Friday, August 12, 2016

HTC Vive updates its software bundle

The HTC Vive (first impressions here) included three apps in its software bundle: Tilt Brush, Fantastic Contraption, and Job Simulator.  HTC Vive is now changing the bundle to include:
  • Tilt Brush
  • The Gallery episode 1: Call of the StarSeed, and
  • Zombie Training Simulator.

To Hell and back: inside a volcano with the Ricoh Theta S

Thomas O'Brien is a professional photographer.  He spent 8 hours inside a volcano with a scientific expedition team.  In addition to his regular equipment, he also took with him the Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here) and a Ricoh Theta S (reviewed here).  Thomas shared an amazing 360 photo of the inside of a volcano, captured by the Ricoh Theta.

Click on the photo to see the 360 version  on his Facebook page:

I'm hoping Thomas will also post samples from the Gear 360!

Nikon Keymission 360 video shows effective image stabilization

Nikon posted a new sample 360 video from the Nikon Keymission 360.  This time, it's a sailing video with ocean racing legend Franck Cammas.

Effortless Aerial 360 videos: Aerial Pack with Kodak SP360 4k for 3DR Solo Drone now available

The Aerial Pack with the Kodak SP360 4k for the 3DR Solo Drone is now available.  The Aerial Pack (previously announced here) allows you to capture fully spherical aerial 360-degree videos without the drone in the shot, eliminating the need to clone out the drone, which can be a tedious task for 360 videos.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

REVIEW: Pocket Smoovie Stabilizer - a pocketable stabilizer for 360 degree cameras

With 360 videos, any shaking is exaggerated and becomes quite noticeable, so 360 videos benefit tremendously from stabilization.

Smoovie stabilizer is a compact, pocketable stabilizer made for smartphones and small cameras (under 250g) that may also work for smaller 360 cameras.  It uses a handle with a magnetized gimbal and a counterweight for stability.  The basic Smoovie comes with a smartphone holder, while the Smoovie Plus adds a 1/4-20 adapter.

I found the Smoovie attractive because of the relatively low price compared to other stabilizers.  I backed the Kickstarter project for it and received the Smoovie Plus yesterday, around two months delayed from the planned release, which is not bad for crowdfunded projects.

TECHNIQUE: How to rotate a 360 photo or a 360 logo or watermark

There are many ways to rotate a 360 photo, or a 360 logo or watermark.  Here's an easy way that is also lossless.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Facebook adds awesome Guide and Heatmap tools for 360 videos!

Facebook added two powerful new tools for 360 video creators: a Guide to direct the viewer's attention, and a Heatmap to identify the points of greatest interest.

More sample 360 videos from the Nikon Keymission 360

(note: this is a low-resolution screenshot)
Nikon has recently posted samples from the Keymission 360 showing improved stitching.  There was a video with a wind turbine, and a video with giraffes.  There's another one with elephants in Kenya.  This one was captured by Nikon Ambassador and National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale, who also captured the giraffe video.  As with the other recent videos, it shows very good image quality and nearly flawless stitching.

Here's a link to the video on Facebook (for best results, be sure to switch to HD mode).

Update: another sample video featuring a rock climber. I found this one through a post on

Inexpensive waterproof case for the Samsung Gear 360 and other 360 cameras

The Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here) has a waterproof housing but it seems to be available only in Europe so far.  Meanwhile, you can use the Samsung Gear 360 underwater with an inexpensive waterproof case / pouch, which also works for other 360 cameras.  In this post, I'll show two of them.

Shironeko VR: a nostalgic Japanese Action RPG for the Samsung Gear VR

Shironeko VR is a nostalgic action RPG for the Samsung Gear VR (reviewed here) in the tradition of SNES-era games such as Secret of Mana.  Did I mention it's free? ^_^

Rio Olympics VR: boxing highlights and replays now available

Boxing highlights are now ready for viewing in the Rio Olympics VR app, where available.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

TECHNIQUE: Create mesmerizing, mysterious and magical 360 photos with this app!

You can transform your 360-degree photos into dreamlike fantasies -- legally, I might add -- using a simple app.

Protective armor for HTC Vive wand controllers

HTC Vive controllers are sometimes waved around a lot, and you might accidentally hit the wall or ceiling with them.  With a replacement cost of $129.99 per controller, you wouldn't want to damage them.

UPDATE: Mamut Skull now available for preorder.

Mamut Skull is a protective armor for HTC Vive wand controllers.  It clips easily to the wand.

Brahma Duet 360 rig adds livestreaming capability

The Brahma Duet is a 2-camera rig that uses modified Git2 cameras to output fully spherical 360 video in 4k at 30fps.   Now the Brahma Duet adds realtime stitching and livestreaming capability as well!

$540 VR-Ready PC with Zotac GTX 1060 graphics card

The cost of a VR-ready PC is steadily decreasing, thanks largely to lower cost VR-ready graphics cards, like the GTX 1060.  In my case, I've been able to get a VR-ready PC for around $540.  

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mashable tries the V One ultrathin VR headset ... and it works!

The V One is an ultrathin VR headset announced in April.  At that time, I didn't even post about it because when I saw it, I thought it was too thin to be real.  But the guys at Mashable have now tried the V One headset and -- surprise -- it works.  Not only does it work, but the resolution is far higher than the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Samsung Gear VR, according to Mashable.  The headset will be offered on Kickstarter for $559.  Check out the Mashable article for the details!

