Friday, April 8, 2016

Have a 360 livestream with the Ricoh Theta S on HugVR

Now you can have a 360-degree livestream using your Ricoh Theta S and  The site requires the installation of Ricoh's recently released USB streaming software.

Founder Norikazu Takagi said he got the idea for Hug VR when he was about to get married.  His grandmother was bedridden in a hospital, 300 kilometers away, and could not attend the wedding. Using a camera, a personal robot, and a head mounted display, his grandmother was able to virtually hug his bride:

Thus, HugVR was born out of the Hug Project.  It doesn't have a robot interface, but you can feel close enough to hug someone with HugVR and a Ricoh Theta S camera.

Meanwhile, Ricoh has also announced plans to add video communication to the Ricoh Theta S in April.

First Video Samples from LG 360 Cam

One of the first video samples from the LG 360 Cam is now up, courtesy of Art of the Gadget!  Check it out:

If the video above doesn't work, here's the link:

UPDATE: here's another one from Android Central:

What do you think?

For related posts on the LG 360 Cam, please click on the label/tag below (below the sharing buttons).

Ricoh Theta UK announces winner of its contest

Ricoh Theta UK announced that the winner of its contest is Gavin Rolph.  As the winner, Gavin will receive a brand new Ricoh Theta S!

No word yet on the results of the Second Ricoh Theta Instagram Contest, or if it was quietly nixed.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Want an Orah but don't have $1.8k? Here are Cameras that Can Livestream in 360 for Less

The Orah 4i made a big splash in the news, with its ability to livestream in 360 in 4k.  There were lots of comments of amazement.  For example, Mashable's headline was: "Finally, a camera that can live stream virtual reality."  Engadget said "The Orah 4i camera makes live 360-degree videos a reality."  The Verge went on to say that the Orah "could make live-streaming VR cheap and easy."   Comments such as these were echoed on Twitter and elsewhere, with users drooling at the possibility of livestreaming in 360.

At first glance, the comments might make it seem as though the Orah is the first and only camera to livestream in 360.  It may be the first to do it in 4k @30fps, but it's definitely not the first to livestream in 360, and the cameras below can do it for less -- actually, much less:

LG 360 Cam will have 16mp photo resolution

The LG 360 Cam is due very soon (expected release date in May 2016), and we even know the price ($200), but we don't know a lot about the camera's specifications.  Well, now we know one more tidbit of information: the photo resolution will be 16 megapixels.  This specification showed up on the US version of LG's new site for the LG 360 Cam, although it doesn't show up on LG's sites for other countries such as the UK.

Note that the LG 360 Cam uses two 13mp sensors but seems to down-res them to 16mp.  This appears to be similar to the approach used by Ricoh in their Theta cameras.  The Theta S, for example, has two 12mp sensors, but the final image is 14mp.  This contrasts with Samsung's approach for the Samsung Gear 360 camera, which does not down-res.  The Gear 360 has two 15mp sensors and the final image is 30mp.

Limiting the resolution to 14mp may make it easier to transfer files, especially via Wi-Fi, and could save memory.  As for image quality, it is not necessarily going to be worse than that of the Gear 360.  For example, a Nikon D300 has only 12mp, while some consumer point and shoot cameras have over 20mp (e.g. Sony W810), but the D300 image would look more detailed and have less noise because the D300 has a much better sensor and better lens.

In this case, note that the LG 360 Cam uses 13mp sensors, which is not too different from Samsung's 15mp sensors (or the Theta S' 12mp sensors).  It hints that any difference in detail resolved will not necessarily be as great as their image file resolutions might imply.  Without samples and without the chance to actually compare the cameras side-by-side, we won't know which one has better image quality.

Insta360 Nano Now Available

The Insta360 Nano (previewed here), a compact 360-degree camera with up to 3k video resolution, is now available on AliExpress for $260 (free shipping to the US).  Meanwhile, an Insta360 rep said they plan to offer the Nano in the US for less than $200.

