Earlier this year Oculus CTO John Carmack revealed a new video playback technique designed to bring high-resolution video to mobile headsets like Oculus Go. Oculus released a sample of the system and developer Cubicle Ninjas saw a perfect opportunity to adapt the code to their Guided Meditation VR app, resulting in a vastly improved visual experience.

While Guided Meditation VR is rendered in real-time on tethered headsets which are backed by a PC with plenty of processing power, the mobile Oculus Go version of the app, relies on 360 video captures of the virtual environments instead. The monoscopic 360 footage is a far cry from the crisp real-time 3D renderings found on the PC version, making it more difficult to get lost in the app’s otherwise often beautiful environments.

But then along came a new method for playing back 360 video content on Oculus Go. Developed by Oculus CTO John Carmack, with the goal of delivering top quality playback, the technique involves rendering individual strips of high resolution footage depending upon where the user is looking. Doing so allows the more of the device’s video decoding power to be put to work where it matters most (where the user is looking) rather than spreading evenly everywhere.

Carmack Details New 5K Mobile VR Playback Tech, Releases Sample for Developers

The technique happened to be very well suited to the static viewpoints of Guided Meditation VR, and the developers went to work adapting Carmack’s sample code to the app.

The result is a major leap in visual fidelity for serene scenes in Guided Meditation VR, which are being slowly updated for the new format. Not only does the new approach bring 3D to the table (which is already a big step forward for immersion over monoscopic video) but the scenes now look nearly as if they’re being rendered in real-time, except with graphics which Oculus Go could never hope to deliver with its limited processing power.

Having built a full Unity integration for the playback system, Cubicle Ninjas claims they’re the first to deploy Carmack’s VR playback tech outside of the re-release of Oculus’ Henry on mobile headsets which was first used to demonstrate the new technique. They’ve also built some extra functionality on top, like the ability to add 3D objects rendered in real-time into the scene, which they use to layer in near-field effects like falling leaves and floating dust.

The move to this new playback tech is a clear net positive for Guided Meditation VR, but it isn’t without some drawbacks. You can sometimes see the higher quality video strips pop into place as you turn your head, but it’s not too bothersome and doesn’t overtly harm the experience. Another downside, which is a necessary conceit based on how the playback system is designed, is that the quality at the top and bottom poles of the scene is clearly lower resolution than the rest. That’s fine when most of what you’re interested in looking at is near the horizon, but in scenes where you’re close to tall trees (which naturally draw your eyes up to the canopy) or interesting things like rocks and grass at your feet, it becomes apparent. Smartly chosen scene compositions will make best use of the new playback method.

Right now the app offers just eight scenes in the special 5K format (out of a library of 100 or so), though the studio says each week they’ll be adding more and update existing scenes with the extra quality. The 5K content is only available on the Oculus Go version of the app; the Gear VR version will see the same quality as before the 5K update.

In addition to letting you immerse yourself in scenic vistas, the app includes hours of guided meditation voiceovers to instruct your relaxation; the studio has confirm to Road to VR that a new series of meditations on Mindfulness will soon debut in the app.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • impurekind

    It still pisses me off that I can’t check out this stuff on the Rift just to see how much of an improvement it is for these kinds of 360 images/videos.

  • fuyou2

    No Rift Support What a fucking joke. Can you move around in these videos? Ofcourse not. How boring

    • benz145

      The game supports Rift but renders in real-time instead (which is preferable to pre-rendered).

    • On the desktop version of Guided Meditation VR you can both teleport and float through over 30 environments.

    • care package

      There is a difference between 360 video and rendered environments. IF/when big budget movies ever have 180/360 VR capabilities, you still aren’t going to be able to move your head within the environment.

  • eckehard

    sieht aus wie ein schlampiger Schwenk mit einer 20 Jahre alten Amateur-Video-CAM — uscharf – verschattet – … relegiert eigentlich keiner bei roadtovr die Beiträge ??

    • MadMax1998

      Vielleicht solltest du dich dazu herablassen, Englisch zu schreiben, wenn du schon die Website kritisierst, damit man dich auch versteht.

  • jj

    yeahhhhh this is pointless. anybody who meditates knows its not about whats around you. When you meditate you are purposefully ignoring and blocking those out, with your eyes closed or at least just focusing on one thing. We joked about making this a few years ago as well and laughed because of how stupid of an idea it was.

    Its nice for setting a tone and the guided meditation audio is pretty nice, but very limited. The people who do meditate wont use this at all, because strapping technology to your face is pretty much the very last thing you want to do when meditating. Those who want to get into meditation will try this but ultimately it wont be the same. Meditation is about looking and thinking inside yourself, and anything else is just a distraction, so this whole thing is basically a distraction.

    • Mei Ling

      Spoken like a true monk.

    • Foreign Devil

      Yep there is a good reason Zen meditators meditate facing a blank wall.

    • VR4EVER

      Yeahhhh, you can use the app to relax in great looking environements – no need to meditate for zen monks.

      • jj

        yeah thats a good point it will help people get into meditation and if not its a great stress reliever and just a place to relax even when ur in a city :)

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    I think Jurrasic World: Blue experience is also utilizing 5k Carmack encoding. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter who was first as long as we get more companies to adopt 5k. It’s a bit of a shame transitions are not seamless but it’s definitely better than having a low res video or having to wait for a >4gb download.

    • impurekind

      Not on the Rift as far as I’m aware.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Wait, is that available as is? Is this compatible with Oculus Mobile only or Vive, CV1 and Daydream as well?


    I really love this app! Use it every day to relax (this and Ocean Rift, so sooting). And for meditation beginners its great!

    • jj

      thats great to hear!

  • MadMax1998

    Unfortunately this won’t fix the over-the-top world scale and the bad audio quality of the meditations. I bought this app on Rift a year ago and it was such a letdown. It’s not immersive for me at all. Check out ‘Perfect’ (on Rift); it doesn’t have meditation guides but is so much more like being in another place.