HEVC Tiling Techniques Allow Quick Updating of Only the Parts of a 360-Degree Image Appearing in the Oculus Viewport

Harmonic plans to prove a point at IBC with a demonstration of VR in native UHD resolution. At the show, Harmonic and Dutch research institute TNO will distribute VR content using TNO's patented tiled VR-streaming technology, which leverages HEVC tiling technology to increase the efficiency of streaming to 360-degree viewers.

The companies said the tiling system allows VR to be streamed at 10 times the resolution of existing solutions at comparable bitrates using existing networks and devices.

"In our demo, we will show UHD (2160p60) streaming to the Oculus Rift, which delivers 10 times higher resolution than legacy schemes," Harmonic VP of Video Strategy Thierry Fautier told StudioDaily. "In legacy schemes, the stream would be windowed in the Oculus Rift to 1/10th of the resolution. Due to the limited field of view, the stream would be upsampled to the display resolution, which leads to a poor quality of experience. With the tiling technology used in our demo, the native UHD resolution will be decoded and displayed, leading to a superior experience."

Fautier will present a paper titled "VR Video Ecosystem for Live Distribution" on Saturday, September 10 at 10:45 a.m. at an IBC conference session.

Existing VR streaming involves sending the full 360-degree video to a head-mounted device, phone, or tablet, TNO explained in a statement. The tiled streaming solution streams only "relevant tiles" that appear in the user's viewport, meaning only a fraction of the total 360-degree view is being updated. The updates are accomplished using standard HEVC encoding/decoding and HTTP streaming, with a low-latency protocol ensuring that the images are updated quickly when viewers turn their heads.

TNO diagram
Source: TNO

"Our solution relies on over five years of groundbreaking research in tiled streaming and media synchronization," said TNO Managing Director of Technical Sciences Peter Werkhoven in a prepared statement. "I am very pleased that we can now use our results and work with industry to unlock the magic of virtual reality for the broadest possible audience."