Google introduces Cardboard Camera app to create 3D VR images

4 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Launches Cardboard Camera, A Free App To Create 3D Virtual Reality Photos.

Google has just introduced Cardboard Camera–a new app that is part of its Google Cardboard platform with the ability to show your own panoramic photos as a 360-degree VR experience. If you’ve been looking for more things to do with your Google Cardboard headset, Google just launched a new way to share your surroundings with others—sort of.The future promise of VR headsets is immense, but perhaps the biggest impediment to their wider adoption is the lack of actual content you can watch on them.

Cardboard Camera pulls off a bit of trickery to simulate depth within your photos (making near things look near, and far things look far), and then sends slightly different photos to each eye — thereby simulating the appearance of a 3D environment. As is with the panorama feature that is a feature with most smartphone cameras these days, you simply hold up your camera and pan it in a circular fashion to capture the scene around you. The photo was captured in 360-degree, 3-D virtual reality, allowing Podwal’s dad to immerse himself his son’s virtual living room using Cardboard, Google’s cheap virtual reality goggles. “This was the first time he saw my home, and the effect his gift had on my life,” Podwal said during a recent meeting at Google’s San Francisco offices. “He was so moved. So revisit the mountaintop that took hours to hike, or the zoo where you saw (and heard) the monkeys, or your birthday party with the cake out and candles still lit. Anyone who’s taken a panoramic shot using their smartphone already knows how to use this app: You hold your phone in a vertical position, tap the camera button, and move in a circle.

Microsoft Hololens has definitely earned some praise in the market and it is possible that the company is using the cardboard kit as a means to lower the barrier and encourage VR developer interest, the report added. For its limitations, something like Cardboard Camera might actually be more important than Jump for getting people excited about the possibilities of VR.

If you send someone a photo from your vacation, or from a party, they might actually willfully suffer the inconvenience and expense of strapping a screen to their face. During my demo at Google’s offices, I stood on a beach and squinted at tiny human figures backlit against the water’s horizon; I invaded a family campfire scene with recently put-out flames sending wisps of smoke into the air; I enjoyed the view atop Mount Kilimanjaro without the strenuous hike. It’s hard not to see this as yet another incremental effort in Google’s ultimate goal to own “democratized” virtual reality—that is, virtual reality that’s cheap and accessible to everyone.

The simulated blur cleverly used software to mimic a shallow depth of field effect on photos, making closer objects appear in sharp focus while further objects are blurred out—similar to how human eyes focus on one close-up thing and the rest fades into the background. Basically, the app uses computational photography and computer vision to recreate the 3-D experience without a special camera. “It calculates 3-D,” Podwal says. Cardboard Camera took about a year to develop, and as Podwal tells it, the team concentrated on just one thing: the act of taking the photos themselves.

And the focus seems to have paid off: It takes only a minute or so for phones to output each picture, and the images publish in .JPEG—a common image format that’s compatible across most computers and smartphones. There’s no share button at all within the app—the only way for folks to let their friends enjoy their VR pictures is to actually hand them a Google Cardboard unit with the phone that captured a particular scene. But with the number of owners creeping up higher after several clever promotions, Google will need to add sharing soon, which the company says will happen. Google also plans to support VR platforms other than Cardboard with the app. “You can sort of say it’s a ‘common man’ VR,” says Brian Blau, an analyst with research firm Gartner who has studied virtual reality both as an academic and in the commercial realm. He points out that Cardboard—which relies on readily available tech like the smartphone in your pocket and a $5 viewer—doesn’t deliver the same quality you would get from a higher-end VR system.

At the higher end, VR systems can be connected to a computer, take advantage of more advanced cameras, and often include higher-resolution displays. “You could say that exposing people to this sort of lower quality may somehow give people the wrong impression of what [virtual reality] can do,” says Blau. At the same time, these compromises allow Google to get VR in the hands of as many people as possible—something that’s very attractive to another segment of the population Google wants to court: businesses. “I don’t think this push [into virtual reality] is all coming from Google. This is a pull from businesses, too,” says Blau, adding that brand tie-ins like the recent New York Times initiative can be helpful as a marketing tool, or to help extend the reach of a brand using pretty neat (albeit a little gimmicky) VR applications.

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