Saturday, August 20, 2016

HTC Vive will enable spectator mode for mixed reality livestreams

a mixed reality scene from the HTC Vive promo video
We'll soon see more mixed reality livestreams from games on the HTC Vive (reviewed here), thanks to an upcoming spectator mode.

DEALS: Samsung Gear 360 for $350 with FREE Same Day Shipping with Amazon Prime! Here's how to check if you can use the Gear 360.

The Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here) is still the most affordable 4k 360-degree camera right now and also takes 30mp 360-degree photos.  It became officially available in the US yesterday, and now Amazon is selling the Gear 360 for $349.99 with FREE Same-Day shipping!

Before you buy, make sure you have everything needed to use the Gear 360:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Samsung Gear 360 dedicated Bluetooth remote and other accessories now available in the US; allows remote triggering without Samsung phone

You can now order the accessory kit for the Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here) from Amazon. The kit includes a remote that allows you to trigger the Gear 360 remotely without a Samsung phone.

Samsung Gear 360 now available in the US

Just a reminder that the Samsung Gear 360 is now officially available in the US for $349.99. For now, it appears available only from Samsung directly. Here is the link where you can order it direct from Samsung.  Also check out this detailed review.

REVIEW: Manfrotto Nanopole: an excellent lightstand for 360 photos and videos

When taking 360 photos and videos, a lightstand is better than a tripod because the legs are farther away from the camera, so they occupy a smaller portion of the frame.  My favorite lightstand had been the Manfrotto Nano stand because it is lightweight and can extend to more than 7 feet if needed. But there's an even better lightstand -- the Manfrotto Nanopole, which can convert to a handheld boom. Here is a preliminary review.

The Nanopole is very similar to the Nano stand, but it has several improvements:

1. The column/shaft is removable and can be used as a boom.  To remove the shaft, you just loosen the knob for the legs, then press a button on the bottom of the shaft.  

It is also possible to remove the bottom of the shaft by rotating it so that its lock (which is indicated with a white line) is aligned with one of the grooves on the bottom.  But you will still have to loosen the knob for the legs.

The shaft is relatively compact but can extend up to 73 inches.  Here is the Nanopole shaft, next to the Monoshot monopod/tripod.

2.  One of the legs can be extended so that the lightstand can be used on a non-level surface.

3.  There's a hook for a sandbag for greater stability.  Note: the sandbag is not included.

4.  There's an indicator to let you know where to set the legs for maximum stability.

Except for these changes and except for the red trim, the Nanopole is otherwise the same as the Nano in terms of height (up to 89 inches, with legs at the tallest position), collapsed length, weight, and materials.  As with the Nano, the Nanopole includes a 3/8 to 1/4 adapter.  Both are made by Manfrotto, a well-respected tripod manufacturer.

Because of these improvements, the Nanopole costs about $20 more than the Nano lightstand.  In my opinion, the Nanopole's extra cost is worth it for the extra versatility.

The more interesting rival to the Nanopole is the Monoshot, a monopod with removable tripod legs. Here are the differeneces:

1.  In terms of the monopod length, the Nanopole is 89 inches.  The Monoshot is either 51 inches or 65 inches, depending on whether you want to use the tripod legs as a handle.

On the other hand, the Monoshot has a foam cover for the handle.  The Nanopole has only a plain shaft (to enable it to be inserted into its legs).

2.  The maximum height of the Monoshot is 63 inches.  The maximum height of the Nanopole is 89 inches.

3.  The Nanopole has a wider base than the Monoshot.

4.  The Monoshot's ballhead is not removable.  The Nanopole has a 3/8 stud and a 3/8 to 1/4-20  adapter, for greater versatility.

On the other hand, the Monoshot has some advantages over the Nanopole:
  • it's lighter, and it's a little shorter when folded
  • it's faster to extend or collapse because it uses flip locks rather than knobs
  • the bottom of the Monoshot is a 1/4-20 tripod insert, which can be used to attach the included spike.
  • it has a wrist strap.

In my opinion, the Monoshot is more convenient for casual use.  However, if I want maximum versatility and stability, I would use the Manfrotto Nanopole.

If you would like to purchase the Nanopole, please consider purchasing one through Amazon (here) or B&H (here), which would support 360 Rumors at no cost to you, so I can do more reviews and tests.  Thank you very much!

Take the Samsung Gear 360 and Insta360 Nano underwater with these waterproof pouches

A while back, I posted about a couple of inexpensive waterproof pouches for the Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here) and Insta360 Nano (reviewed here).  I took my family for a brief vacation, and I've now had the chance to use them to take some underwater photos and videos using inexpensive waterproof cases.  Here are samples.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: VR Cover - a cleaner and more comfortable face cushion for HTC Vive

I can use the HTC Vive (reviewed here) for hours without discomfort, but its face cushion tends to get soaked with sweat.  It's kind of gross when you're sharing it between more than one user.  Fortunately, there's a replacement face cushion that is both cleaner and more comfortable.

3DPro can capture fully spherical 360 video in 3D with 8k resolution

For professional image quality 360 video, a rig is still the way to go.  The 360Heros 3DPro is a 3D 360 rig that can capture fully spherical 3D 360 video that is stereoscopic in all directions, even the zenith and nadir.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Kyocera / Yashica YAC-300/360 is a hemispherical 360 action camera

The Kyocera / Yashica YAC-300/360 is a hemispherical 360 action camera with what appears to be a waterproof housing.  It's in stock and available from B&H for $149.99 with free expedited shipping.  So far, there is no other information about it available.

NVidia GTX 10-series VR-Ready notebooks now in stock at B&H!

