At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – the annual event where the world’s tech companies showcase their wares – one piece of kit was ubiquitous: the selfie stick. Around every corner of the Las Vegas Convention Centre you’d find a selfie stick thrust into the air with an iPhone or GoPro strapped to the top, looking back at its owner.
Selfies, and any accessory, app or gadget that helps you take them, are going to be huge in 2015, and though you won’t find the Focus team uploading selfies to Instagram any time soon, one selfie-related piece of technology did catch our eye: the 360cam.
Giroptic, a French company, has created a $499 camera that sees a full 360° around itself and 300° from top to bottom. This means you simply hold the camera out in front of you and it will record (almost) everything around it. You can then watch these videos back and explore your recording as you would an image on Google Street View. From there, you can either select the portion of the image you’d like to keep as a still or video, create a panoramic image, or simply keep it as an interactive 360° video (see bit.ly/360F1vid for an example).
Until now, if you wanted to create this kind of footage you’d have to strap together several cameras (usually GoPro action cams) and then use some clever software to stitch their footage together – a process that typically takes a long time, and usually leaves imperfections where the images from each camera are glued together. However, the 360cam is the first device to stitch together the footage while you film. This means you don’t have to wait to watch your footage back, and better still, you can use it to stream video live, or even broadcast it in full HD.
Of course, the 360cam will take some incredible selfies as well, but imagine watching a tennis match or a football game where you can control the camera. That’s precisely what a 360cam can deliver. It’s even decked out with three microphones, giving your videos surround sound. Indeed, the team from Giroptic is already working with YouTube so that interactive 360° film can be uploaded to the site and watched live.
YouTube isn’t the only big company Giroptic has attracted interest from. Oculus Rift, the virtual reality (VR) company that was recently bought by Facebook for $2bn (£1.3bn), is working with Giroptic to see if it can use the cams to create virtual experiences. The idea is that you could take your camera with you on holiday, film your adventures without having to worry about where to point the cam, and then experience it all over again at home on a VR headset. That’s the future that the two companies could create together.
It’s not just for your holiday pictures, either. In an ingenious move, Giroptic also offers a mount for the 360cam that lets you screw your device into a light bulb socket, transforming it into a wireless security camera for your home. And yes, there is a selfie stick mount… so you can expect to see a lot more of both products in 2015.
This preview first appeared in the March 2015 issue of BBC Science Focus.