Dozens of cameras surround the subject and record a 360-degree video, capturing its dimensions and volume. The different viewpoints are then merged to create a digitized 3D image. Typically, the process is carried out by technicians in a professional studio — both time-consuming and expensive.
But this could be about to change, as Irish startup Volograms has made the process available to anyone with an iPhone via its free app Volu. Launched on the App Store in September and soon to be available on Android, it’s the first content creation app capable of turning standard mobile video into augmented reality, Volograms says.
While the phone camera only captures video from one angle, the app uses artificial intelligence to estimate the 3D shape and texture of a person in areas that the camera does not see. It uses algorithms that have been trained on thousands of human models captured in Vologram’s professional studios. Then it converts the moving image to a hologram, or what the company refers to as a “vologram.”
Users can then play with the vologram in creative ways, shrinking or enlarging the figure and superimposing it on any backdrop, adding filters that change the transparency or color of the image, and mixing realities by adding a virtual doppelganger to a standard video.
The aim, says Rafael Pagés, the company’s CEO and co-founder, is to make augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) content creation available to the everyday consumer.
“We wanted to create something that would enable anyone, not just the professionals, to create content, play with it, share it,” he tells CNN Business.
But Vologram, which says it has raised €2.3 million ($2.7 million) in funding since it was founded in 2018, is one of the few making volumetric capture available to everyday consumers. The Volu app is free, although the company says it plans to incorporate paid-for “pro features.” Currently, Vologram’s main source of income still comes from its professional studio service.
Cathy Hackl, a tech futurist specializing in AR and VR, believes that there’s strong demand for both “high quality Hollywood content” produced by professionals and amateur content created on a smartphone. But the latter will be crucial in driving mass adoption of the technology, she says.
“Giving the tools to people now, so that they can access [the technology] on their phones and create this content is very powerful,” she tells CNN Business.
By breaking down the barriers to entry, Pagés hopes Volu will empower a “new generation of creators” and transform communication as we know it.
“This is just the beginning,” he says. “Right now it lives in an app and you can create fun, engaging content there to share with your friends and family. But we think this technology could be easily integrated into the headset or into [smart] glasses, so that it can become the next generation camera.”