Panoramic light fields

Figure 7.25: The Pantopticam prototype from Figure Digital uses dozens of cameras to improve the ability to approximate more viewpoints so that stereo viewing and parallax from position changes can be simulated.

Panoramic images are simple to construct, but are clearly flawed because they do not account how the surround world would appear from any viewpoint that could be obtained by user movement. To accurately determine this, the ideal situation would be to capture the entire light field of energy inside of whatever viewing volume that user is allowed to move. A light field provides both the spectral power and direction of light propagation at every point in space. If the user is able to walk around in the physical world while wearing a VR headset, then this seems to be an impossible task. How can a rig of cameras capture the light energy in all possible locations at the same instant in an entire room? If the user is constrained to a small area, then the light field can be approximately captured by a rig of cameras arranged on a sphere; a prototype is shown in Figure 7.25. In this case, dozens of cameras may be necessary, and image warping techniques are used to approximate viewpoints between the cameras or from the interior the spherical rig. To further improve the experience, light-field cameras (also called plenoptic cameras) offer the ability to capture both the intensity of light rays and the direction that they are traveling through space. This offers many advantages, such as refocusing images to different depths, after the light field has already been captured.

Steven M LaValle 2020-01-06