Viewpoint-Free Photography for Virtual Reality
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Viewpoint-free photography, i.e., interactively controlling the viewpoint of a photograph after capture, is a standing challenge. In this thesis, we investigate algorithms to enable viewpoint-free photography for virtual reality (VR) from casual capture, i.e., from footage easily captured with consumer cameras. We build on an extensive body of work in image-based rendering (IBR). Given images of an object or scene, IBR methods aim to predict the appearance of an image taken from a novel perspective. Most IBR methods focus on full or near-interpolation, where the output viewpoints either lie directly between captured images, or nearby. These methods are not suitable for VR, where the user has significant range of motion and can look in all directions. Thus, it is essential to create viewpoint-free photos with a wide field-of-view and sufficient positional freedom to cover the range of motion a user might experience in VR. We focus on two VR experiences: 1) Seated VR experiences, where the user can lean in different directions. This simplifies the problem, as the scene is only observed from a small range of viewpoints. Thus, we focus on easy capture, showing how to turn panorama-style capture into 3D photos, a simple representation for viewpoint-free photos, and also how to speed up processing so users can see the final result on-site. 2) Room-scale VR experiences, where the user can explore vastly different perspectives. This is challenging: More input footage is needed, maintaining real-time display rates becomes difficult, view-dependent appearance and object backsides need to be modelled, all while preventing noticeable mistakes. We address these challenges by: (1) creating refined geometry for each input photograph, (2) using a fast tiled rendering algorithm to achieve real-time display rates, and (3) using a convolutional neural network to hide visual mistakes during compositing. Overall, we provide evidence that viewpoint-free photography is feasible from casual capture. We thoroughly compare with the state-of-the-art, showing that our methods achieve both a numerical improvement and a clear increase in visual quality for both seated and room-scale VR experiences.