Kickstarting a 360' streaming camera

Jeffrey Martin of the 360 Cities panorama site sez, "Sphericam is my new invention. It is a dedicated 360º video with GPS and live streaming capabilities. Inspired by cameras that are an order of magnitude more expensive, I wanted to build something that any enthusiast could afford. It has four cameras with fisheye lenses, connected to a device which records synchronized video from all four cameras onto a single memory card or USB stick. I want 360º video to become mainstream. Did you ever wish you could just stick your camera in the middle of the action, and capture everything at the same time? Now you can. I'm teaming up with Shaddack one of the Czech Republic's most talented electrical engineers. We're ready for you!"

The cameras start at $600 for the first 20, then 99 at $900, and up from there (assuming, always, that they make it to production -- caveat emptor!). Jeffrey and co have built an impressive team and have a good-looking roadmap on the Kickstarter page, too.

Sphericam — The Easy 360º Video Camera (Thanks, Jeffrey!)


  1. Interesting, but quite expensive for a toy.

    What I’d love to see would be a personal Streetview camera setup. Basically a ball with a few cameras positioned on it, held atop a staff or a hat (perhaps a latter-day propeller beanie), containing some sort of inertial tracking mechanism and a gyroscope for orientation. It could periodically take pictures, and use the orientation and inertial tracking information to create a virtual space that could be roamed in a browser similarly to Google Streetview. It could be extremely useful for sightseeing/souvenirs, for demonstrating real estate, or for documenting crime scenes or inventories.

    Of course, I lack the technical knowledge, the time, or the resources to even have any idea what such a device would entail. But I’d love to hear that such a thing existed.

    1. Hi Warren, 

      I’m Jeffrey, creator of Sphericam. We can *nearly* provide what you are suggesting. The only hardware missing is the IMU (inertial measurement unit) which we are already working on. Stay tuned :-)

  2.  When I saw that image, my first thought was, ohhh great, one more device to cover cities and markets with.

    I’m a lover of cameras but a hater of surveillance of public spaces, and this thing looks to much like a tool for the latter.

    1. I’m with you on the cynicism, but it’s not like the people doing the surveillance don’t already have omnidirectional video, and the wads of taxpayer money to pay for it.

      This is cool cause you or I could use it for good: it can provide easy and (relatively) cheap coverage of events like protests where it is hard to predict from which direction the police abuse will start. Combined with offsite backup of the stream, you have a powerful weapon against abuse. I’m choosing to be optimistic.

      On a more prosaic level, it’s just plain cool for any kind of live event. It’s got GPS, so strap it on a car or bike and make your own Street View thing. Lots of possibilities.

    2. “I’m a lover of cameras but a hater of surveillance of public spaces, and this thing looks to much like a tool for the latter.”

      Probably has something to do with all that time you spent with alien mindbenders. I hear it’ll do that to you. 

    3. Hi Zak,

      Of course we have built Sphericam as tool that others can use as they want, and it can be used for good or for ill. 

      That said, I am personally very interested in positioning Sphericam as a tool for creative expression, because I think there is a great deal of innovation to be made in that space, including possibly a big change in the art of cinematography and post production. We will build the product with that in mind.

      In the end it’s a camera, and people will use it as they please. Please make great things with it!

      1. Okay, some explanation: When I got home yesterday I had just realized how many surveillance cameras I’d passed on the way, and what a stupid stupid thing it is to have those in the first place.

        Next, your camera has quite the parallax error, which results in stitching seams (look at the fish market video, the guy standing close to the camera at 5:15, or the quadcopter video. That will limit the usefulness for artistic purposes but not so much for surveillance. Then again, it’s got a built-in monitor, and you don’t really need that for a surveillance device.
        Something that would be more useful for creative endeavors would need to have a smaller head, and less distortion around the edges (you see scaling artifacts — could have been avoided by a fifth lens pointing straight up).

        Granted, this thing is cool, real-time converting of several video streams into a panoramic video is a non-trivial tasks (say a guy how usually has a cup of tea while his static panos are being stitched), and there will likely be a view nice creative uses of this. At the same time, I think it just begs to be used for surveillance.
        In my town, there are cars looking like Google street view cars, driving around town, labeled “CCTV”. Whoever come up with that idea will be happy to install one of your cameras on every council-owned vehicle just because. And I’m totally not looking forward to this.

        At the same time, I have to go and answer police officers’ stupid questions for going around and shooting fotos … maybe I just needed to have a rant (thanks for letting me), but this camera just doesn’t seem like it’s made so much for private, creative use cases :(
        … not that I don’t find the whole thing very very cool on a technical level, it’s just … sigh.

