You’ve heard of point-and-shoot cameras, single reflex lens (SLR) cameras, micro four-thrids cameras and perhaps even light field cameras. But what about a throwable ball camera? That’s what Jonas Pfeil, student extraordinary at the Technical University of Berlin, developed for a class project (for which we presume he earned high grades).
Using this new type of camera requires more hand-eye coordination than it does photography skills. The “photographer” merely turns on the camera, throws it straight up in the air and catches the ball when it comes down. The camera does the rest.
Inside the ball is an accelerometer that measures the velocity of the throw. When the ball reaches its apex—that is, in that moment that the ball is motionless after going up but before falling down—all 36 fixed-focus cameras imbedded in the ball fire at once. Their images combine to capture a complete 360° panorama. Once you transfer the panoramic image to a computer you can rotate it around and zoom in on any portion.
Though the Throwable Panoramic Camera Ball is still in the development phase, it isn’t theoretical either. Pfeil has built a real working model. The physical ball was made using a 3D printer. The 2MP cameras on the ball were reclaimed from old cell phones. All the other physical parts were bought off-the-self. Pfeil wrote the software in a combination of C, C++, QT and openCV.
All that bodes well for the production version of the Throwable Panoramic Camera Ball being inexpensive. Spot Cool Stuff would like to see sensors of a little higher quality than those used in the concept model. We also think there should be consistent exposure across all the cameras. With the independent exposure control the colors vary too greatly between sections of the panorama. Check out a sample panorama image in the video, below.
If you happen to be in Hong Kong you can see the Throwable Panoramic Camera Ball first hand at the SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 show, where its inventors will be looking for investors.