With VR viewing innovations like the Oculus Rift, and Microsoft’s HoloLens or Sony’s Playstation VR headset looming, everyone wants a bag of that virtual reality cash. Now camera maker Lytro is taking advantage of the VR technology buzz with their new camera. The company recently announced their latest imaging technology called Lytro Immerge, and according to Lytro it’s the world’s first professional ‘light field solution’ for cinematic VR. What does that mean exactly? And what potential does it hold for design and engineering?

In a nutshell, Immerge is a end-to-end solution that includes a camera, a server, an editor, and a player. It provides all the tools to capture live action virtual reality scenes. By using light field data, users can create virtual views of a location from any point in space, facing any direction, in any field of view.

This means viewers can very realistically move around inside the 3D space while they’re watching the video, which Lytro describes as “six degrees of freedom” (6DoF). The system also comes with the servers to store and process all of that data you’re capturing and the light field software to edit and create the VR, and a Player to view the user created content on the increasingly available VR headset options.

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Since a VR camera is made to shoot from all directions, it’s inevitable that those running the show will be in the shot. Lytro took this into consideration, allowing the Immerge to be operated remotely via a tablet or phone, so operators can make their adjustments without stepping into the shot. Instead of grabbing frames and stitching an environment together, Immerge essentially rebuilds a version of the scene. With the light field data and depth information it captures, it’s possible to merge computer generated info with the captured info and view it all from different vantage points. While it sounds complex, the camera control software is developed to eliminate the learning curve with an interface modeled after the control schemes for professional-level cameras.

Before you get too excited, Lytro doesn’t intend Immerge to be for the average consumer. They created the camera for professional video production, made to work with professional tools like software like Nuke, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, and Avid Media Composer.

The intent is the same with pricing. The company doesn’t have an exact number, but believes it will cost several hundred thousands of dollars when it comes out in the first half of 2016. We’re sure that won’t stop people from buying it and posting their amateur VR scenes on future Youtube for family and friends to hop into, like and share. That said, if you’re a developer or interested in testing the applications for the Lytro Immerge, you can request prototype access here.

If this does pick up interest (and the price drops), there are certainly applications in the design and engineering field as well. We’ve seen where scanning technology has been used to capture product detail, with environment capture still on the fringes of early adoption. The technology hasn’t been the easiest to use, so Lytro’s solution, plus the fact that it’s capturing the entire scene in which other objects–3D CAD data for test fit/function, 3D envelopes for conceptualizing or even real-time modeling/sculpting to see how light and environmental factors react.

Where do you think this could go? Are there other development in the area of light field capture technology you’ve heard about?

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