Microsoft Research’s “FlashBack” Enables Rift-Like VR On Low-End Devices
VR lets you have a great visual experience with the right hardware and software. However, great VR experiences takes a chunk of your hard-earned money to get it right. With high-end VR sets from Oculus and HTC, many people could only wish for true VR to get cheaper in time. But some people can’t wait, and with Microsoft Research’s new discovery, the wait probably won’t be too long.
FlashBack is a new result of research and development efforts from Microsoft’s Research arm – it is a combination of technologies that could let even less powerful smartphones and laptops handle the highly graphics-intensive tech requirements required for a smooth, almost virtually lag-less VR experience.
FlashBack combines and somehow makes it possible for various technologies and algorithms to overlap in order to allow even less powerful devices to display VR content as high-end VR hardware could. This technology employs optimization techniques like pre-rendering in order to make use of as much resources on low-end VR as possible, as well as to save on time.
What makes FlashBack useful for low-end VR is that it only renders the right frames of the image depending on the location context. This is made possible through the use of pre-rendering essential frames of an image and stitched into a so-called “mega-frame”. Also, compression plays a big role in how FlashBack works. The team working on this technology has successfully reduced image frame sizes to kilobyte-sized files and then store these files onto the device’s storage. The magic comes to life as the files are being uncompressed only when they are needed to during real-time rendering, which allows low-end VR hardware to render high-end-quality VR as efficient as possible.
The researchers are still working on prototyping FlashBack, and the team aims to make the technology a feasible alternative to existing VR algorithms. It will be interesting to see FlashBack to work on present VR devices, as low-end VR is still plagued by minor issues like lag and image quality.