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Facebook's Oculus Beefs Up 3D Team

As virtual-reality enthusiasts await the first consumer edition of Oculus Rift next year, Facebook, which owns the game and the firm that makes it, is beefing up its talent roster.

Oculus Wednesday said it acquired a trio of 3D reconstruction experts from computer vision firm Surreal Vision. The three founders of the UK-based immersive technology company will be moving over to Oculus: Richard Newcombe, the inventor of KinectFusion, DynamicFusion and DTAM (Dense Tracking and Mapping); Renato Salas-Moreno, the inventor of SLAM++ (SLAM at the level of objects), and Dense Planar SLAM; and Steven Lovegrove, the co-inventor of DTAM and author of SplineFusion.

Vast Improvements

Surreal Vision is considered one of the top computer vision teams in the world. The company’s primary focus is on real-time 3D scene reconstruction, which is the art of generating an accurate representation of the real world in the virtual world. All three founders of Surreal Vision have Ph.D.s from Andrew Davison’s pioneering lab at Imperial College London.

They said the next generation of scene reconstruction will enable a new level of presence and telepresence, allowing users to move around the real world and interact with real-world objects from within VR.

Recent versions of VR technology are vastly improved over the 1990s equipment that gave popular rise to the phrase virtual reality. Since then the technology has permeated business applications and other areas that benefit from an immersive environment. Surreal Vision said it wants to build telepresence systems that can be used in any conditions to connect people and worlds, including night or day and indoors or outdoors.

According to Surreal Vision, a lot of progress has been made toward that scenario, but there are still challenges. For virtual reality, the accuracy and quality of the continuously updating 3D reconstruction must be almost perfect, a requirement faced by few other other modern computer vision applications.

“When we cross these seminal thresholds, users will perceive the virtual world as truly real,” stated the Surreal team. “And that is the experience we’re driving toward.”

Fewer Updates

Key will be the ability to continuously reconstruct and track the world around users, according to Oculus, to help build an understanding of the world at a semantic level. That, said the company, will bring the power of the digital world to many everyday human interactions and lead to a computing platform that has true spatial awareness.

“The world is constantly in motion,” wrote the Surreal Vision team. “We are overhauling state-of-the-art 3D scene reconstruction algorithms to provide a rich, up-to-date model of everything in the environment, including people and their interactions with each other.”

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