What could be more fun than taking panoramic photographs? The answer, according Jonas Pfeil and his colleagues, might lie in how you take these pictures. Typically, taking panoramic images requires several shots from different positions and then stitching them together.
Pfeil and his team have developed a working prototype of a “ball camera” that may revolutionize how pictures are taken, especially those with high width to height ratios.
The new ball camera comprises 36 tiny cameras, similar to the ones used in mobile phones, held together inside a housing “printed” using 3D printing technologies. In addition to the cameras, the housing also contains an accelerometer to gauge acceleration as the camera is thrown and thence maximum height. The two Atmel microcontrollers sync up and control the cameras.
Each camera takes a 2 megapixel image. To take a panoramic picture, you literally have to throw the ball camera into the air. The cameras take 36 images of the panoramic scene from the top of the ball’s trajectory before falling back to earth. The camera is protected by a thick layer of foam so even a fall will not damage it.
To view the panorama, the 36 images have to be downloaded via a USB port into a spherical panoramic viewer that will be sold along with the ball camera. You can pan and zoom on the image to look at its details. The patent-pending ball camera will be on display and available for demos at SIGGRAPH Asia, an event scheduled for December.
At this time, pricing is not known, although it is expected to be competitive with digital point-and-shoot cameras.