Saturday, June 25, 2016

Samsung Gear VR home menu now looks like Oculus Rift


The Samsung Gear VR (reviewed here) home menu has been updated to look like the menu of the Oculus Rift (previewed here).  I think it's a good move for the Gear VR by reminding people that Gear VR is powered by Oculus, further distinguishing it from Google Cardboard.  It also strengthens the Oculus brand, letting people know there's a desktop version and a mobile version.  For Gear VR owners looking to upgrade, the familiarity could also entice them to choose Oculus Rift instead of the HTC Vive.

The change in menu comes just as Oculus started its summer sale with up to 75% off many popular games.

Update: there are a few differences between the Gear VR menu background and that of the Rift.  First, the Rift menu background is animated.  There's a glowing fireplace, and the waters around the [amazing] living room flow gently.  On the Gear VR, the fireplace is turned off, and the waters don't move.  Second, the Rift menu background is 3D 360, whereas the Gear VR menu background is 360 but not 3D.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Over $100,000 in prizes for Samsung Creators contest for 360 videos




A lot of people say that there's not enough good content in VR.  Samsung wants to change that.


In what may be the largest prize pool thus far for 360 videos, Samsung is offering more than $100,000 in prizes in its Samsung Creators contest.  There are 10 categories: Sport, Travel, Gaming, Music, Culinary, Fashion, Auto, Science & Tech, 4D Experience ("break the fourth wall"), and Causes.  For each category 3 entries will be selected as finalists aka "shortlist" (30 finalists in all). 


Each finalist will be given airfare and hotel to attend an awards event in New York, NY, on October 27-28, 2016.  Each finalist will also be invited to a 1 day educational VR masterclass.  Of the finalists, one grand prize winner will be chosen for each genre (10 grand prize winners in all), and each grand prize winner will receive $10,000.


The deadline for submission of entries is September 30, 2016, except for the Causes category.  For Causes, the deadline for submission is August 31, 2016.



Here are the steps for joining the contest:
1. Go to www.samsungcreators.com and click on the email link at the bottom to email creators@samsung.com expressing your interest in participating, with a link to any social or video content you may have created already (e.g. your YouTube or Vimeo channel, Instagram and Twitter).
2. Capture a 360-degree video with any device (not necessarily Samsung Gear 360) in one of the 10 categories.
3. Upload the video to Samsung VR with a detailed description.  The video must comply with these specifications
4. Include the tag #CreatorsAwards01 within the description.
5. Including one more tag within the description for the category you're submitting:
  • #Sport               
  • #Travel               
  • #Gaming               
  • #Music           
  • #Culinary
  • #Fashion
  • #Auto
  • #Science
  • #4D           
  • #Causes
6. To be eligible to win, you must attend the awards event and the masterclass.  Otherwise, you'll forfeit your prize.


You can submit any number of entries but you only one entry per person can be a finalist.


See the Official rules here.

DEALS: Over 50 apps on Oculus Rift and Gear VR are on sale up to 75% off!






For a limited time, Oculus has a sale on over 50 apps for the Rift (previewed here) and Gear VR (reviewed here).  These aren't just crappy titles either -- some of them are among the most popular apps available.  Check out the full list here.  I don't have experience with the Rift games, but here are some notable ones for the Gear VR:

It's here! Samsung Gear 360 with waterproof housing

The waterproof housing for the Samsung Gear 360 is out (in Europe). 


It appears that the housing is invisible to the Gear 360's lenses so you should have an unobstructed view. There might be fogging and/or additional flare though. But that's a small price to pay for waterproof capability!  The housing can also serve as a sturdy camera case. 

This puts pressure on the Nikon Keymission 360 which was touted for being a waterproof 4k 360 camera but was delayed to October.

Share your 360 photos and videos to any browser with Spinnable!

You can now share your 360-degree photos and videos to almost any browser with Spinnable, even if your friends don't have the app.

