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Foam ball snaps panoramic images in midair

Jonas Pfeil

A foam ball dotted with 36 cell phone cameras that simultaneously snap a photograph when it reaches the highest point of a toss is a novel way to make panoramic images.

A foam ball dotted with 36 cell-phone cameras that simultaneously snap an image when the ball reaches the highest point of a skyward toss allows for full spherical panoramas — up, down, and all points in between. 

The gadget, not yet for sale, also overcomes the problem of "ghosting" that occurs when images made moments apart are stitched together to make a panorama and a person, for example, has moved.


The Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera was created as a thesis project by Jonas Pfeil at the Technische Universitat Berlin and will be presented this week at the SIGGRAPH Asia conference in Hong Kong. 

It could come in handy, for example, for a climber at the top of a mountain, a couple on the beach at the sunset, or a tourist in crowded city square who wish to capture the essence of the scene around them in a way that a conventional picture simply can't.

The Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera which captures a full spherical panorama when thrown into the air.

The ball's sturdy shell, which was made with a 3-D printer, contains a lithium ion battery at its core. An embedded accelerometer detects when the ball has reached its highest point, and is hardly moving, and directs a microcontroller to trigger the cameras.

Once recovered from a photo shoot, the images are transferred via USB cable to a computer where viewers can interactively explore the captured image. It currently is capable of a single image, though the ball has a slot for a camera card.

Pfeil and his colleagues are looking for an investor or third party to help them further develop and produce a commercial version of the ball. 

For those hoping for panoramic images today, msnbc.com's multimedia editors suggest checking out Microsoft's Photosynth, which stitches together images to make panoramas and spherical images and is available as a smartphone app. (Msnbc.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

Also available as smartphone apps are Panorama 360,  which builds real-time panoramic images as you press the shutter button and spin around, Dermandar, which stitches together your smartphone images using online tools to create panoramas, and PanoLab, which allows for 180 degree vertical and horizontal views.

For those with a big budget, check out the $40,000 Panoscan, which creates crime-fighting-worthy 360 degree panoramic images. 

[Via Technology Review]

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