Cheap 360-Degree Cameras Are Here

Perhaps it's a commentary on the rising popularity of 360-degree cameras.  Cheap 360-degree cameras are now being sold on eBay.

This one, called the Cube 360, looks like the Kodak SP360.  Like the SP360, it has a hemispherical design (360 x 180) with a claimed aperture of f/2.  It's called a "Mini Sports Action Camera" but unlike the SP360, has no lens protection cover.  While the SP360 has a resolution of 16 megapixels, this one has a resolution of 1280 x 1042 (around 1.3 megapixels), which might refer to video resolution.  It does offer WiFi, although I don't know if that means connectivity with a smartphone, or just a desktop.  The price: just $85 with free shipping.

UPDATE:  Here's a video by Gear Obsession:

There is another cheap 360 degree camera with a slightly different design and better specs.  This one seems to be called the "X360," and costs a little more at just a shade under $100, but has several interesting features.

The resolution is claimed to be 12 megapixels (3472 x 3472).  It seems the image can be saved in several projections called round, 180 panorama and 360 panorama, "4 in 1," "3 in 1," and "2 in 1."  The video resolution is 1392 x 1392 at 30 fps in H.264 AVI. 

The X360 has a self-timer, burst mode (3, 5, or 10 images), timelapse mode and a "loop record" mode, which I am guessing means that it will record to a buffer that is continuously being overwritten to keep only the most recent video, of either 1, 3, or 5 minutes.  It also has HDR mode and a motion detection mode.  There is a function called "GSensor" with settings for Level1 to Level4.  It might refer to electronic stabilization but I'm purely speculating.

It has a waterproof enclosure that resembles GoPro's.  The enclosure seems like it could offer protection from dust as well.

These cameras may appeal to potential customers who are intrigued by 360 photos or videos but don't want to spend more than $100, or for photographers looking for a semi-disposable 360 camera to be used in risky situations.

The Sexiest VR Viewer

No doubt the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are amazing at what they do.  However, their design is almost purely functional and doesn't pretend to win you any style points. The Playstation VR headset does look a little cooler.  But the Playstation VR looks nowhere near as cool as this:

Join a VR House Party by Virgin Media

Join a house party in VR in Virgin Media's new 4k 3D 360-degree video ad!

To produce the video, Virgin Media used Jaunt's 24-camera rig.  Here it is in action:

Breathtaking Aerial 360 Photos of Machu Picchu and Cusco

Take a virtual tour of Machu Picchu and Cusco, Peru, with these amazing aerial 360 photos from AirpPano.

AirPano is a nonprofit project with the mission to take high resolution aerial spherical panoramas.  They have nearly 3,000 360 photos covering over 300 locations worldwide.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

VideoStitch's Orah 4i Camera can Livestream 360 in 4k

VideoStitch, a company that specializes in software for stitching 360 videos, is creating a new 360 camera with 4k livestreaming capability.  The camera is called the Orah 4i and is aimed at professionals. 

The Orah 4i has 4 cameras at 90-degree co-planar orientation.  Unlike most other 360-degree cameras, the Orah 4i has two components: a camera and a separate processing unit.

Although there are some consumer 360 cameras that can livestream in 360, such as the Ricoh Theta S, the 360fly, and the Insta360 4k, they were designed principally for 360 photography.  The Orah 4i can stream 360-degree 4k video at 30 fps, with a delay of as little as 10 seconds, depending on the streaming protocol. Moreover, it has 4-channel ambisonic sound, which means the 360-degree sound will match the viewer's perspective.

The Orah 4i is available for preorder for $1,795 (50% off the $3,595 MSRP) until April 30.

YouVisit adds VR Support for Virtual Tours of Universities

Universities in the US recently mailed out their acceptance letters and now it's time for prospective students to choose.  One way universities are enticing students is through virtual tours using 360-degree photos and videos.  Students can take virtual tours of over 1,000 universities and colleges from around the world on, which began in 2009 as a site for hosting virtual tours of universities but has since expanded to other categories such as travel, hospitality, and real estate. 

