Immersive video race heats up as yet another 360-degree video camera launches


posted Monday, July 28, 2014 at 4:19 PM EDT


Now that action cameras are commonplace, the next battlefield in consumer video is 360-degree capture, it seems. We've already written off 3D capture at the consumer level as an abject failure, and while 4K is on the way, it's going to need upgrades throughout your workflow. 360-degree video, though, is a much simpler proposition: Just replace your camera and you, too, could be part of the Next Big Thing (tm). At least that's what yet another company seems to think, as demonstrated by its announcement of a 360-degree video camera -- the third such launch in as many months.

Today's announcement comes from Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based VSN Mobil, a company which so far has but one product to its name. The V.ALRT, a wearable emergency alert button that pairs to your smartphone, started shipping a couple of months ago, and VSN has also teased an own-branded smartphone. Now, it's added a 360-degree video camera to its repertoire as well. The VSN Mobil V.360 is a product that's clearly designed to appeal to outdoors types thanks to a waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, vibration-proof design and support for GoPro-compatible mounting. (Don't expect to go scuba diving, though. It's waterproof to just one meter for 30 minutes.)

The VSN Mobil V.360 uses mirrors to capture a 360-degree view without stitching.

Like its recently-launched rivals, the CENTR and Giroptic 360cam, the V.360 forgoes its own display and instead works in concert with your smartphone to capture 360-degree video footage. Unlike those earlier announcements, the V.360 looks to use mirrors to capture its 360-degree view using a single camera, a technique used over a decade ago by the now-defunct Ipix Corp. to capture 360-degree stills in a single shot.

The V.360 features a high-res 16-megapixel image sensor that that provides sufficient resolution for a high-quality video feed even after de-warping. VSN lists the output dimensions as 6,480 x 1,080 pixels, which is the same height as a Full HD video frame, but almost 3.4 times the width. If you want, the V.360 can also shoot stills, which like the video can be transferred to and viewed on your Android or iOS smartphone.

The V.360 lacks its own display, instead being operated from your smartphone.

Although the design means there's no need for stitching -- and no risk of artifacts from the stitching process -- it still requires de-warping, a process that takes a significant amount of processing power at triple the pixel count of a Full HD feed. That's likely why the design includes a powerful 2.3GHz Qualcomm SnapDragon 800 processor, not unlike that you might find in a smartphone. And the V.360 also provides a GPS receiver and barometric altimeter, making it location-aware (and saving it having to piggyback off your phone for that information). 

Slated for October availability, the VSN Mobil V.360 hasn't yet been given a pricetag. Final pricing is believed to be around US$500, however. More details can be found on the VSN Mobil website.

(via Photography Blog)