When we think of the concept of ‘living in the future’, there is perhaps no technology that encapsulates this more than virtual reality (VR) and other immersive media. We are now able to bridge the gap between the 2D and the 3D, getting immersed in new digital worlds, whether for entertainment, gaming, education, or even communication. But as is the case with many new technologies, there are great challenges still to overcome before it can be more universally adopted. “My focus is mainly on understanding how users interact with immersive content, because with this kind of content it's not any more like you're watching a TV screen, where what you see is decided by a director,” says Silvia Rossi, a postdoctoral researcher in the Distributed and Interactive Systems (DIS) group at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands. “Now with immersive media, you are the director, the viewer is the one that is deciding where to put the focus. This interaction is what makes this technology very fascinating, but at the same time makes it challenging.”
Quality of Experience
It’s challenging because immersive media like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and 360° video, have heavy technological demands. A VR headset needs to respond in real time to every tilt of the user’s head or movement of their hands. Compared to traditional media, these immersive environments therefore require very low latency (the response time between a user’s action and the content being served) and very high bandwidth (data transfer capacity). Silvia is working to “anticipate or understand” the types of movement and interactions users have inside different types of content, to optimise the system. “If we know in advance where the user will look, we can transmit that part of the content at high quality to ensure a good quality of experience,” she explains.