02 Ricoh, Giroptic Show 360 deg Cameras

Cameras and especially activity-based imaging devices have been on the rise for several years. Now two companies are taking this development a step further by demonstrating 360 degree cameras. This means that they acquire a 360 degree view of their surroundings all at once. You may ask what this can be used for or if this is just something that has been done because we can? As two independent companies have devised the same device at the same time, this indicates that there may be some real interest in this technology.

In both cases the independent images are automatically stitched into one image. Since 360 degree globe displays are not necessarily available in every home, the image is then cut at one line to create a flat image. As with any projection of a sphere, the resulting image shape depends on the projection method.

The Ricoh Theta is a small handheld camera that is aimed at capturing unique images from a consumer position. The camera has been available for some time and costs around $300 to $400.

The Ricoh has two fish eye lenses on opposite sides that create a 360 degree image. The internal memory of 4GB allows for videos of up to 3 min length and the device can store up to 40 min of video or 1,200 still pictures. Ricoh does not specify the resolution of the imagers.

Giroptic’s approach is a little different as it includes three cameras in a camera and is more aimed towards the activity camera market. This sector has generated a lot of interest from consumers, compared to the traditional camcorder and digital camera market.

The resulting images and video can be seen as a normal 2D image similar to the Ricoh Theta, however the experience improves when viewed on a globe display or virtual reality glasses. The following image shows the globe display running some video taken with the 360 cam. The resulting experience is that of looking from the outside onto the experienced horizon of the person taking the video.

The lower side shows the 360 cam bottom, the area the camera cannot see. The resulting image is somewhat of a crystal ball view of the world as the photographer saw it. With the integrated touch control on the globe you can actually see what happened behind the cameraman.

The next step is to view the resulting content on a virtual reality headset. The company showed a roller coaster ride on an Oculus Rift headset. Combined with the the head tracking in the Oculus Rift, you can turn your head and actually see what is going on behind you. The roller coaster ride also allows you to look down and to the side as everything that happened during the ride is viewable form the cameraman’s position and is recorded. – Norbert Hildebrand

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I can see the camera creating great content for virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift. This could be a great tool for creating virtual reality apps that provide location based accurate imagery. Itcould also be used for entertainment, training and other applications. No more, sorry I didn’t point the camera the right way, all the information is there.

Giroptic is still in the development phase, but has completed a Kickstarter campaign with over $1.4 million pledged, roughly 10 times what the company was asking for. I guess we will see this camera reaching the consumer in the future. (NH)