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Computer engineer takes photography into new sphere

posted 31 Oct 2011, 12:41 by Mpelembe
Amateur photographers the world over may soon be able to take those much anticipated - but often disappointing - panoramic holiday snaps with minimal fuss and maximum satisfaction, thanks to a German computer engineer and colleagues at a Berlin university. The team have built what they the "Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera", a prototype that promises to change the way we take wide angle pictures.

BERLIN, GERMANY (OCTOBER 28, 2011) REUTERS - Jonas Pfeil is a computer engineer and recen graduate of the Technical University of Berlin. He is also an enthusiastic amateur photographer and he's managed to satisfy both passions with what he calls the "Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera".

The ball camera is designed to take seamless, spherical panoramic photographs that capture every feature with equal clarity. Thrown in the air, the camera captures an image as the highest point of its flight for the split second it is stationary between rising and falling. With 36 fixed-focus, two megapixel mobile phone camera modules mounted inside a secure spherical enclosure, the camera ball can capture dynamic scenes without producing ghosting. The camera contains an accelerometer which is used to measure launch acceleration and trigger the exposure at the climax of flight. The image can then be downloaded, viewed and manipulated on a spherical panoramic viewer installed on a computer.

Pfeil says the idea came to him while on a vacation.

"I was hiking in Tonga which is an island in the South Pacific. And I took a lot of pictures the conventional way, panoramic ones that is, with a single camera, taking pictures all around you and then stitching them together on the PC later. And the process of taking these images just takes a long time. And when I came back from one of the mountains there on Tonga I had the idea to just throw something up and and capture the panoramic view instantaneously."

Pfeil says the camera ball is attracting a great deal of interest but that it is still in need of refinement.

"This is just a prototype at the moment but we are working on making it smaller, and also improving the image quality. So the pictures you are seeing right now on our YouTube video, there are raw data, unstitched, so we are working on stitching and image quality will improve a lot in the near future." he said.

Pfeil would one day like to see his camera innovation made available to consumers. He says he and his colleagues "used the camera to capture full spherical panoramas at scenic spots, in a crowded city square and in the middle of a group of people taking turns in throwing the camera. Above all we found that it is a very enjoyable, playful way to take pictures."