Holograms aren't just for Tupac or Princess Leia anymore.
That's what Vimeo shares in a new blog post about how it is bringing live streamed "volumetric content" to the masses. Or, at least the creative filmmakers and somewhat technologically savvy masses.
On Monday, Vimeo laid out a how-to manual for how an average person can use its new tools to live stream a 3D video of themselves.
"We’re really excited about helping new media artists, creative technologists, art directors, or people who are exploring the boundaries of storytelling, and pushing past that," Vimeo's head of its Creator Labs division Casey Pugh told Mashable.
What Vimeo is trying to advance is a concept the video company is calling "telepresence," or in other words "the idea of live presence, of knowing something represented in virtual 3D space is actually happening right now somewhere else."
What this practically looks like is watching a live 3D image of another person on a screen. Or, even better, the 3D stream of a person in VR. So we're not talking ubiquitous stand-alone projections a la sci-fi, yet. Although Pugh said that Vimeo's tools would allow for rendering that sort of hologram of a person, when paired with true 3D projection technology.
Vimeo provides a step-by-step guide for how to stream live 3D video, along with the creation of two new products that makes the magic happen. To stream 3D live with Vimeo, you'll need a depth-sensing camera (Vimeo recommends the $100 RealSense D415). You'll need a Vimeo Live membership. And finally, you'll need an understanding of how to execute code, which could be the barrier to entry for some.
The Vimeo Depth Viewer is the company's new 3D camera interface. Working with the free and open source video encoding software, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), these tools allow you to convert a 3D video into a live stream. The Depth Viewer essentially color-codes a 3D video, with blueish purple hues communicating that that pixel is far away, and red colors meaning the pixel is close. Translating the data of depth-sensing image into colors allows it to be converted into stream-able code.
The next part is a bit trickier. Vimeo writes that in order to actually view the stream, "you need to build a web application that can ingest the live stream and render it into a 3D hologram." Vimeo built this for you, with the Vimeo Depth Player, which is what enables a stream on the other end to ingest and play 3D video. But you'll need to know how to run code to build a web application in the first place.
"In terms of distribution, we’ve made it much easier, whereas it was pretty hard before," Pugh said.
"Our dream is that at some point someone will build a creative experiment that is super accessible to everyone based upon this technology."
Though Vimeo's guide to building holograms isn't so simple that anyone can do it, it's a far cry from needing the sci-fi, expensive, and heavy-duty hardware one might imagine is necessary to go all Star Trek Holodeck. And our description here is just an overview. If you're serious about creating your own "telepresence," Vimeo's guide on its blog is remarkably easy to follow, and we suggest you check it out here.
The hologram ubiquitous future isn't here, yet. But it's getting closer.
"Essentially we’re packing data into the pixels, the color, of the video," Pugh said. "When you marry those two things together — the video, and the rainbow depth map — that’s us essentially packing all the data you need to then in real time merge those two together to create yourself into a 3D shape."