I-mmersive VEYE is a 360 4k livestreaming camera

​The I-mmersive is an end-to-end 360 system that promises 4k 360 live streaming, with no stitching or postprocessing needed.  The system includes the VEYE camera, which has two 220-degree lenses with f/1.8 aperture paired with Sony sensors.  The VEYE camera has an unusual form factor that looks like a vertical disc.  The photo resolution is 12mp and the video resolution is 2560 x 1920 per sensor, and it can stream at 30 fps.

The VEYE can be supplemented with a base stand with a more powerful Wi-Fi antenna.  Strangely, the base stand has what looks like an antiquated RCA-type video and audio connector.

In addition to hardware, I-mmersive wants to provide a livestreaming system called Ticket VR, which can be monetized so that you can receive PayPal payments from viewers.

I-mmersive just launched its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, with a projected delivery to backers in April 2017.  The early bird price for the VEYE is $249, or $309 with the base stand.  As a reminder, crowdfunded projects can fail, with products that don't live up to the descriptions, or products that are not even sent to backers.

TECHNIQUE: how to use Prisma filters on 360-degree photos

Prisma is a very popular app that allows you to apply distinctive art style filters to a photo or other image.  Prisma's effects can also be applied to a 360-degree photo.  Here's how.

Ordinarily, a 360-degree photo is intended to be more realistic and immersive.  However, there's nothing that says it can't also be used with more creative effects.

Here's how to use Prisma on a 360-degree photo:

1.  Fit the equirectangular panorama to a square using an app such as Instafit.
2.  Apply the desired Prisma filter.
3.  Crop the image again to a 2:1 equirectangular panorama.

The image is now ready for viewing as a 360-degree image, but with a Prisma filter applied.  Here is a sample:

Here is another example, with animation:

When viewed on a VR headset, the effect is like stepping into a painting. 

You can also use the Prisma effect on a little planet, rabbit hole, or a cropped version of the 360 photo.

Rio Olympics VR: more Beach Volleyball highlights and replays now available

The second day of Beach Volleyball highlights is now available for viewing in the Rio Olympics VR app, where available.  Also available: beach replays from:

Men's - Italy (Carambula / Ranghieri) vs. Austria (Doppler / Horst)
Women's - Australia (Bawden/Clancy) vs. Costa Rica (Alfaro / C. Charles)
Men's - Brazil (Alison/Bruno Schmidt) vs. Canada (Binstock/Schachter)

DEALS: brand new VR-ready PC for $749

The iBuypower AM690 is a VR-ready PC for $749, with free Amazon Prime shipping.  It comes with a VR-ready AMD RX480 graphics card.

- Intel Core i5-6402P Quad Core 2.8GHz Processor (3.4GHz with Turbo) | B150M Chipset
- AMD RX-480 8GB graphics card
- 8GB DDR4 Memory
- 1TB 7200RPM HDD
- USB 3.0 x 2 and USB 2.0 x 4.
- 802.11ac Wireless Adapter
- Windows 10 Home
- iBUYPOWER Gaming Keyboard and Mouse

Please note that the Oculus Rift requires three USB 3.0 ports (possibly four with the Oculus Touch), so you'll have to add a USB 3.0 card to the AM690 if you want to use the Rift.  The HTC Vive uses one USB 2.0 port.

The AM690 is similar in price and specs as the CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme VR ($720), except that the AM690's graphics card has 8GB of RAM while the Xtreme VR's card has 4GB of RAM.  On the other hand, the AM690 has only two USB 3.0 ports, while the Xtreme VR has six USB 3.0 ports.

You can buy the AM690 from Amazon here.  Update: it's seems to be currently out of stock.  Back in stock in 1 to 3 months.

DEALS: $10 discount on RIGS for Playstation VR

RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is one of the launch titles for the Sony Playstation VR, and you can preorder it for $10 off from Amazon. Normally $49.99, if you preorder it on Amazon, the checkout price will be just $39.99 with Prime shipping.

RIGS will be released on October 13, the launch day for the Playstation VR.

PSA: Avoid HTC Vive scams on Craigslist

"Wow. What a deal! An HTC Vive for just $650, compared to the retail price of $799 plus shipping and tax! The only problem seems to be that it's a long drive away. Hmm I wonder if they would ship it to me?" And that's how the bait for this scam works...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

TwoEyes VR: the most affordable fully spherical 3D 360 camera with 4k video

photo by arcinteractive

There are many 360 cameras on the market now but only a few of them can capture in 3D 360. TwoEyes VR is a new fully spherical 3D 360 camera with 4k video resolution. It is by far the most affordable fully spherical 3D 360 camera, at just $399.

Update: TwoEyes is now available for preorderSee here for details and here is a hands-on report and a sample 3D video.

Rio Olympics VR: Beach Volleyball highlights

Beach Volleyball highlights are now available for viewing in the Rio Olympics VR app, where available.

First church in VR?

You can go to church in VR with the VR Church Experience by Pastor David Jonathan "DJ" Soto.  Pastor Soto was a pastor at Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Reading, Pennsylvania.  He created the VR Church Experience to give spiritual guidance to people in VR.  

The VR Church Experience is accessible on Altspace VR, a social media VR app for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR.  There is a service scheduled for today at 11am - 3pm PDT.  You can find it in Altspace VR under "User Events" (you may need to "click all").