculus Rift DK1 of course. It’s uncertain whether more time to play around with the IPD adjustment and time to get used to the distortion would have improved the experience.

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The D3-U is a VR camera you hold IRL, by Devin Coldewey

As VR and AR mature, they’ll borrow more of each other’s expertise; from the one, more immersive environments; from the other, intelligent means of walking the line between virtual and real. One example of such a crossover is the D3-U, a physical camera made for taking pictures in VR.

It was created by design agency dotdotdash in collaboration with Vive, but don’t expect a retail release any time soon. This is more of a proof of concept and demonstration of the recently announced Vive Tracker than an actual product.

The issue, as much as there can be said to be one, is that there isn’t a very natural way to capture images in VR. You can hit print screen on the computer running the simulation, of course, but do you really want to slightly tilt your head, keeping an eye on the edges of your field of view, in order to get the framing right?

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Scenes Sound Digital Aiming for Industry Innovation to Launch Professional VR Audio Technology at CES 2017

 

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ –Scenes Sound Digital Technology (Shenzhen) Co Ltd will launch a set of professional Virtual Reality (VR) audio equipment at the CES 2017 in Las Vegas during January5-8, showcasing the Chinese tech firm’s innovative end-to-end solution for holographic audio experiences.

The suite of hardware and software tools, designed to address the most challenging issues facing professional VR filmmakers, includes VR sound recorder Sound Pano, post-production software Scenes Studio Pro, and VR content player Scenes Audio.

SOUND PANO HERALDS A NEW ERA OF AUDIO AND VIDEO SYNCHRONIZATION FOR VR FILMMAKING

Before the advent of holographic audio recording equipment, all cinematic VR contents were wired and stereographic views were accompanied by two-dimensional (2D) sound. In another word, captured sounds are unable to move along with views. Sound Pano solves the limitation technical trouble of unsynchronized audio and visual sensation that deprives the audience of the most immerse experience in a virtual world.

Now with Sound Pano, people can finally achieve the live-experience satisfaction from VR films through panoramic visual and audio match.

SOUND PANO IS THE BEST HOLOGRAPHIC AUDIO RECORDING DEVICE IN THE QUAD BINAURAL SOLUTION

Sound Pano is the world’s highest-quality recording device that creates the most vivid sound field in virtual reality as well as the most immersive audio experience.

The device provides 8 directions, 16 tracks and 48k/32-bit 3D sound recording, which will capture the most precise and complete information of sound in the real world during VR film shooting. The richness of the audio information allows VR audience to feel the slightest changes in sound, giving them the sensation of being in the space where audio was recorded.

The audio can be easily exported. After the recording, the audio is transferred into uncompressed WAV files, and stored in the SD memory card. After processing by Sound Pano, the 16 sound tracks are combined into one WAV file, which can also be split into 8 files to make the editing process easier.

Also on display at the CES show, will be Scenes Studio Pro, a post-production software customized for professional VR film production.

In a 3D virtual environment simulated by Scenes Studio Pro, parameters can be modified easily, while as many as 32 objects can be added simultaneously to 20 tracks, making post-production editing easier for VR filmmakers.

To learn more about Scenes and its VR audio solutions:

Come to Sands Expo, Level 1, Hall G, 53527

About

Based in Shenzhen, China, Scenes Sound Digital is an innovative start-up focused on VR audio technology. The company is dedicated to providing end-to-end solution, and equipment, for VR audio recording. Scenes products include hardware and software developed for both professionals and consumers, all customized to give the most immersive experience possible. Scenes technology team consists of leading talents in areas including acoustics, holographic audio technology, and VR.

Vuze, an $800 VR camera for consumers, is shipping in March 2017 with support for 3D audio, By Paul Sawers

A number of new virtual reality (VR) headsets and technologies went to market in 2016, but without content, VR viewers are little more than futuristic-looking ski goggles. And this is why we’re starting to see a number of VR cameras enter the fray, including Nokia’s $45,000 Ozo, Facebook’s $30,000 Surround, GoPro’s $15,000 Odyssey, and upstarts such as Hubblo, which launched its $1,000 camera just yesterday.

Last year, a new VR Camera from Humaneyes Technologies was announced. At a more palatable $800, the Vuze camera has been available for preorder for more than six months and was originally expected to start shipping in late 2016. The deliveries never materialized, however, and preorders have remained open in the intermittent months. At CES in Las Vegas this week, Humaneyes revealed that the first commercial units will finally begin shipping on March 7, 2017.

By way of a quick recap, the Vuze camera captures and renders 3D and 2D VR content, using 8 FHD (full high-definition) cameras, and it automatically optimizes captured content for any platform or VR headset. At 12x12x3cm, the Vuze is a fairly portable “point-and-shoot” VR camera, and it also ships with a VR headset, tripod, and software.


In the months in which the early buyers have been waiting for their cameras to arrive, the company has added a number of new smarts to the software, including 3D audio capabilities and a partnership with WakingApp that will allow users to edit VR and AR content. The device is basically pitched as an all-in-one affordable suite for budding VR creators.

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Insta360’s New Professional VR Camera Shoots in 8K Resolution, By Alexander Maxham

Here is an update on the Insta360 Pro VR Camera!

Insta360 has traveled to CES 2017 in Las Vegas to announce their Insta360 Pro, which is their professional VR camera, that is able to shoot in 8K resolution. This is a big deal because when it comes to 360-degree cameras, the more resolution the better, due to the fact that the picture is much larger. Unlike the Insta360 Air camera, which is a clip-on camera for your smartphone, the Insta360 Pro is a standalone camera. Insta360 notes that it “offers a powerful VR imaging system for professional photo and video creators as well as non-professionals who demand excellence from the camera they use to pursue their creative visions.”

There are 6 independent lenses available on the Insta360 Pro, which is what gives you crisp, 8K resolution. The photographers out there, we’re looking at 60-megapixel, 360-degree stills. It does support HDR as well as RAW formats, so you can take photos without any post-processing and edit the pictures yourself in your favorite photo editor. For those that would rather record in 4K, you do have the option of up to 100 frames-per-second, which makes for some pretty smooth video, definitely useful for virtual reality. There is also a VR time-lapse mode that will give a new dimension to videos and there is also a live preview function. This let’s the user get the best angle before snapping the photo or pressing record.

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The Man Selling Virtual Reality to China, By Yiting Sun

How an American animator became a guiding force in China’s bubbling VR scene.

One afternoon in December, Kevin Geiger was giving one of his regular talks about storytelling in virtual reality. To a packed lecture hall at the Beijing Film Academy, he urged everybody in the filmmaking process—directors, actors, and people up and down the production chain—to think differently in order to adapt to this new medium.

As the founder and executive director of the International Animation and Virtual Reality Research Center at the Film Academy, Geiger is at the forefront of a growing group of filmmakers exploring what the future of VR films will be in China. Geiger makes films himself and is also designing a curriculum in immersive media for the academy’s new Digital Media School.

Interest in Geiger’s topic has been growing quickly in China since 2014, when Facebook acquired Oculus VR. The deal’s $2 billion price tag raised investors’ interest in bringing a low-cost version of the device to the Chinese market. By late 2015, over 100 headset makers had popped up, churning out virtual-reality viewers akin to Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR.

Now the industry sees opportunities beyond hardware, turning its attention to software and the kinds of stories Geiger is focused on telling. New virtual-reality startups are exploring ideas such as VR apps for patients to use in depression therapy, VR film-editing software, and VR animation.

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