Friday, March 11, 2016

BBC's Click Broadcasts an Episode Entirely in 360

BBC will be broadcasting a full episode of its technology show Click entirely in 360.  Fittingly, the episode is about CERN and the Large Hadron Collider.  Using a 360 view gives viewers an opportunity to behold the gargantuan LHC.

previous episode of Click which aired on March 5 also investigated how virtual reality could affect relationships.
Here is the link to Click's 360 episode, on YouTube (for best results, please choose the highest resolution).  Here is BBC's own article describing how they made the episode, including the special challenges of 360 videography.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

USA Today Launching a VR Format News Site

VRtually There

USA Today Network is launching a news site that will be exclusively in VR, this Spring.  The site, VRtually There, will allow viewers to view news in 360, whether by desktop, smartphone, or VR headset.  You can check out the page now to view some news stories in VR.

USA Today's announcement is here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

LA Fashion Week to be livestreamed in 360 via Spinnable

If you have an iOS device and want to see a livestream in 360, here's your chance.  LA Fashion Week will be livestreamed in 360 through the Spinnable app, from March 17-19.  LA Fashion Week is an organization that produces two shows each year, in March and October, showcasing state of the art fashion.  Spinnable is a social media platform for sharing 360 photos and videos.  Previous livestreaming events on Spinnable have included the 22nd Nobel Peace Prize concert.

The schedule of the shows from March 17 to 19 is posted here.

The livestream is free to users of Spinnable.  To view the livestream, users need to go to the home page on their app, which will have a red button on the top left corner when the livestream is available.

Ricoh Hints at Features for Next Theta

Ricoh hinted at some of the features it may include in its next version of the Theta, as revealed in a survey that it conducted among current Theta users.  The survey was posted as a link on Ricoh's official Theta page,  The survey inquired about which features users wanted or expected.  Among the features that Ricoh inquired about are:
  • Higher resolution for photo and/or video.
  • Adding sound to still images.
  • Adding a small LCD viewfinder.
  • Having a removable battery.
  • Having an external memory card.
  • Additional connectivity options such as Bluetooth or NFC.  Currently, the Theta uses only WiFi, USB and HDMI).
  • Having a dedicated remote control (wired or wireless).  The Theta currently uses a smartphone as a remote control.
  • Compatibility with a drone such as the Parrot.
  • Compatibility with Playstation 4 (presumably in anticipation of Playstation VR) and/or a head-mounted VR system such as Oculus.
  • Use of the Theta for video conferencing, such as via Skype or WhatsApp.
  • Use of the Theta in a work environment.  This could be a possibility for some professions that require field work.
  • Weatherproofing, shockproofing and lens protection - Some of the Theta's competitors are marketed as action cameras, such as the Kodak SP360 and SP360 4k, and the upcoming Nikon Keymission.  It appears Ricoh is looking into this as a possibility.  In addition to action camera users, this would be welcome for users who have complained about the fragility of the Theta's lenses.
  • "Flashlight" - This may seem at first to be an unusual feature, but it may be referring to an LED flash and/or a continuous light, similar to those found in smartphones.  This can be useful for taking photos of nearby subjects in low light.
  • additional editing capabilities for the Theta+ app.
Some of the features have already been implemented via firmware update or otherwise:
  • Elimination of the shutter sound.
Among features that were not mentioned were in this survey were:
  • Self-timer: although this has been requested by many users, Ricoh did not inquire into it in this survey.
  • Image stabilization.
  • External microphone jack.
The survey period is for one month, from February 24 to March 23, 2016.  A link to the survey is here.  Ricoh will choose 10 respondents who have completed the survey and provide them with $100 Amazon gift cards.

Nine new 360 cameras planned for launch by GO6D

some of GO6D's cameras

At least nine different 360-degree cameras are being developed by startup GO6D, although details are sparse at this time.

1.  The GO6D Trie is a consumer-oriented 360-degree camera with 3 lenses.  The advantage of having 3 lenses is that each of the lenses require a smaller field of view than a 2-lens 360-degree camera, thus having potentially less fisheye distortion.  GO6D claims that the Trie offers the "best-in-class fully spherical video solution."

2.  The Trie Pro is a tall 3-lens camera with a form that resembles a handle-mount flash.  The large lenses suggest that this will have higher image quality and possibly higher resolution.

