Imagine you are going to a theater or a concert hall. You sit down, put on your augmented reality (AR) glasses, and a famous musician, artist or scientist walks on stage to talk about his work and life — except, it’s not really him, but a hologram. As the talk unfolds, additional holograms pop up in front of you, replacing stale old slides with interactive 3D objects.
What may sound like science fiction could soon become reality, thanks to a new project from New York-based RadicalMedia. Much of the work is still under wraps, with RadicalMedia CTO Evan Schechtman joking that securing rights for celebrity appearances can take just as long as the development of cutting-edge technologies.
Schechtman would only tell Variety that the project is about “capturing great people doing great things,” and then showing them in purpose-built venues that will enable fully immersive experiences. “The whole volume of the room is the canvas,” he said.
However, the RadicalMedia revealed a key part of its plan this week: It has teamed up with the volumetric capture startup Uncorporeal to produce content for the project. Uncorporeal has been developing technology to capture holograms of humans that can then be used in virtual reality (VR) or AR content.
The company is headed by Sebastian Marino, who worked as visual effects supervisor on Avatar, something that got him a technical achievement Oscar. The company’s 8-person team also includes people who previously worked at Lucasfilm, Weta Digital and Electronic Arts. Now, it’s focused on making virtual and augmented reality look and feel more real by capturing people in 3D. “We are focused on cinematic holographic video capture,” said Uncorporeal COO and co-founder Kul Wadhwa.
In the case of the RadicalMedia cooperation, this is being achieved with an array of 48 off-the-shelf cameras placed in a circle around a green screen stage. This video is then being augmented by footage shot with a few Red cameras. The result can not only be used in augmented reality, but also repurposed as a traditional 2D video.
And thanks to the massive amount of data captured, Uncorporeal can always build higher-resolution versions for headsets that have yet to be built. “We can do things that the technology doesn’t support yet,” said Wadhwa. This could potentially also include building VR versions if AR doesn’t take off. “For us, it doesn’t matter” whether the result is AR or VR, he said.
However, at least for now, RadicalMedia is squarely focused on augmented reality for this project. “AR will eclipse VR,” said Schechtman, who argued that AR will prevail because of its potential for social and shared settings. “VR is an insular experience,” he said. Schechtman estimated that we will see AR technology reach consumers within the next 12 months — and that RadicalMedia will be ready to show off its star-powered project by then.