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I need to sit up straight.
That was my first reaction after watching GeekWire’s first-ever interview done in volumetric video.
Last month we had a chance to sit down with Adam Kirk, CEO of Omnivor, a Seattle startup that is developing volumetric video technology. It’s a new media format that captures a three-dimensional scene with an array of surrounding cameras and lets the viewers engage with content from any angle.
Check out the video above for an example. You can use your mouse — or fingers — to move around myself and Kirk as we chat about Omnivor. The interview was captured with 51 cameras at the company’s headquarters and then stitched together with Omnivor technology.
“You’ve likely seen 360-degree video, where you are at a single point in space looking out into the world. It’s inside-out,” Kirk explained. “This is more like outside-in. We film a scene from the outside and then viewers can move around or even through the content.”
Omnivor describes itself as a turn-key solution for volumetric video, helping clients film, process, host, and stream content on any device ranging from virtual reality headsets to smartphones. Its camera setup is portable and can be ready in four hours.
The 5-person company is working with beta customers in industries such as retail, entertainment, and training. Last year Omnivor partnered with Seattle-based creative firm Electric Coffin for an augmented reality sculpture experience that let users see a 10-foot-tall sculpture through their smartphones.
Kirk doesn’t see the new technology as a replacement for traditional 2D video, but rather a new type of media that can increase engagement by giving viewers more control of the experience.
“We’re interested in how you build a world that responds to your movements and gives you what we call agency, or the ability to control what you’re seeing,” Kirk said.
Omnivor recently released a new AR mobile app that lets people watch volumetric video content anywhere. For example, you can watch our interview from your dining room table.
Researchers have been working on volumetric video for several years, but the technology is becoming more accessible for startups such as Omnivor, 8i, 4dviews, DepthKit, and others. Jaunt is one of the larger players, having raised more than $100 million. The company last year showed off its own AR volumetric capture product.
Tech giants are also investing in the space. Microsoft has its own Mixed Reality Capture Studios while Intel last year built a 10,000 square-foot studio for filming volumetric video and showed off the tech at CES last month. Intel is also using volumetric video in the sports industry for instant replays.
This Intel Studios volumetric video demo is cool, lets you control the angles of a Grease dance sequence by moving around the screen #CES2019 pic.twitter.com/0TAiaynhGb
— Devindra Hardawar (@Devindra) January 8, 2019
Kirk said Omnivor differentiates itself from competitors by focusing specifically on streaming technology that can render on a wide range of devices.
“The rules of how you film volumetric content and how viewers want to consume it haven’t been written yet and that’s one of the really exciting things about this right now,” he said.
Omnivor is a spinout of Kernel Labs, a Seattle-based startup studio whose portfolio includes other companies such as Blue Canoe Learning, Occo, Answer IQ, and Trusted Key. Kirk joined Kernel in 2015 as its vice president of engineering after nearly five years at Microsoft and has kept that role while leading Omnivor. He earned his Ph.D in computer science from the University of California-Berkeley in 2010.
Omnivor has raised more than $2 million to date from angel investors and institutional firms.