Spinnable (reviewed here), one of the first social media platforms for 360 photos and videos, has now enabled browser support.  Images on Spinnable can now be viewed on most browsers, with 360 interaction, simply by sharing its URL.  To get the URL for an image, just tap the "..." on the right side of the caption of the image on the Spinnable app, then select "Copy Link."  You can then send the link to anyone by email, text message, etc.

When your friends click on the link, it will launch the 360 photo or video on their browser.  They can maximize the view for a full-screen view.  On smartphones, there is also a Google Cardboard viewer.

Here are a couple of samples (click on the link to see the 360 version from Spinnable).  All of these samples are from the Ricoh Theta S.

Sample Photo: Lake San Marcos near San Diego http://spnn.it/s/Ulwikl04aN


Sample video: Beach sunset http://spnn.it/s/SOF05v0Mln



Moreover, the URL can also be shared on Facebook which automatically generates a thumbnail.  When a viewer clicks on the thumbnail, it opens a browser window for a 360 view of the image.  (This is similar to sharing with the Ricoh Theta on Theta360.com.)


There are a couple of incompatibilities: videos don't work yet on iOS and Internet Explorer 11.  Photos work without a hitch.

Here are some more samples:



Sta. Monica Pacific Park http://spnn.it/s/Jxuf1W4m4R


Yellowtail Bellagio http://spnn.it/s/pOCPlHZIqe

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ricoh confirms video chat and cloud features for Ricoh Theta S

Ricoh confirmed that they will be adding video chat and other cloud-based features for the Ricoh Theta S.

A few months ago, Ricoh hinted that they would be adding "video communication" to the Ricoh Theta S and other cloud-based features.  It didn't happen in April or May and it's now almost the end of June, and this feature still hasn't been added, naturally raising the possibility that the idea was nixed.

However, Ricoh released a presentation to developers that confirmed the video communication.  They also clarified that it would be a two-way video chat.  In the slide below from the presentation, Ricoh showed that the video communication would be a video chat between two PCs, not just a livestream.

This could be useful for a video conference for example.  A group of people could be seated at a conference table​ with a Ricoh Theta S providing a 360 view.  The other party could then have a video chat with them using his own webcam.  It could be useful also for video chats with family or friends.

Ricoh's presentation also confirmed that there will be new cloud-based apps.  One example could be slides:

I think we can expect to see features similar to other cloud-based photo gall​eries, such as the simplified photo editor on Google Photos.

HERE is the official presentation.

RUMOR: Samsung Gear 360 may have new features with Samsung Galaxy S8

The Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone hasn't even been announced yet, but the Samsung Gear 360 Manager app already has code for it, possibly hinting at new features for a Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here) that is connected to an S8.


Bin4ry, the software developer who made the modified Gear 360 Manager app for non-compatible phones, examined the code for the Samsung Gear 360 Manager app and found that it has already been designed to detect whether it's connected to a Samsung Galaxy S8.




The app gives no hints as to what those new features are.  We do know that the S8 will have a more powerful processor, and it's possible that new features could be added or unlocked to take advantage of that processor, especially because the Gear 360 does not stitch photos or videos, making it heavily reliant on the smartphone for processing.  By having a better processor available for stitching, the Gear 360 could gain new features.  For example, the S7's more powerful processor allows 4k video stitching, whereas the S6 is limited only to 2k video stitching.  With the even more powerful processor of the S8, who knows -- it may even be possible to add livestreaming capability.


It seems that we'll have to wait and see what, if any, new features the S8 might enable for the Gear 360.  What new features you would want?  Post in the comments!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Interval shooting for the Samsung Gear 360

One of the features that is missing on the Samsung Gear 360 is an intervalometer, or interval shooting mode, where the camera will automatically take photos at selected intervals.  The Gear 360 does have Time Lapse, which is one way interval shooting can be used.  However, it's not the same thing because the end product is just a time lapse video, and you won't get the individual photos that comprise the time lapse video.

In my case, I wanted an intervalometer so that I could take aerial 360 photos even when the camera is out of range.  The Time Lapse feature does not meet my needs (unless I'm willing to settle for video stills).

