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Coming Soon: Coolest-Ever 360-Degree Video Camera

Rafe Needleman
Editorial Director, Yahoo Tech
May 20, 2014

A lot of people with action cams like GoPros use them mostly to take videos of themselves. Action selfies, as it were. This is because if you have to choose between a shot of what you’re seeing vs. a shot of yourself, narcissism has a good chance of winning out.

But with a new and dazzling portable video camera, the 360Cam from Giroptic, you’ll never have to choose again. This amazing little device, just launching on Kickstarter, has three cameras on it to capture a full 360 degrees of imagery (and up to 150 degrees vertically). The secret sauce is the gadget’s capability to stitch the three video streams together into a single panoramic video that you can later view on your computer or mobile device.

The 360Cam takes imagery from its three cameras and stitches it together to give you seamless video (or still) panoramas.  

I’m not sure it’s as rugged as a GoPro, but it’s certainly designed for the same type of application. Just like a GoPro, there will be multiple mounting options. And it’s all self-contained, like a GoPro.

Some cool technical details: The device has image stabilization that’s sensitive to the camera’s orientation, so no matter how it twists (within limits), the video output should stay stable. It also has GPS and, of course, WiFi.

The WiFi means you can watch its output live on your smartphone, or record over the network. The 360Cam also has a microSD slot if you want a self-contained solution.

It can even be used as a security camera. It has one of the most creative accessories I’ve seen for any camera: a lightbulb socket mount. With it, you can screw the 360Cam into an overhead or lamp fixture and see what the lightbulb would have seen. The camera will also get power from the fixture, so it’s an easy way to get an eye in the sky, if you don’t mind losing the illumination you’d have gotten from that bulb.

Other accessories will include “goggles” that make the camera waterproof to a degree (someone please mount a 360Cam on a surfboard during Mavericks), and an Ethernet port for more permanent mounting applications. 

Battery life is only an hour, although that should be enough for most adventure videos.

What can you do with the camera’s 360-degree video output? You can view stills or videos as weird panoramas, where the 360-degree world is stretched out into a flat plane. Or you can play back videos or images in software provided by the company (or other 3D-viewing software) where you can control the point of view of the “camera” to make yourself an after-the-fact director of surround-video content. 

Use the light socket mount to make an “eye in the sky” security camera. Yes, the camera will flip the image right-side up if you mount it in an overhead socket.

Camera maker Giroptic has been around for six years, making 3D visualization software. The CEO told me that the Kickstarter campaign will be used to gauge interest in the product but that the company is fairly well equipped to produce it already. Kickstarter backers will get the first units for $249; final retail may be substantially more, although under $500. (GoPros range from $200 to $400.)

The company plans to ship its first units in November. Kickstarter shipping estimates can be unreliable, and this is the company’s first hardware product, so I’m not sure I’d rely on delivery in time for Christmas, but I do believe this product will make it to market. The demo units I saw were functional and looked near production-quality.

Is this campaign worth funding? Yes, it is — if you want what should be a cool and versatile camera, at a great early-backer price.

See also these other 360-degree cameras: 360Fly, CENTR, Panono, and bubl.

Rafe Needleman can be reached at rafeneedleman@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @rafe.