Why you should care
Because the future of video is here. And it fits in the palm of your hand.
The world isn’t flat, so why should our videos be? Welcome to the latest innovation in changing the way we capture the world: 360-degree spherical video cameras. These dome-shaped devices allow the professional and amateur videographer to document their perspective of the universe in an incredibly interactive manner — videos where you can adjust the display to focus on the sky or the ground.
And their arrival is timely. In March, Facebook announced it would support 360-degree video in Facebook feeds, and YouTube just enabled 360-degree video uploads. But seeing it in action is believing. Play the video below in a Chrome browser or YouTube’s Android app and click or swipe your way around the video.
But, you may ask, what’s the allure if you have no George Lucas aspirations? Well, for one thing, it takes interactive content to the next and rather mind-blowing level. We’ve been framing pictures the same way for 200 years, explains Giroptic COO Marian Le Calvez. “It’s not natural for the world to be square.” 360-degree video is about having an improved way to capture experiences, letting you stay in the moment, he says. The $499 Giroptic camera, which screws into light sockets and can stream video to your devices, also doubles as a home security system.
Another option, the 360 Bublcam ($799) is a rugged, baseball-size camera that lets you immerse yourself in images — while software takes care of the fiddly tech bits. Creating virtual reality content used to be time consuming, Bubl marketing manager Joanna Taccone tells OZY. You once needed a complex rig and hours to stitch all the video files together. Now the camera operator can focus on content, not technicalities. The Bublcam, in development since 2011 by a 25-person Toronto startup, starts shipping sometime this year.
How likely is it that this tech will take off at home? “Spherical videos will be as common as the point-and-shoot camera within a couple of years,” Taccone says. But Cherlynn Low, staff writer at Tom’s Guide tech magazine, isn’t so sure. Although 360 video-cameras are now “flooding the market” she doesn’t know many people looking to buy them. So, for now, cost might be a factor. And while the 360-degree videos are fun to play around with as a user, how many people have the energy and creative juice to produce their own movies at home?
Bubl’s not the only 360 camera in the game. This year Kodak launched the SP360 ($349) that shoots spherical video, and the $299 Ricoh Theta camera was released in late 2014. And, in April, action camera brand GoPro acquired the virtual reality startup Kolor — something Taccone calls a “significant market validation” for brand names adopting this technology.
The multitude of 360 cameras makes it easy for consumers to create cool footage, but until viewing it becomes platform agnostic, video growth will be limited. The future of video is here, but we might not be ready for it just yet.