Immersive Digital Experience Alliance Launches at NAB 2019

The Immersive Digital Experience Alliance (IDEA) has debuted, with the stated goal of creating royalty-free specifications for all immersive media formats, including light field technology. The Alliance’s founding members include CableLabs, Charter Communications, Light Field Lab, OTOY and Visby. The Alliance has started developing the Immersive Technology Media Format (ITMF), slated for release in 2019, which the group believes will “serve as an interchange and distribution format that will enable high-quality conveyance of complex image scenes.”

ITMF is intended to be useful for a range of media including six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF), immersive displays, gaming, VR and AR. “Light Field technology can enable a new immersive future and we want to start establishing standards,” said IDEA technical advisor Pete Ludé. “To gather marketplace and technical requirements, we’re working closely with content creators, equipment manufacturers, and network providers. If we omit any of them, we’ll have an incomplete solution.”

CableLabs immersive media strategist Dr. Arianne Hinds added, “As a display-agnostic format, ITMF will provide near-term benefits for today’s screen technology, including VR and AR headsets and stereoscopic displays, with even greater benefits when light field panels hit the market.” “If light field technology works half as well as early testing suggests, it will be a game changer,” she said. “And the cable industry will be there to help support distribution of light field images with the 10G platform.”

Ludé added that the Alliance plans to facilitate interoperability testing and demonstrations, to “show how this could be used for the future of storytelling” and to produce educational events and materials for filmmakers and others in the ecosystem. The Alliance is also planning an educational seminar, taking place in Los Angeles this summer, to explain more about the requirements for immersive media and the benefits of the ITMF approach.

Light Field Lab chief executive John Karafin noted that light field capture systems are already in use. “This isn’t new and unproven,” he said. “ITMF wants to address some of the requirements including incomplete sampling, reflection, transparency and specularity and fine structure.” Ludé added that the Alliance is also about live images of all sorts, not just CG images. “The ITMF standard is to take computer graphics, volumetric, light field arrays, and AI and computational photography to meld into an Immersive Technology Media Format,” he said.

OTOY founder/chief executive Jules Urbach revealed that the ITMF standard will be based on his company’s ORBX scene graph format, a well-established data structure widely used in advanced computer animation and computer games. “It’s a multi-disciplinary set of tools: Lightstage for capture; OctaneRender for rendering; and ORBX Media Player for streaming,” he said. “IDEA will provide extensions to expand the capabilities of ORBX for light field photographic camera arrays, live events, and other applications.”

IDEA will also establish specs for network streaming, transcoding of ITMF for specific displays and archiving, as well as preserve backward-compatibility on the existing ORBX format.