        1.  The police and national intelligence will always have access to this technology. Making this available to the public “levels the playing field.” They can watch us, so fine, we can watch them.

  3. I am an active supporter of Kickstarter, often alerted to projects right here on bOINGbOING, but I think one could set up four fish-eye Webcams, WiFi, etc. for less than $1,500.

        1. Hi Awesome Robot,

          Sorry but your estimate is way off. $200 doesn’t cover the non-electronic parts. Not to mention the electronic parts. And there is that “software”, while not made of atoms, has value also :)

      1. Beyond that. A very simple observation on my part. Of course many (if not all) Kickstarter managers put a lot of though into product pricing and reward levels. I meant no disrespect by my comment.

    1. Hi Over the River,

      You are right. Also, you can build a powerful PC for less money if you build it yourself; You can make a fancy dinner at home for just the price of the food in the farmer’s market. 

      Of course you can also build special camera rigs by assembling components yourself, but this is very different from creating a finished product which anyone can use without any hassle. Sphericam is *really easy* to use and it has things like LAN, wifi, GPS, and bundled software which lets you see your creation easily. You won’t get any of this if you build it yourself.

      1. Jeffery, thank you for your response. I intended no harm by my comment/observation and really do mean it when say I support Kickstarter (you should see the steady cash flow going from me to Amazon). I fully agree that the thought you and your team have put into the Sphericam makes for a superior product.  I do mean no disrespect to your efforts.

  4. Is anyone else reminded of the wonderful coconut-clippity-clop doodad for bicycles?

    Let me see what the thing can do!!!

    Biggest mistake of documentary filmmakers and kickstarter hopefuls: Thinking that *you* need to be the centre of attention.

    What does it do?! Lemme see!

    Nice jacket.

  5. looks like a powerful tool, but I love this quote:
    “Did you ever wish you could just stick your camera in the middle of the action, and capture everything at the same time? Now you can”
    does it hypnotize subjects, too?

    1. Hi Softyelectric,

      Axis M3007 (and many other similar models made by other companes) is a single fisheye lens, pointing straight down, giving you a single hemispherical image. Sphericam makes a fully spherical (well, currently with a small hole at the base) image – that’s two hemispheres – quite a big difference :) It is of course not possible to create an entirely spherical image with a single lens or mirror. 

      Also the camera you refer to is basically a regular IP camera, with no power source or recording medium, without GPS, wifi, or LAN (although some similar models may have wifi / memory card recording)

  6. One of the things that is so awesome about the Kogeto, the little parabolic lens you can attach to your iPhone to make a complete 360º camera, was the amazing software that went with it that allowed you to rotate your view as you were watching the video after the fact, like this.

    It looks like they’re doing some of the same stuff here, although I have to say the controls on the playback are a little less intuitive.

  7. Reminds me of; No kit, no cameras just an lens and your iphone. Do videos, do photos.

  8. This is very similar to an idea I’ve been kicking around for years – I still have the original proposal I drew up some twenty years ago very much like this. But you have gone ahead and made this a reality, congratulations to you! Lately I have been thinking of other variations, such as a balloon-mounted version, with directional thrusters, that could float around, or be steered by the operators. If it were publicly accessible, operators could vote on the direction it should go, otherwise, it would float randomly, or follow interesting sounds (like gunshots, loud voices, or music).

    Viewers could hit a button if they see someone needing help, to summon assistance. Initially, a quorum of viewers in agreement would be needed before triggering the assistance call. Video would then be recorded and posted to a site for review by registered users. Over time, users’ influence would be weighted according to their accuracy. For instance, if user A hit the assistance request, and the review later found that nothing was going on, or that the request was used to harass someone, A’s influence would be decreased. However, if every time user B hit the button, responders found that the situation was a true emergency, B’s influence would be increased.

    People could have fun with public installations – face-mapping technology could allow a remote user with a webcam to display a pseudo-face avatar of themselves on the camera, and interact with people in public. To protect the identities of the public, similar technology could map pseudo-faces onto individuals. An index of eigenface vectors would permit assigning the same pseudo-face to a given individual, without storing an actual representation of the face. If a remote user abused the system, public users could activate an alert, either by pressing a button, or through voice recognition. Users could have their access restricted if they showed a pattern of abuse.

    I suppose I should get working!

  9. Wow, dudes! A 360 ft ice scraper a few stories ago and now a 360 ft camera! Here, have a degrees character: °.

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