It was recently brought to my attention that, if I thought things like Facebook’s volumetric cameras, Kandao’s plans for 6 DoF, and now Adobe’s Project Sidewinder were about moving freely in a 360 space, I was missing the point. Or, at least, the initial point.
Under that misconception, I wasn’t as impressed with Adobe’s announcement of Project Sidewinder from last week’s Adobe MAX event as I should have been.
As Adobe’s Stephen Diverdi took the stage in a headset and leaned a foot to the right, then looked over the pillar and bent down to the ground, all I could see was the stretching and the distortion of anything the camera didn’t actually “see” for itself. I was too distracted by peripheral imperfections to see what was right in front of me: imperceptible 6 DoF.
The idea behind Project Sidewinder is to use 360-degree depth maps to create a minor 6 DoF effect. And when I say minor, I do mean minor. This level of 6 DoF isn’t about feet or even inches. It’s about an inch. Or less than an inch.
This isn’t 6 DoF in the same way it’s been sold to me before. Despite all the leaning, tiptoeing and dipping in the presentation, big movements isn’t where Sidewinder shines. Instead, it’s about making objects appear more 3-dimensional as we turn our heads and look up and down (even as we keep our bodies still).
“Just that little bit of motion is something we’re really carefully atuned to because it’s how we see the real world,” Diverdi said. “Even with just a little bit of motion in the headset, that makes it feel like there’s real [this, that or the other thing] in front of me.”
This imperceptible and significantly less sexy version of 6 DoF recognizes that humans don’t move seamlessly like a camera panning and tilting. Our heads drift and bob as we move and even as we breathe. That’s where this level of 6 DoF shines.
To really understand the value of what seems to be such a minor improvement, I encourage you to watch the presentation. Ignore Diverdi’s exaggerated motions and focus on the “in between” moments. See how much more 3-dimensional it feels?
As a concept project, it’s possible Sidewinder will never make it into any Adobe products. If the industry thinks about it the way I did until a few hours ago, it probably won’t.
Knowing how pedantic our industry can be when it comes to definitions (“360 isn’t true VR,” anyone?), maybe it shouldn’t be called 6 DoF or we may argue about it for the next 2 years and convince Adobe it isn’t worth it.
Hopefully Adobe–and all of us–can see beyond Sidewinder’s peripheral imperfections and see what’s right in front of us: 3-dimensional, imperceptible 6 DoF.