Virtual Reality has the potential to fully transform viewers’ experience but real mass adoption is subject to providing life-like quality content which poses many infrastructure challenges. The Cisco Visual Networking Index for Mobile predicts that Virtual Reality traffic will increase at a 60% compound annual growth rate thru to 2021. The number of VR headsets is expected to grow at the same rate to nearly 100 million by 2021 and more than half of these will be connected to smartphones.
From broadcasting and social media to enterprise and online gaming, many industries can benefit from immersive Virtual Reality experiences. Virtual tickets are new revenue generators that can become an important part of live events such as sports, concerts or trade shows. While media companies don't want to miss opportunities on what might be the next big thing, they are cautious as they are still on the learning curve of how to create and deliver content in a whole new way.
To achieve a fairly immersive experience, 360 degree video resolution needs to be at least 8K. Handling such high resolution has a significant impact on both bandwidth and compute across the entire workflow. On one hand, bandwidth needs to be optimized in order to carry 8K VR video to the central processing elements over existing networks. With a 50% bitrate improvement over AVC, HEVC plays a key role on VR live streaming enablement. On the other hand, HEVC adds to the VR computational complexity with the computational cost of real-time 8K HEVC encoding being 40X that of Full HD AVC.
In addition to real-time encoding, VR live streaming also relies on real-time stitching of several video sources from different cameras to generate the 360 degree view. This new stage also consumes high computational resources and is critical to the final VR quality.
To produce live 8K VR content, HEVC encoding of several ultra-high definition streams will be required in order to keep bandwidth under control while providing a good quality visual experience. However, live event production has a series of constraints in terms of space, weight and power. To tackle this, hardware acceleration can be leveraged in order to build compact live 8K VR encoders that streamlines VR content production and can be hidden from the 360 degree view.
The VEGA-3304 is a PCI Express accelerator that supports 8K acquisition, real-time HEVC encoding and can be plugged into standard server GPU slots to create powerful and efficient live VR encoders. Enjoying a reduced bandwidth, the encoded streams can be sent to the cloud to be stitched and delivered. The proposed cloud architecture is shown in the image below and greatly simplifies 8K VR live streaming workflows enabling hyper immersive solutions without jeopardizing quality.