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OmniCam360 would let viewers choose the camera angle

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August 9, 2013

The OmniCam360 uses a mirror system that allows the unit to capture seamless 360-degree pa...

The OmniCam360 uses a mirror system that allows the unit to capture seamless 360-degree panoramas (Photo: Fraunhofer HHI)

Armchair sports lovers are at the mercy of TV directors who chose what camera angle is shown when. Most sports fans will have been frustrated with their shot selection at one time or another, but a new panoramic camera would put such decisions in the viewer’s hands. Comprising ten individual cameras, the OmniCam 360 provides a full 360-degree of the action.

Rather than arranging a number of cameras in a star formation, with the lens of each facing out, the team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institute, in Berlin designed the OmniCam360 with the cameras packed into a cylindrical base with their lenses facing up. A multifaceted mirror that angles out from a central point above the cameras is then used to reflect the surrounding view into the lenses.

Aside from helping keep the size of the unit to a minimum, this setup also gives the cameras' entrance pupils a common center. This allows it to produce a 360-degree panorama without the seams and distortions evident in other omnidirectional camera setups, like those used to capture Google’s Street View images, where each individual camera image meets the next.

To ensure a seamless panoramic view, the researchers made sure that images from neighboring cameras overlapped by a few pixels so that the software could merge them without any seams. Unlike a gap at the seams, the researchers say the slight shift in perspective that results from the pixel overlap is unnoticeable to the eye.

Although the all-in-one system is no lightweight handycam, with a weight of 15 kg (33 lb) it is still light enough to be carried by one person and mounted on a tripod. It is also around the same size as a professional television camera, improving considerably on its predecessor that occupied around 1.5 sq m (16 sq ft) of space and tipped the scales at 80 kg (176 lb).

Its creators say the OmniCam360 would allow those viewing a telecast on a PC, tablet or the latest TVs to choose their preferred angle using a special app or even perform a virtual 360-degree pan of the action.

They point out that sporting events, although the most obvious, aren’t the only applications for the camera. Having already recorded concerts with six of the units – placing three on stage and three in the crowd – the team now plans to transmit a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic live to Japan.

Source: Fraunhofer

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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4 Comments

I dont know if we are at the mercy of the TV directors. The TV companies have gone to great trouble to find the most exciting placement for their cameras and the Director simply cuts between them. The idea is to give a visual flow to the game so that the viewer has a feeling of being there, witnessing its drama. Having options is a plus but the program can become visually unsettling if any angle is possible.

oldguy
9th August, 2013 @ 06:16 am PDT

It doesn't change the viewing angle / point of view, which of course would be awesome. It can just change the direction of view... So when you are frustrated by the shoot selection you can at least have a look on some cool empty spots on the court where there is not so much action... cool thing ...not.

ladio
9th August, 2013 @ 08:30 am PDT

Certainly, this gives a traditional TV viewer the ability to pan their view 360 degrees, but that is not who would benefit most. Imagine Oculus Rift viewers, or even Google Glass, Sony HMZ, or other head-mounted display viewers: the natural movement of your head is now the scene selector. (If viewing with a phone or tablet, the embedded digital compass would allow your body pivots to be the scene selector, as if looking out of a moving virtual window.) Talk about the feeling of immersion and being present at the scene of the action.

Imagine having a virtual front-row seat at center court of a tennis match. Just like the fans in the stands, left right left right left right left right... "oooh, Ana Ivanovic is scrumptious... I think I'll keep my head right for awhile." With multiple OmniCam360 locations around the court to choose from, you could pop around to different vantage points.

Of course, this is not the only 360 degree camera, but each new development takes us closer to the ultimate; that is, the computation and delivery of scenes computed from a virtual X, Y, Z position within the bounds of multiple 360 degree streams. When such computation is available, your location would not have to center where any one of the 360 degree cameras is placed but would be virtually anywhere within the view of all cameras. Such a computed stream coupled with an Oculus Rift and a Virtuix Omni (http://www.gizmag.com/virtuix-omni-treadmill-vr/27214/)... your virtual stroll along the beach becomes realized.

kalqlate
9th August, 2013 @ 11:15 am PDT

I can capture the FULL SPHERE of view with six GoPros and my 360Heros mount (http://www.360heros.com/) and I can do it from a multirotor drone ( http://goo.gl/b5D6jH) since the total weight is under 2lbs.

I first saw this mirror design for cylindrical 360° video in 2004 and it was essentially the same exact thing. I'd much rather capture the full sphere.

Commenter above is dead right about Oculus Rift + 360° video = awesome! Although Google Glass is more closely akin to AR than VR.

Thomas Hayden
4th September, 2013 @ 04:14 pm PDT
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