Telepresence

Figure 1.8: An important component for achieving telepresence is to capture a panoramic view: (a) A car with cameras and depth sensors on top, used by Google to make Street View. (b) Bublcam is a cheap, portable way to capture and stream omnidirectional videos.
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Figure 1.9: A simple VR experience that presents Google Street View images through a VR headset: (a) A familiar scene in Paris. (b) Left and right eye views are created inside the headset, while also taking into account the user's looking direction.
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Figure 1.10: Jaunt captured a panoramic video of Paul McCartney performing Live and Let Die, which provides a VR experience where users felt like they were on stage with the rock star.
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Figure 1.11: Examples of robotic avatars: (a) The DORA robot from the University of Pennsylvania mimics the users head motions, allowing him to look around in a remote world while maintaining a stereo view (panoramas are monoscopic). (b) The Plexidrone, a low-cost flying robot that is designed for streaming panoramic video.
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The first step toward feeling like we are somewhere else is capturing a panoramic view of the remote environment (Figure 1.8). Google's Street View and Earth apps already rely on the captured panoramic images from millions of locations around the world. Simple VR apps that query the Street View server directly enable to user to feel like he is standing in each of these locations, while easily being able to transition between nearby locations (Figure 1.9). Panoramic video capture is even more compelling. Figure 1.10 shows a frame from an immersive rock concert experience. Even better is to provide live panoramic video interfaces, through which people can attend sporting events and concerts. Through a live interface, interaction is possible. People can take video conferencing to the next level by feeling present at the remote location. By connecting panoramic cameras to robots, the user is even allowed to move around in the remote environment (Figure 1.11). Current VR technology allows us to virtually visit far away places and interact in most of the ways that were previously possible only while physically present. This leads to improved opportunities for telecommuting to work. This could ultimately help reverse the urbanization trend sparked by the 19th-century industrial revolution, leading to deurbanization as we distribute more uniformly around the Earth.

Steven M LaValle 2016-12-31