In the past year, virtual reality broadcasting startup, NextVR, has been a frequent topic in the media for its impressive media deals and ability to raise funds. Earlier this month, NextVR closed an $80
million Series B round of funding, with an eye towards expanding into Asian markets where demand for virtual reality content is growing. Continuing on with its global push, it was also recently announced that, in conjunction with FOX Sports, NextVR would present the opening football match of the 2016/2017 Bundesliga season in virtual reality.
Less reported, however, is the fact that NextVR is quietly building a patent portfolio for encoding, streaming and displaying 360 video. Last week, six new patent applications were published having NextVR as the assignee. According to our search of FPO, NextVR has 32 worldwide patents and patent applications. (By comparison, Oculus has 42.)
The majority of NextVR’s patent applications, published on August 18, are directed to methods and apparatus for using “selective resolution reduction on images to be transmitted and/or used by a playback device.” These applications appear to cover methods and devices for downsampling video content using texture maps and mesh models before presenting the video content on a HMD. As the application explains, “reducing the resolution of images which are less likely to be viewed while maintaining the resolution of portions of images corresponding to an environment which are likely to be viewed, it is possible to make efficient use of limited bandwidth available for streaming image data to a playback device.”
While downsampling video is certainly not a new technology, the novelty of NextVR’s invention appears to relate to the use of texture (or “UV maps”), which are stored on the server and sent to the (HMD-connected) client ahead of the image data. The application describes “different UV maps in combination with selective resolution reduction can be used to allocate different amounts of resolution to different portions of an image of an environment depending on which portion of the environment is considered important at a given point in time while the same environmental model is used despite the different allocations of resolution.” Another interesting aspect of the technology, as described in the application, is that “the data rate used for transmitting images can be held relatively constant since the number of pixels in the images can remain the same with the UV map controlling the allocation of pixels to portions of the environment.”
NextVR’s recently published patent applications can be viewed here.