3. BeMeBe is a 3-lens camera with a cylindrical body and a collapsible design.

4.  SWAG is a green spherical camera that appears to have two lenses.

5.  GO6D has a silver disclike 3-lens camera that is yet to be named.

6.  The Spartan appears to be a spherical camera with approximately 4 lenses, and with a striking red and black design.

7. The "Wo-Qi" is a spherical yellow camera.  It is not clear how many lenses it has, but it appears to have approximately 6 lenses.

8.  Puff6D is described as having "6 dimensions."  It has a collapsible design.

9.  Pinc is a spherical camera that appears to have 8 lenses.

It is not apparent how GO6D will differentiate these cameras that seem to have overlapping features.

GO6D stated that it will have more information about its cameras after launch.  GO6D's 3-lens cameras (presumably including the Trie and Trie Pro) will be launched at the South by Southwest Conferences (SXSW) 2016 from March 11-20, 2016 in Austin, Texas.  The "8-lens camera" (presumably Pinc) will be launched at the CEDIA 2016 expo from September 14-17, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

GO6D is based in Irvine, California.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

March Madness to be Broadcast in 360 VR

Next VR's webpage describes some of its VR offerings
Fox Sports, in cooperation with Next VR, will be broadcasting March Madness in 360, including the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, from March 10 to 12. 

Viewers can watch the games from several perspectives, including courtside and close-ups.

The broadcasts can be viewed through the Samsung Gear VR.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Six Flags and Samsung Introduce Virtual Reality (VR) Roller Coasters

Six Flags Entertainment Company is partnering with Samsung Electronics to add synchronized 360-degree video experiences on their roller coasters via Samsung Gear VR headsets.  Called Virtual Reality (VR) Roller Coasters, roller coaster riders will don Samsung Gear VR headsets to be immersed in a 360-video experience synchronized with their roller coaster's movements.  Six Flags will launch the VR Roller Coasters starting March 10 in its Arlington, Texas park, followed by rollouts in other locations throughout the U.S. in Spring.

This sounds very exciting and innovative.  If VR Roller Coasters are well received, it can also build awareness for other 360 products and media.

Alton Towers' Galactica VR-enhanced roller coaster ride

Disney and ABC Showcase 360 Moviemaking with Quantico VR

Disney and ABC created a 360-degree movie tie-in to their popular new TV show Quantico.  Co-sponsored by Lexus, Quantico VR puts the audience on a mission with two of the show's characters.  Although the 360 short film was designed to lead into the March 6 episode of the TV show, it is written for both Quantico fans as well as new audiences who have not yet seen the show.  Quantico VR can be viewed on desktop (via YouTube*), smartphones, VR headsets, or Apple TV.

*For best viewing results, be sure to select the highest resolution.

Preview: Insta360 is a 360-degree 4k video camera

Insta360 is an upcoming 360-degree video camera that aims to be the first consumer spherical camera with 4k video resolution.  It uses two fisheye lenses but instead of being back to back as in the Ricoh Theta, the fisheye lenses are slightly offset from each other.  

Here are its key features:
  • fully spherical 360x360 photos and videos
  • uses two 230-degree fisheye lenses and two 8-megapixel Sony CMOS sensors
  • aperture is f/2
  • uses MicroSD cards up to 32GB
  • video resolution: 4096x2048
  • photo resolution: 4096x2048 (JPEG)
  • has a 3.5mm microphone input.  This feature is very uncommon among 360 cameras, and can be quite useful to videographers.
  • can be powered with an external AC adapter
The video is recorded in a proprietary .INSV format.  However, the included software will allow you to convert the video into MP4.

Insta360 can be controlled wirelessly via a smartphone through the Insta360 Explorer app.  The app is available for both Android and iOS.  Insta360 also has a Player app available for Android, iOS, Windows and OS X.  The player appears to be hardware agnostic and can be used to view 360 photos and videos from other cameras.  Besides navigating by swiping, you can also choose a Google Cardboard mode, which is navigated by gyro / motion control.  The player includes a sample 360 video, with impressive image quality.  (Note: The video on the iOS app is limited to 2k.)

Here is another sample video:

Here is a company video on YouTube, which seems to show that the Insta360 has live-streaming capabilities as well.

​Insta360 is available for pre-order now from B&H Photo for $899.  (In the interest of full disclosure, B&H is currently involved in a lawsuit for alleged discrimination.)  For more information, you can check out Insta360's official page.