The Amazing 'Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera'

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Jonas Pfeil, a student at the Technical University of Berlin, noticed that there was no easy way to take a complete spherical, panoramic photograph. Even if you had enough cameras and the right software, you would still have the problem of a tripod or camera mount blocking one angle. The solution? A rubber ball camera -- just toss it in the air. 

Pfeil describes how his invention works on his website

Our camera uses 36 fixed-focus 2 megapixel mobile phone camera modules. The camera modules are mounted in a robust, 3D-printed, ball-shaped enclosure that is padded with foam and handles just like a ball. Our camera contains an accelerometer which we use to measure launch acceleration. Integration lets us predict rise time to the highest point, where we trigger the exposure. After catching the ball camera, pictures are downloaded in seconds using USB and automatically shown in our spherical panoramic viewer. This lets users interactively explore a full representation of the captured environment.

We 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.

Other members of the project are Kristian Hildebrand, Carsten Gremzow, Bernd Bickel, Marc Alexa, and the patent is pending. They are currently looking for investors, and hope to make the camera available for sale soon.  

For more information, visit http://jonaspfeil.de/ballcamera.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/10/the-amazing-throwable-panoramic-ball-camera/247089/