Google Seurat Rendering Tech Takes Star Wars to VR – Ok, What is it?
Google’s VR rendering tool called Seurat was designed with the intention of upping the graphic fidelity of VR experiences while keeping hardware requirements low to allow smooth VR on mobile hardware.
ILMxLAB took a scene from Rogue One and showed it off in VR on it’s prototype WorldSense head mounted display. It looks very impressive, and even more so when remembering that it was rendered in real time on a Snapdragon processor:
While information from Google is guarded, it is most certain that Seurat uses a variation of light field technology in rendering such realistic environments on the fly with little processing power. To put it as simple as possible, it is the ability to ‘bake’ a scene and material properties onto primitive geometry. This way you get the hi res rendered look, but with the performance needed to run on mid range hardware. To put into perspective, ILM said a scene which took an hour to render traditionally, takes 13 milliseconds in Seurat.
With the scene being baked in, this means it must remain static. This is fine for passive experiences, but one of the main draws of VR is the ability to interact with the scene, because why else would you be there?
Seurat allows developers to combine the light field rendered static scenes with real time assets to overcome this issue. This can be seen in the Rogue One Demo video when K-2SO walks into the scene. The quality of the model is lower than the environment but it is a compromise that is necessary. And since Seurat is similar to baking textures onto geometry, the real-time assets can interact with the light field rendered scene, providing the opportunity for user interaction and gameplay.
I find thinking of this easiest if you compare it to the original Resident Evil games. The backgrounds were pre-rendered to allow graphics much higher quality than could be rendered in real-time, with poly characters placed into the scene to provide the gameplay.
The future is bright for mobile VR. I’m a PC VR guy and I hope this could trickle upwards to provide a hybrid experience with even more advanced graphics on PC.