I found a workaround that can partially add interval shooting for the Gear 360 -- it's again through Google Street View, which also enabled a remote shutter for noncompatible phones.

When the Gear 360 is connected to the phone via Google Street View, there is an option called "Auto-Capture".  The cryptically named feature is actually an intervalometer -- the camera will automatically take photos at a specific interval, and you will have access to all the photos.

Steps:
1. Download the Google Street View app.  You may need to create a Google account, etc.
2. Turn on the Samsung Gear 360, then hold down the menu button.  When you see Gear 360 Manager, press the menu button twice to switch to "Google Street View."  Then press the shutter button to select that option.
3. On your iPhone, connect to the new Wi-Fi network "Gear 360_(xx:xx).OSC"  Enter the password shown on the Gear 360's display.
4.  Once the iPhone is connected, launch the Street View app.
5.  There will be a sign that says "Connected to Gear 360".  On the right side of that are three dots.  Tap on it to bring up the Settings.
6. Turn on Auto-capture.  Press X to exit the Settings.
7.  Press the camera icon on the bottom right to start the capture.  The camera will keep taking photos at regular intervals.  Press the camera icon again to stop capture.



Each of the captured photos will be at the full 30mp resolution of the Gear 360 and moreover, will already be stitched.

This feature has several limits:
1.  There is no way to adjust the intervals.  It will simply keep taking photos, transferring them, stitching them, and then taking the next photo as soon as the previous photo is stitched.
2.  The photos are NOT stored in the memory card.  They go straight to your phone's gallery or camera roll.  Which means...
3.  You must be able to maintain the Wi-Fi connection between the Gear 360 and the phone.
4.  The Street View stitching algorithm seems to produce less precise stitches than the Gear 360 Manager app.

In my case, the requirement to maintain a Wi-Fi connection probably makes it unsuitable for taking aerial photos as I intended.  So, I'm still hoping for a real intervalometer.

Workaround for triggering Samsung Gear 360 with iPhone!

You read that headline right.  You CAN trigger the Samsung Gear 360 wirelessly with an iPhone, thanks to a workaround I found out from Gear 360 shooter Fabio Bersani!

Here's how to trigger the Gear 360 with the iPhone:
1. Download the Google Street View app.  You may need to create a Google account, etc.
2. Turn on the Samsung Gear 360, then hold down the menu button.  When you see Gear 360 Manager, press the menu button twice to switch to "Google Street View."  Then press the shutter button to select that option.
3. On your iPhone, connect to the new Wi-Fi network "Gear 360_(xx:xx).OSC"  Enter the password shown on the Gear 360's display.
4.  Once the iPhone is connected, launch the Street View app.
5.  To take a photo, click on the camera button on the lower right corner.

That's it! 

Here's a shot for proof (the map has been warped for privacy):

It will will be both in the memory card as well as only be in your Photos / Camera Roll (not in your memory card).  The photo is already stitched, up to the full 30mp resolution:



There's no live view and no video, and no controls other than triggering the shutter.  I saw an option for HDR but it doesn't seem to do anything different.  There's also an Auto Capture button.  Not sure exactly what it does.

For shooters with an established iPhone-based workflow and who are reliant on iOS apps such as Rollworld, this feature makes it much easier to take photos with the Gear 360 and have them ready in the iPhone for editing.

RELATED POSTS:
- modified Gear 360 Manager app that can run on some Android phones.
- trigger the Gear 360 remotely with the dedicated Bluetooth shutter.
- stitch on a Mac without 3rd party software

Samsung Gear 360 Detailed Hands-On Review and Guide (Part 1)




This is a review of the Samsung Gear 360, a fully spherical 360-degree camera, after having used it for about a month.  This review will cover the following topics:
  • What's in the box
  • Build quality
  • Shooting (with and without a phone)
  • Features
  • Image quality (photo)
  • Image quality (video)
  • Software
  • Sharing photos and videos
  • About me
This review is based primarily on the original firmware version C200GLU0APC9.  There was a firmware update (version C200GLU0APE4) but the changes from that version may not yet be fully incorporated in this review.  I'll update this review after fully testing the new firmware.