Now you can experience the YouVisit tours in virtual reality.  YouVisit added support for a virtual reality view via Oculus Rift, and on smart devices through Google Cardboard on the Youvisit VR app (a separate app from Youvisit).

Here are some universities that you can tour on YouVisit (in alphabetical order):

Another Sample 4k 360 Video from the Samsung Gear 360

a scene from Casey Neistat's video.

You can see another 360-degree 4k video sample from the soon-to-be-released Samsung Gear 360 camera.  The video is by YouTube celebrity vlogger Casey Neistat, and features some aerial shots, shots of him as a panelist at a Samsung event, and other scenes.

Note: on YouTube, you need to select the highest video quality by clicking on the gear button.  On a desktop, the resolution is up to 4k.  On a smart device, the resolution may be limited to 2k.

Casey has previously posted a 4k 360 video with the Samsung Gear 360 at the Oscars.

Casey has been an avid proponent of 360 video and his first 360 video (with the Theta) has over 3 million views.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Using the Ricoh Theta S for Astrophotography

horizontal line survey - image by Project Nightflight

How well does the Ricoh Theta S function for astrophotography?  Erwin Matys and Karoline Mrazek are founding members of Project Nightflight, an international group of experienced astrophotographers, headquartered in Austria.  Matys and Mrazek evaluated the Ricoh Theta S for its suitability for astronomy and astrophotography.  Here's what they found: "The Theta S has tremendous potential for astronomical usage and is a definite 'Buy!' for every astronomy and nature enthusiast."

"The Theta S has tremendous potential for astronomical usage and is a definite 'Buy!' for every astronomy and nature enthusiast."
- Erwin Matys & Karoline Mrazek, astrophotographers
and founding members, Project Nightflight

Among the features of the Theta that were noted by Matys and Mrazek was that the Theta could be oriented north-south then vertically leveled with a bubble, which results in alignment with accuracy better than ±0.5°.  Matys and Mrazek then overlaid the resulting image with parallel lines representing different heights, and azimuth labels.  With the overlay, it is possible to determine the height of the horizon.  Practical applications of Matys and Mrazek's method include being able to evaluate an observing site's horizon for obstructions such as mountains, etc. that would prevent observation of a passing celestial object.  This method can also be used to determine the amount of light pollution at a site.

Matys and Mrazek's paper can be accessed here.

Print Your 360-Degree Photos on a Scandy Sphere!

Image by Used with permission.
It's great to enjoy your 360 photo on a screen but there's no substitute for a print.  But how do you print a 360 photo?  One sweet way is to print it on a sphere!  Scandy can take your 360 photo and print it on a sphere or another object (such as a cup or bracelet).  Printing your image on a sphere allows it to wrap around naturally, so you can share the 360-degree view as you captured it.

Image by  Used with permission.

Hit the jump to see a video of this amazing concept!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Control your Ricoh Theta S with your Samsung Gear VR

Now you can take and view 360-degree photos with your Ricoh Theta S from within your Samsung Gear VR, thanks to the Theta S VR app by XVI, Inc.  The app allows you to connect the Gear VR via Wi-Fi to the Theta S. Once connected, you can control the Theta remotely and view photos from your Gear VR.

The app works only with the Theta S. The original and m15 Theta are not supported. 

Official page:

Try this instead of a selfie-stick tripod for your 360-degree camera!

You can't get this view with a selfie-stick...

Sometimes you need to use a stand for your 360-degree camera.  A selfie-stick with tripod legs is portable and convenient, but usually not very tall/long.  A regular camera tripod is taller but shows up prominently in the shot because of the larger panhead.  For greater height and stability, consider using a light stand.

In this post, I will show some of the benefits of using a light stand for your 360-degree camera.  I'll also help you select a light stand.  Hit the jump!