Valve is hedging its bets for 360-degree content, wanting to deliver even higher quality 360-degree video to consumers on VR headsets, just like their own HTC Vive headset.
During the recent Steam Dev Days event, Valve talked about its collaboration with video streaming services Pixvana and Akamai, where they'll be delivering adaptive 360-degree video streaming that will provide between 8K and 10K video quality using the same bandwidth as 1080p.
How will Valve cram up to 10K resolution content through the same bandwidth required for 1080p, but Pixvana's technology uses "adaptive bitrates for video delivery, depending on the user's direction of gaze. In other words, it drops the quality of the video stream for the angles you're not currently looking at" reports Road to VR, which is very similar if not identical to how NVIDIA does it with their new Multi-Res Shading technology, which just debuted for the first time in Shadow Warrior 2.
Road to VR continues: "Turn your head to look at a segment and the bitrate is upped to deliver a much higher quality image. This is how the technology achieves the "10k over 1080p bandwidth" claim - and it's an interesting approach, one which Facebook and others are exploring too". The new system is called FOVAS, or Field of View Adaptive Streaming, and was created by Pixvana and used in their Open Projection Format, which is capable of delivering up to 10K resolution using adaptive streaming techniques in existing video compression standards like AVC and H.264.
The site took a look at the video streaming technology, with Road to VR's Paul James explaining: "I took a look myself to see how the quality claims held up. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Indeed, the looping video clips demonstrated very good detail and a refreshing lack of compression artefacts. Once you turn your head to look at another angle, the compressed video outside of your previous viewport was then clearly pixelated and poor in quality before the system upped the bitrate and resolution again with the image becoming pleasingly detailed again".
James finished off by saying: "The transition is sudden however and a little jarring, but once it had transitioned there was no doubting it's one of the best quality streaming VR video I've yet seen. One (fairly major caveat) to the above I will add though - everything demonstrated in Pixvana's app is monoscopic, which means significantly less immersion and significantly less pixels needed to produce pleasing image".
I reached out to Anshel Sag, Associate Analyst at Moor Insights Strategy, who had the following to say: "Valve is going in the right direction with this move. They have cleared learned a lot about video streaming from their own Steam Link service. I question how this will help Steam seeing as how most non-gaming content is going to Viveport. But it should help figure out the question to how do you stream gaming in VR which i think we can all agree is going to be huge like it already is in regular gaming".