Researchers at the Technical University of Berlin (Technische Universität) have come up with an ingenious Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera, a multi-sensor camera about the size of a cantaloupe that snaps a single, instant 360-degree panorama.
The camera, developed by Jonas Pfeil, Kristian Hildebrand, Carsten Gremzow, Bernd Bickel and Marc Alexa of the Computer Graphics Group, is based on the diploma thesis of Jonas Pfeil titled “Throwable Camera Array for Capturing Spherical Panoramas”.
Taking a panoramic shot in the traditional way is a slightly complicated affair requiring a lot of skills, as you need to manually rotate the camera about its own axis. While you’re spending all this time moving, an object in your shot may have moved since you took your last frame, causing ghosting in the final panorama.
The ball camera avoids this whole process by simultaneously firing off 36 fixed-focus two-megapixel mobile phone camera modules once it reaches the highest point of its flight. The device is equipped with an accelerometer that keeps track of the ball’s acceleration. The ball captures a 360-degree panorama once it reaches its maximum arc because it is almost at a stand still as its velocity and the gravity acting on it are at equilibrium. At the apex of the ball’s flight, the camera captures the scene in every direction (and including the photographer).
The entire camera is packed into a 3D-printed ball-shaped enclosure that is padded with foam, so it’ll probably survive a landing if you can’t catch it. Once you have it in hand again, you can take the images off the device via USB, and you can view the photos in their full Google-street-view-esque 360-degree glory (only more spectacular) using a special “spherical panoramic viewer”, a custom software developed by the team.
The Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera will be shown off at the SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 in December, where the researchers hope to secure funding.
Imagine the potential in the sporting arena if this sort of camera is mounted inside the balls we use on the field in professional sports,.
Of course it would take substantial upgrades and immensely light cameras for such a concept to work in a regulation football or soccer ball, but I foresee a great future for the Ball Camera.
This video shows it in action: