3D 360 degree Spherical Video for VR

I recently acquired a Samsung Gear VR headset to use with my Galaxy S6 phone. As soon as I tried it on, I was able to experience what I’d been looking forward to trying – seeing a virtual world around me which convincingly stays in place when I move my head around. I’ve known that the full version of the Oculus Rift was able to do this, but wasn’t sure how good the Samsung verison would be- well, it’s good. 

I checked out some 360 degree photos and videos, but I realized that even though I can look in all directions, the images and videos were not in 3d. And if you think about it, the normal way to snap a 3d photo or to record a 3d film is to use a pair of cameras set eye width apart. This works fine, until you try to make it work in a Vr world where the viewer could move and look in any direction – how do you have two cameras pointing in “every” direction at the same time, set eye width apart? Seems like an impossible task. Note that this is not a problem in games, because they can re-render the image immediately from any perspective, and create the two stereoscopic images for your eyes on the fly. 

I was wondering if having an array of cameras might gather enough info that software might be able to build a full 360 degree view that is also in 3d- and it appears this is exactly what a few companies are doing (or attempting to do). Even google is in on the action. Here are a few solutions I found: 

360Heros – http://www.360heros.com/2014/01/worlds-first-fully-spherical-3d-360-video-and-photo-gear/  – Uses a big pile of 12 gopro cameras to capture a stereoscopic view of all 6 directions from a viewer’s perspective. 

Panocam 3d – http://www.panocam3d.com/camera.html  – wear it on your body or use a tripod, captures full 3d stereoscopic video using 24 cameras!

Google Jump – https://www.google.com/get/cardboard/jump/  –  an array of 16 gopro’s in a circle, so it appears to be meant for looking around in a cylinder, not so concerned about 3d above and below you (I assume?)Ody

GoPro Odyssey –  http://gopro.com/odyssey – derived from the google project, uses the smaller gopro 4 cameras. Apparently can control all the cameras at once, and can sync the frames to be exact with each other. 

It will be interesting to see what happens next with this technology, perhaps to bring the cost down and make it available to the consumer. I can envisions spherical camera lenses, reflectors, and low cost cameras being combined in such a way to provide this fucntionality cheaply, and perhaps it will be the next big feature to be included with smartphones.

Of course the shortcoming of 3d video like this is, the vr user can look around, but can’t actually move within the environment. Maybe the next iteration will be to set up a grid of 24 of these 24 camera clusters…. Just kidding!