A couple of days ago, NVidia announced that they were making VR-ready desktop GPUs available for notebooks.  Specifically, NVidia would put the VR-Ready GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 in notebooks.  These aren't watered-down M versions, but nearly identical to their desktop counterparts.  This achievement was made possible by the efficient Pascal architecture.  See the official announcement here.

I wondered how long it would take for the actual products to show up.  To my surprise, they're actually now available and in stock at B&H, starting at $1499.

Please note that these notebooks have VR-ready graphics cards, but you'll also need to make sure the USB ports are compatible.  In that regard:
- Oculus Rift requires three USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 portWhen the Oculus Touch comes out, it will add a second sensor, which I believe will require another USB 3.0 port.  One of the USB 3.0 ports will be for the upcoming Oculus Touch, the others are for the sensor and the headset.  The USB 2.0 port is for the Xbox controller.
- HTC Vive (reviewed here) requires one USB 2.0 port, plus one HDMI port or Displayport (or mini Displayport).  Although USB 3.0 is supposed to be backward compatible with USB 2.0, some users have experienced issues connecting the Vive link box to USB 3.0 (e.g. judder, etc.).

HTC Vive Preliminary Review: after a weekend with the HTC Vive
HTC Vive Hands-On First Impressions: my first impressions from a demo

TECHNIQUE: Easy to use tool for adding and changing photoshere metadata in Photoshop

If you want to add Photosphere metadata to your photo, or change the Photosphere metadata parameters for custom control, you can do so easily in Photoshop with this easy-to-use tool!

Nico360 will have 4k at 24fps via firmware update

Nico360 is touted as the world's smallest fully spherical 360-degree camera.  When it was announced, the video resolution had been 1440p.  However, the Nico360 creators established a stretch goal at $200,000 to add 4k video.  They reached that milestone a while back.  But there were many questions about the 4k video, such as the framerate.  The creators have now added a little more information about the 4k video.

HTC Vive enables 3D screenshots without the need to remove your headset

2D screenshot
SteamVR was updated to enable the HTC Vive (reviewed here) to take 3D screenshots, and now you can do it from the controller, without having to remove the headset.  The feature had been in the Beta version briefly but was later removed.  Now it's been implemented in the regular version of SteamVR.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Intel's Project Alloy: the evolution of VR


At the Intel Development Forum 2016, Intel announced its new Project Alloy, a VR headset that I believe represents the next step in the evolution of VR. 

UCVR Eye is a camera that takes panoramic 3D photos or 360 panoramic photos

UCVR Eye is a unique camera that can take 180-degree* 3D panoramic photos and can also be folded in half to take "360-degree" panoramas.

Benro MK10 selfie stick / tripod

The Benro MK10 is a selfie stick that can quickly convert to a tripod, and is a very useful accessory for a 360-degree camera.  Here's why.

Rio Olympics VR: Reuters posts 360 photos of Usain Bolt's record-breaking victory

Usain Bolt became the first person to win gold in the 100-meter dash for the third consecutive time, and Reuters captured the historic moment in a series of 360 photos.  Check them out here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Superbook crowdfunding campaign almost over, with over $2 million raised

Superbook, a laptop shell for Android phones, has raised over $2 million in its Kickstarter campaign.  There are just 4 days left in the campaign, so it's your last chance to back the Superbook for $99 (+shipping), +$30 if you want to upgrade the screen to 1080p IPS.

Superbook is a laptop shell that uses your smartphone for its processing, leveraging the power of modern VR-capable smartphones.  Because the Superbook shell has no processing power or storage of its own, it is much more affordable compared to previous attempts to create a laptop dock for a smartphone.  You also won't have to worry about syncing your data between your devices.

Please note that backing a crowdfunding project is NOT a preorder.  There's a chance the product won't live up to the creators' promises or might not even be delivered at all.  On the other hand, there are also crowdfunded projects that were exactly as described.

Minecraft now officially available for Oculus Rift!

Minecraft is now officially available in VR for the Oculus Rift (first impressions here).  A demo version is now available in the Oculus Store, which you can upgrade to the full version for $9.99.  Alternatively, it is a free update for owners of Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta.

HTC Vive Preliminary Review: Ultimate Gaming Machine

After much deliberation, I finally decided to get the HTC Vive the other day. Here is a preliminary review. I will cover these topics:
  • Background and rationale
  • Hardware and space requirements
  • Where to buy
  • Kids
  • Components
  • Setting up
  • Using the Vive
  • Games
  • Compatibility with Rift games
  • Photos and videos
  • Disadvantages
  • Preliminary evaluation
TL/DR Executive Summary: For viewing 360 photos and videos, an HTC Vive is overkill, in my opinion, unless you want to set it up for a demo kiosk for a business.  But if you enjoy playing games (even casual ones), a desktop VR system will provide you with a unique gaming experience that you can't get on a non-VR PC or gaming console. 
Among desktop VR systems, HTC Vive is currently the only one that is designed for room-scale VR, which makes it arguably more immersive. 
Contrary to what I read about elsewhere, setting it up is actually simple and easy.  The Vive is also more comfortable than I expected.  Finally, low-cost VR-ready graphics cards are making it easier and more affordable to get a VR-ready PC for the Vive and Rift. 
It is true that most of the available games are not high quality, but there are enough games for the Vive that are worth playing.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Nico360 finally posts new samples

Nico360 is a fully spherical 360 camera that aims to be the world's smallest. It is currently being crowdfunded through Indiegogo, with delivery due in October.  The campaign finally issued a long-awaited update, including new sample photos and a few more details.