Full HD 360-Degree Camera Screams Past Kickstarter Goal
A small team in France has created what it calls the world's first full HD 360-degree camera -- the 360cam by Giroptic. The 360cam is currently one of the hottest Kickstarter projects, blasting past its modest US$150,000 goal to rack up nearly $800,000 in crowd-based funding with 29 days to go.
So what is the 360cam?
Basically, it's a small, portable pear-shaped device that has three 185-degree fisheye lenses mounted on the top. These lenses are synchronized to capture and stitch images in real time inside the camera. It then produces image files that can be used to create panoramas or create multiple photos. Or you can use them to create immersive photos and video that can be moved around to change a viewer's perspective.
The experience is a lot like Google Street View, except the 360cam is priced like a consumer device. Super early birds snagged a 360cam for just $249. The $299 deals are all gone, but some are still available for $329, followed by a $349 tier option and up.
How the 360cam Works
The 2.7-inch by 2.7-inch 360cam packs a lot of tech inside its tiny housing. It uses MicroSD cards for recording, and it features built-in GPS, a gyroscope, three microphones for a surround sound sort of experience, and WiFi, which lets you turn the 360cam into a video streaming device. With the lightbulb attachment, you can plug the 360cam into a light socket and use it for home security, too.
The base provides a universal camera mount that lets you attach the 360cam to tripods or extension mounts.
It captures HD video at 2048 x 1024 at 30 frames per second with a field of view of 360 x 300-degrees, which means you can take photos and video of the sky as well as your feet. The only blind spot is a small area directly under its base. For regular sorts of photos, the size shakes out to 4096 x 2048, shootable at three frames per second.
In addition, it looks like a stretch goal has been reached that will enable the 360cam to use a mode that takes three sets of video streams that are not directly connected, resulting in three videos covering 130-degrees in a rectangular size of 1440 x 896 at 40 frames per second, or three videos with a 107-degree field of view at 1280 x 720 at 60 frames per second.
But wait -- there's more to the little 360cam: It's waterproof, too, and it even comes outfitted with a set of goggles to cover the three lenses, which Giroptic says helps produce better underwater photos and video.
To clarify, the 360cam features three discrete modes -- live, h.264 video streaming via WiFi, recording of 360-degree video to a MicroSD card, and regular photos through time lapse, timer, burst and HDR.
The 360cam files are standard equirectangular projections that are compatible with most 360-degree video and photo players -- like KRpano or Kolor Eyes -- but, "for the best 360cam experience" Giroptic recommends that customers download their own proprietary players.
The Kickstarter page, by the way, links to several video and photo galleries that you can check out -- a 360-degree selfie in New York, as well as some out and about summertime vids in Croatia and Zadar. For more, check out the Giroptic website gallery.
The 360cam also will feature Android and iOS apps, a desktop video player for Mac and PC, and a 360cam Oculus Rift video player.
The aforementioned early bird offerings already have been snapped up, of course, but Giroptic is offering several packages of rewards. The "Pioneer" tier includes one 360cam with underwater goggles for $329.
The Explorer version includes a lightbulb attachment base, all for $389.
The Entertainer brings a 360cam, goggles, and an extra battery for $579, and then Giroptic just starts adding in extra pieces to create bigger packages of units for developers or "visionary" backers -- who could get an early release version as soon as September.
Most backers are slated to get their 360cams in November.
Giroptic already has tested the electronic boards, and the 360cam has passed precertification tests for FCC and CE, which should prevent unexpected delays in the final certification process.
Manufacturing partners in Asia are lined up and ready to go, but Giroptic acknowledges that some component sourcing risks still exist, for instance, if a very large customer makes a high volume order that pushes a supplier back with the Giroptic order.
All in all, the prototypes and funding goals seem to align with a reasonably high likelihood that a working product actually will ship this year.