Google launches Immersive Stream for XR to power extended reality experiences from the cloud

Google launches Immersive Stream for XR to power extended reality experiences from the cloud

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Google Cloud is looking to power high-quality photorealistic augmented reality experiences for millions of mobile devices with the general availability of its Immersive Stream for XR service.

Announced today, Immersive Stream for XR is a cloud-hosted graphics rendering service powered by Google Cloud’s graphics processing units. It streams high-quality, detailed images and video to any device, and it can be leveraged by developers to create a range of immersive experiences.

The main advantage is that it does away with the need for devices to have powerful hardware or special applications to immerse users in 3D or AR worlds. Instead, all users have to do is scan a QR code or click a link and they can be transported to “extended reality,” Google says.

For instance, Immersive Stream for XR is what powers the “immersive view” feature in Google Maps. Google Cloud customers are also using the service to power various kinds of at-home shopping experiences, such as enabling consumers to visualize new appliances in their home or virtually configure a new vehicle.

Immersive Stream for XR is also being beefed up with support for Unreal Engine 5, the popular graphics engine that powers some of the most popular video games titles. With Unreal Engine features such as Nanite and Lumen, companies will be able to create bigger and more realistic extended reality experiences, Google said.

To prove its point, Google gave the example of Kia Germany, which uses Immersive Stream for XR on its website to allow customers to browse and customize vehicles in photo realistic detail. Users can jump right inside the vehicle, virtually, look around its interior and customize it to their tastes, all from its website. They can even use its mobile app to visualize how the car would look sitting on their own driveway.

“Our users love that they can change colors, engines, and interact with the model in 3D and augmented reality,” said Jean-Philippe Pottier, manager of Digital Platforms at Kia Germany.

The new service also makes it possible for people to explore historical landmarks from the comfort of their own homes. A company called Virtual Worlds LLC employs photogrammetry techniques to capture images of historical sites, then polishes those images and creates interactive experiences based on them. Google explained that, previously, it was only possible to enjoy these immersive experiences using powerful GPU-based hardware to perform the graphics rendering, limiting their usefulness. Now Virtual Worlds can stream its interactive experiences to any device, taking users on an educational tour of the Great Sphinx in Egypt, for example.

“We’ve captured incredible sites from Machu Picchu to the Pyramids of Giza and we want everyone to be able to explore these monuments and learn about our heritage,” said Virtual Worlds Chief Executive Elliot Mizroch. “Immersive Stream for XR finally gives us this opportunity.”

Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. said it will be exciting to see how brands can leverage Google’s new graphics tools, noting that the battle for cloud-hosted AR/VR platforms will likely be decided by the custom, specialized hardware that powers these next-generation applications. “Google is offering support for Unreal Engine on its powerful GPUs, bundled up as Immersive Stream for XR,” he said. “It’s a capable platform and it’s going to be interesting to watch what kinds of workloads it will bring to Google Cloud.”

Images: Google, Kia Germany, Virtual Worlds

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