Known worldwide for its contribution to the MPEG format compression technology used in MP3 audio files and MP4 videos – the German Fraunhofer recently turned its attention to the next frontier in media: virtual reality.
Following the release of available microdisplay equipment for VR headsets last year, the company now demonstrates next-generation video compression software using the new MPEG-OMAF standard, VR’s first specification, allowing 360-degree video to be broadcast over 5G networks.
Based in a “substantial” part on the video compression technology of Fraunhofer, MPEG-OMAF splits the video into grid zones encoded in several resolutions. On the example of the image above, you can see that the red zones are used to designate areas that are transmitted in low resolution, compared to ordinary colored zones, which are transmitted in high resolution.
Unlike traditional videos that are broadcast from servers in the same user-selected resolution, these VR videos dynamically use high-resolution zones that the viewer is currently watching, and low-resolution zones for parts that are out of sight. When the user’s head position changes, the headset or display device requests another combination of stream areas optimized for the current focus area of the user.
This trick allows all 360-degree video to continue streaming, paying maximum attention to what the user sees at the moment. It parallels the recent use of foveated rendering to maximize real-time 3D graphics for VR users, ensuring that the viewer can always see something with his peripheral vision, even if it is lower in clarity.
The international cellular standards organization 3GPP adopted the MPEG-OMAF standard for 5G VR streaming, so it will probably support many 360-degree video streams in virtual reality – just like MP3 and MP4, were defining in the previous generation of digital audio and video. Current 360-degree VR videos broadcast over 4G and even Wi-Fi networks, which tend to suffer from general low resolution, compression problems and high latency.
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