Google has a new tool called Seurat that’s designed to take high-end, film-quality 3D scenes and turn them into something that can run on mobile hardware. To demonstrate the technology, Google partnered with IMXLAB at Lucasfilm to take a high-fidelity digital set from Rogue One, which originally took hours per frame to render, and compressed the polygons and textures into something that could run in realtime on its prototype WorldSense headset.
We got to check out a demo, and it did indeed look great. The scene — a dark and foreboding Imperial Hangar — has realtime reflections and lighting effects, along with a looming, animated K-2. It’s not exactly cinema quality, but it’s better than what you’d normally see running on mobile hardware — although we aren’t actually certain how much power is inside the prototype WorldSense headset to begin with.
There are no easy wins left in 3D rendering, and Seurat is definitely a compromise. As illustrated in the GIF above, Seurat works by taking renders of an environment from a bunch of different angles and positions, and then mapping them onto a low-polygon VR scene you can move around in. Based on Google’s description of how it works, it probably won’t be appropriate for games or highly interactive scenes, but it certainly beats panoramas for immersion.
There’s no word yet on when Seurat will be available for other content creators, but hopefully we’ll have more worlds than Star Wars to explore by the time the big Daydream update hits later this year.