[The first two topics have already been covered in my first impressions.  They're repeated here for ease of reference so feel free to skip that.]

Note re samples: Unless otherwise indicated, all photos here were taken by me.  They are either straight-out-of-the-camera, or with minor edits.  If there are significant edits, I'll note them.  The 360-degree photos here were uploaded to Kuula.co.  360-degree videos were uploaded to YouTube (which has fairly high compression and therefore does not reflect the original image quality).  Equirectangular JPEGs were uploaded to Google Photos, which also uses some compression, so there is a slight loss in image quality compared to the original.

Update: check out the new Samsung Gear 360 Wiki and Resource Page!

Revisions:
- added info re Samsung VR platform
- added workaround for intervalometer / interval shooting
- added workaround for remote triggering with iPhone
6/30/16 revision: added info for stitching with older laptops

Samsung Gear 360 now available in the US for $350 but only to VidCon attendees


The Samsung Gear 360 is now available in the US for $350 but only at VidCon, a convention for online video creators, from June 23-25 at Anaheim, California.  Samsung hasn't announced yet when it will be available for the general public in the US.  However, it would seem to suggest that the MSRP will indeed be $350, making the Samsung Gear 360 the most affordable 4k 360-degree camera by a comfortable margin.

Adobe Premiere Pro now updated with VR / 360 video editing tools



In the Creative Cloud June 2016 release, Adobe Premiere Pro CC has been updated to add "VR Video" (i.e, 360 video) editing tools.  There is now a preview window that lets you see how your 360 video will look when a user views it in 360.  There is even support for 3D 360 video.



Here is the official announcement.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Stitch Samsung Gear 360 videos and photos, and correct color differences with Autopano



The Samsung Gear 360 is the most affordable 4k 360 camera right now (around $350 to $400 on eBay), but it is compatible only with the latest flagship Samsung smartphone (Galaxy S6 and above).  It does come with a desktop-based software, Cyberlink Action Director, for stitching photos and videos, but the software is for Windows only, and can also be a little picky with older graphics cards. It is possible to use the Gear 360 without a compatible smartphone, but these restrictions make the Gear 360 harder to use for someone who uses a Mac and/or a non-compatible phone.  Someone like Martin Smith.


Martin is a Mac user who was planning to get the Samsung Gear 360 (you might recall he was also recently featured in a post about the Brahma Duo rig), but we were not sure about whether he would be able to stitch the Gear 360's output.  I provided him a sample video so that we could see if he could use his Autopano Video to stitch the double circular fisheye output.  And it turns out that yes, it is doable!   Check out his blogpost for the sample video stitched by Autopano, and the backstory of how he decided to get the Gear 360.


The stitching process is not simple but fortunately gets easier eventually:

Another benefit of Autopano is that can correct the color differences between the two lenses that many people have been concerned about.  Check out this Facebook post with sample video.


UPDATE: Here is a tutorial by Ralph Andersson



Mobile VR positional tracking with Stereolabs ZED

Mobile VR such as the Samsung Gear VR can do a good job of immersing a viewer as a viewer looks around, until the viewer tries to move closer to the virtual objects, which requires positional tracking.  Positional tracking has generally been the domain of desktop-based VR headsets such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and upcoming Playstation VR.  However, Stereolabs wants to change that by using its ZED depth-sensing 3D camera to provide positional tracking for mobile VR.

In its demo video below, they paired the ZED camera with a Samsung Gear VR to provide inside-out positional tracking with no need for external sensors:



The ZED camera is available directly from Stereolabs for $449.  I'm checking

RELATED POST: Samsung Gear VR vs. Google Cardboard

Third Instagram Contest for Ricoh Theta


Ricoh is holding its third Instagram contest for the Ricoh Theta.  The theme of this contest is "Travel Memories."  Ricoh is looking for vacation photos and videos taken with the Theta.

