New app lets your iPhone 5 go for a spin by itself, bring back the video proof


posted Friday, December 28, 2012 at 10:45 PM EST

Are you an iPhone 5 owner and a fan of out-of-the-box thinking? If so, you're doubtless going to love the new Cycloramic app from Atlanta-based Egos Ventures.

Sure, it isn't the world's most practical creation, but Cycloramic is a real attention-grabber. It lets you capture panning videos by using your phone's hardware in a way Apple almost certainly never intended. Launch the app, stand your phone on its end, press the big, friendly "Go" button at the center of the screen, and the rest is handled automatically. The phone even rotates all by itself for a specified number of turns.

There are, of course, some provisos. First of all, it does have to be an iPhone 5; the trick won't work properly with other iPhone models. That's because the rotation is induced using the phone's vibration motor, which is tucked away neatly above the top left corner of the display, and is ordinarily used to provide near-silent alerts. (You can see it in the iFixit teardown; look at steps 25 and 26.) The vibration motors in other iPhones apparently don't work, likely due to different placement or motor design. You're also limited to shooting with your iPhone 5 in portrait orientation.

The Cycloramic app lets your iPhone 5 control its own panning while shooting video.

Also, you're going to need the phone on a very smooth surface such as a glass-topped office desk, both to reduce the likelihood of scratching, and to reduce friction so that the phone can move more easily. The surface will also need to be perfectly level, or the phone will naturally seek out the lowest edge and promptly throw itself at the floor, which could be a rather expensive learning experience, to say the least! One last catch: for the time being, only video capture is possible -- but the soundtrack of the video is likely to be overwhelmed by the noise of your phone vibrating away merrily on your desk.

While all of this makes Cycloramic rather less useful than it might at first appear, you still can't deny the "Wow!" factor of what it does. Should Egos tweak the app to allow still image shooting, it could be handy for the occasional desk-based pano as well, which would seem to be relatively feasible given that the phone has a built-in compass that would let it know when to shoot each image.

An example of video shot using the Cycloramic app.

Will it replace standalone smartphone motion platforms like the Motrr Galileo? No, but that's not really the point -- and you won't find a dedicated motion platform available at just 99 cents, either. Embrace it for what it is: the epitome of geek cool! More details and the download are available on the iTunes app store.

(via John Nack on Adobe)