Virtual Reality is rapidly approaching a watershed moment. High-end, commercially available head mounted displays are just months away from hitting store shelves and this has the entertainment industry running in circles looking for ways to capitalize on what they have been told is the Next Big Thing.
Yet the way that people interact with new technologies, especially vide based technologies has a lot more to do with taking on the role of “prosumer” than it does just passively scarfing down studio content. In short: if this VR thing is going to really take off people are going to need to be able to make their own virtual reality experiences.
This is where the Sphericam could come into play.
Designer Jeffrey Martin and a team of engineers came up with the original Sphericam— a 360 degree video camera— in 2012. Turning to Kickstarter he raised $34,631 against a $10,000 goal.
What had been a bulky set of kit has become a slick device with a playful vibe. Instead of looking like something that belongs in a science lab it’s possible to imagine the new Sphericam strapped just about anywhere you might find a GoPro these days. Only it looks a lot camera-like than a GoPro.
The device is set to capture 60-90m minutes worth of video footage, with resolution hitting the magical 4K which makes VR video livable. That’s on internal memory, by the way.
We spoke with Jeffrey Martin about his latest design, what brought him back to Kickstarter, and what he thinks it will take for VR to take off via email:
TURNSTYLE: How long after finishing up Sphericam 1 did you start working on Sphericam 2?
JEFFREY MARTIN: Right away we started speccing out exactly how to build something “the right way” from the ground up. Around the same time, Oculus started happening, so finally the market started catching up to what we wanted to build. We finally settled on a basic specification around ideal delivery to today’s VR headsets – basically supporting the frame rate and resolution of the Gear VR and so on.
TS: I’ve checked out the footage (just on YouTube, sadly) and it looks fantastic… but I’m curious as to how the data is actually recorded. I’m assuming the footage is streaming to an app of some kind. Is that right?
JM: It is possible to monitor the recording via an app, but the 6 videos are being recorded to internal storage in the camera, and stitching is done afterwards. It will also be possible to record stitched video in realtime for easy publishing.
TS: There’s a lot of excitement in the VR imaging space right now— Google and Jaunt are just two of the players here—where do you see Sphericam in the VR camera market? Who is the target audience?
JM: Google Jump and Jaunt cameras are made to be stationary – not moved.
There is LARGE number of use cases in cinematography where the camera operator wants to…. move the camera ;)
We want millions of people to make VR cinema with our camera. Some of it will be of absolutely professional quality, and some won’t – that is up to our customers. What I can say, is that the large cumbersome cameras made by other companies will make some incredible content, but it necessarily won’t be the huge quantity of content that is truly needed to launch VR into a really mainstream activity.
TS: How does this campaign compare to the first?
JM: Well we’ve raised nearly 10X more so we must be doing something right this time. Really the main difference now is that we are launching a real company out of this rather than doing it as a single project.
TS: I’m always interested in those creators and inventors who return to Kickstarter after already having a successful product, what brought you back?
JM: It is one of the most amazing marketing vehicles for new products today. For a hardware startup, it is an incredible tool to raise awareness and get preorders from a product that is not 100% finished, and to do some basic market validation.
TS: Do you expect virtual reality to take off in the mainstream marketplace once the major head mounted displays are available?
JM: No. It will take more content on the platforms – games, videos, cinema, and so on. Only when “the app store is full” will we see normal folks seeing a reason to get them.
TS: How quickly will it take to get there and see adoption?
JM: I think we are still 3 years away from what we would call mainstream adoption. Until then it is early adopters – although I think there are millions of them, too!
TS: The scale of the response has been impressive, does that mean we’ll be seeing Sphericam 2’s in electronic stores alongside VR headsets and GoPro’s next year?
JM: If all goes well, then definitely. Sphericam 3 and 4 aren’t far behind either.
The Sphericam 2 is funding on Kickstarter through July 30th, 2015.