The submission period is from June 21 to August 22.  To submit an entry:

  1. Follow @theta360official on Instagram.
  2. Tag your image with #theta360 and #theta360contest .
  3. The photo or video must be taken with a Ricoh Theta and edited with the Theta or Theta+ app.
  4. If your photo or video is chosen, Ricoh will ask for the original file as well as the edited file.
There is no limit to the number of entries.

There will be 10 winners for photo and 10 winners for video.  Winners will be posted on the @Theta360official Instagram page and the Theta360.com website.


Here is the official announcement.

Straighten a Ricoh Theta photo with Level Theta Images


Level Theta Images is a program that can preserve the vertical orientation of a Theta image even after further editing.

When taking a 360-degree photo (or video) it is usually best to have the camera oriented vertically to make it more comfortable for viewers to view the image in 360.  High quality 360-degree cameras have a built in gyroscope in them to allow the image to be oriented automatically.  In the case of the Ricoh Theta S, the vertical orientation is recorded as metadata, which allows the image to be correctly presented even if it was originally taken at an angle.  However, if you edit a photo from the Theta, the vertical orientation metadata will usually be lost.

Instead of relying on the metadata to correct the vertical orientation, Level Theta Images saves a new version of your photo with the vertical orientation already corrected.  That way, even if you later edit the photo, you don't have to worry about losing the vertical orientation metadata.

Level Theta Images is available for Mac and Windows, also requires you to install Hugin, the free panoramic utility.  Level Theta Images is free and supported only by donations.  Here is the official site.

New videos from Insta360 Nano show sharpness and smooth stitching



Insta360 recently posted sample videos from the Nano, a 360-degree camera that attaches to the iPhone (Android TBA).  The sample videos show good sharpness and detail, and they also show very smooth stitching.  Check them out!






Insta360 said the Nano will be available for preorder "soon".


Monday, June 20, 2016

Exo360 will have a demo in New York


The Exo360, the first drone with built-in 4k 360 capture capability, will be demonstrated at CE Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York from June 22 to June 23.  See the Exo360 in action for yourself.

The Exo360's crowdfunding campaign was successfully fundedPre-orders continue to be available until June 30, 2016.

Add Tiny Planet or Rabbit Hole effects to your 360 photos on Kuula.co

Kuula.co is a platform for sharing and exploring 360-degree photos (videos TBA).  One way Kuula is different from other 360 platforms is that it has effects such as filters and a 3D flare.   They've just added a couple of new effects, allowing you to create a tiny planet or rabbit hole effect.

Here is a sample 360 image:


Using the Tiny Planet editor, I can convert the 360 image to a tiny planet:

Alternatively, I can use a rabbit hole effect:

The Tiny Planet editor is accessible as an option from the editing menu.  The Tiny Planet editor allows you to change rotation, zoom (scale) and the "bulge", using simple sliders, and a checkbox to toggle the rabbit hole effect.  You can then save the image into your hard drive, or post to Facebook or Twitter.

Video of Samsung Gear 360 falling on pavement, and the aftermath

This video is going to make you wince.  Pedro Marinho put his Samsung Gear 360 on a lightweight tripod and a gust of wind toppled the tripod.  Here's the painful 360 video.


The front element cracked.

 

Fortunately, the front element appears removable:

It is not yet known if Samsung will sell replacements for the front element.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

PSA: some posts from 360 Rumors' Facebook page

We just launched our Facebook page this week.  Here are some recent posts:

1.  A new sample video from the Vuze camera that shows impressive video and audio quality.  They uploaded the video sample only to Facebook, so I couldn't post the video here.  See here to check it out.



2. A demonstration of a VR social media app, Vtime, which allows you to chat with virtual avatars in your 360-degree photo. (The video is on Facebook, so as with the Vuze sample, I couldn't post it here either.)  See here to check it out.


3. How to edit the zenith or nadir of a 360 image (equirectangular format) in Photoshop without using a plugin.  See here to check it out.