Microsoft Brings Virtual Reality to Low-End Phones with ‘Flashback’
Recently, there has been a lot of hype surrounding virtual reality with specific interest in what it actually is and how we can use it in the modern age. The idea of VR isn’t new, however, as it has been in the works for several years.
Although still relatively unknown to the majority, it can’t be denied that virtual reality use is limitless, as it can be applied in diverse areas. When people hear of VR the first thing that comes to mind is gaming, but it can also be applied in education and commercial businesses.
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Devices such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been developed after years of research. Oculus Rift was initially launched as a Kickstarter project before being acquired by Facebook. The Oculus Rift device has a $600 price tag and comprises of a headset that’s loaded with sensors with a display for each eye and integrated headphones. The devices were capable of creating some amazing virtual reality worlds and experiences but needed computers that could run it.
This meant that the average user couldn’t afford to use the device and so more innovative means had to be created. Google Cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR provided the answer to this problem: a mobile platform from where virtual reality could be run on phone. The only problem is, these phones had to be high-end phones as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive require a large amount of processing.
A lot of research had to be done, and Microsoft came up with an answer of their own by finding the way to match the high demand of virtual reality with the low quality of resources available. The research was done in collaboration with Rice University. The project is called Flashback: Immersive Virtual Reality on Mobile Devices via Rendering Memorization.
The Microsoft Flashback Project
The project might be in the developmental phase, but research already shows huge improvement resources. The Microsoft Flashback has 97x less energy usage, 15x latency reduction, and an 8x better framerate—all this to provide audiences with a better viewing experience.
The most attractive feature of the Microsoft Flashback is that it only renders what the user is capable of viewing in the environment. The Flashback, unlike other devices, stores compressed frames of objects of every angle, which means that the user, when he is looking at objects in the Flashback, is truly looking at an already saved image of it. Microsoft Flashback doesn’t need much processing speed, as the device only renders what the user can see from his immediate position.
There are several setbacks to the project, but hopefully technology will break through some of the long-standing barriers. Enabling access by lower end smartphones will ensure everyone can enjoy virtual reality. The limitations of size and compression of files are some of the hurdles that would have to be resolved before the device is perfected.
They shocked observers when they ventured into the world of virtual reality but Microsoft’s Research Flashback may actually set the bar for other Virtual Reality devices in the future.
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