Google Cardboard may be the catalyst 3D Immersive Video + Gaming needs to go mainstream.

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One of the hot topics to come out of this years Google I/O conference is Google Cardboard. (Or Oculus Thrift as its been nicknamed!!)

As BBC’s Richard Taylor suggested in his iPhone shot report on the project, some attendees thought it was a gag- Until they tried it!

But having watched a few reports I have to say I think it is ingenious! At the start of the year I blogged about 360º Immersive Video and the trend setters to watch.

Since then a literal deluge of 360º cameras/devices  have hit crowd-funding platforms as have novel and interesting alternatives to the Oculus Rift-see below.

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With so many impressive 360º cameras likely to be available by the end of the year, it begs the question how will the user CONSUME this 360º content?

Remember some of these cameras can LIVESTREAM 360º Video!

There are a growing number of Apps available for Android and iOS ( I don’t know of any for Windows but if you do please share in comments below)

which will give you a 360º Video player. The one I’ve used for demonstrations is Freedom360Player which uses the accelerometer, gyroscope etc to orientate the image as you move your head (head-tracking)

It looks like this

but notice this App doesn’t emulate the 2 up Immersive 3D display that is now synonymous with “Immersive Video:

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This is where Immersive Headsets like the Oculus Rift and these others come in to their own….

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But, until now there has been a genuine risk that Developers wouldn’t bother coding Apps for this Immersive platform.

Immersive is (somewhat) unproven and new,  3DTV left a lot of hot air in its wake but without the promised audience adoption.

However Google’s Cardboard, albeit extremely rudimentary may help to convince a wary audience of the potential of Immersive Video and Games, before they outlay on any of the headsets mentioned above.

This could be the catalyst that helps in the proof of concept stage that will lead to wider audience adoption and hopefully some really innovative uses.

The designs to build you’re own “Cardboard” are on the Google Developers site (Click image of template) or

 

 

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alternatively you can buy a pre-cut version here

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The last point I’m chewing through is the interaction features. Google have used an ultra simple magnet (silver ring in image) mounted on the side of the headset to interact with their menus.

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But what if the mobile device, iPhone or Android could pair via bluetooth with something like a Kinect or Leap?

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Or even better what if the Android Wear range were fitted with the same motion sensors as the phones to track movement?

Then simple gestures with your hands could become the interaction method for the user?

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Which might look like this…. 😉

Form more info on the MetaPro SpaceGlasses click here

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Parallax Scrolling for the masses? Here’s two solutions/developers to watch @shorthand_ | @storehousehq

I was at News Rewired late last year and at one of the sessions a heated debate flared up about the NewYorkTimes Epic multimedia story “Snowfall”.

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Matthew Ingram of GigaOm argued that the entire story was an overindulgent fad and that that the move into this immersive long form storytelling was not being driven by what the audience/readers want but instead by the aspirations of designers and multimedia reporters. He cited the Guardians story FireStorm also.

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For my part I have to admit I was blown away by both – in part by the sheer scale and depth of the stories but also by the really stunning visual aesthetic they had created with Parallax Scrolling. In a quite remarkable revelation the Guardians head of multimedia special projects, Francesca Panetta, confided their FireStorm story had taken three months to shoot, edit, code and compile!

At the Q&A session that followed I took the mic and defended the form as being in its infancy and that this experimental phase is very important for introducing a new paradigm. I stated that the turning point would be when a simple, template driven Application was developed to make the process of compiling a Parallax Scrolling multimedia story simple and intuitive…

At the same session Ben Fogarty, executive manager with Startup “Shorthand” presented a demonstration of the product: a template driven Application for creating Parallax Scrolling multimedia stories 🙂 Shorthand is still in private BETA but the latest iteration of their website gives a good taste of whats to come.

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On the longer 5 or 10 day Mojo courses Ive run over the last year I always included a session on photography to allow you to leverage stills, audio, video and text to create a multimedia narrative – If you are using an iPad to create your story then I have another App to check out for you. Launched in the last few days STOREHOUSE is a free App for iPad which also allows you to create immersive Parallax Scrolling multimedia stories. I love the interface and the extremely easy and intuitive UI. I compiled a story in 15mins with no difficulty – Give it a go, the results are excellent!

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For now the only limitations I can see with Storehouse is that the stories you make are retained within the storehouse ecosystem. To view a story after publishing it you must have the App installed. You can use up to 50 photos or video clips but the videos can be no longer than 30 seconds in length. Fonts are limited to 3 at the moment but presumably the current free version is an LE edition to create and inspire a dedicated user base. If and when they decide to monetize it I think (and hope) that for a pro version you could export your story as an entire HTML5 page or maybe as an embeddable iFrame or similar.

Either way with immersive content, gesture based interactivity and parallax scrolling, multimedia storytelling just got a lot more interesting and accessible.

Is 2014 the year of the 360º Immersive Video revolution? Check out some of the front-runners.

A little preamble….Danfung Dennis became famous for his documentary “Hell and back Again” which won both the World Cinema Jury Award and World Cinema Cinematography Award at 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was subsequently nominated for an Academy Award in 2012.

After the theatrical release of the movie Dennis founded a company “Condition One” which developed an Immersive 360° Video App for the iPad and iPhone. I remember downloading the App and being impressed with the fact that you were moving through space in realtime but could effectively pan the camera around to explore the scene. It reminded me of a ride at the Epcot centre many years ago which had a 360° fly through of Thailand from the air. The last I heard Dennis was working on 360° camera to contribute to his platform.

Over the last 10 years Nicholas Woodman, Founder of Woodman Labs – the makers of GoPro has been iterating a robust, wearable camera that can shoot HD video and HiRes photographs. In fact if you haven’t heard of Gopro then I would struggle to know how you ended up on this blog!. Woodman is now a billionaire after FoxxConn invested over $200million in the company.  Click here for a really great interactive timeline from Forbes.com of the evolution of Gopro from 2011 and here for the feature story

While the recent release of the GoPro Hero3+ was met with some mixed reaction, GoPro is still the market leader for wearable cameras. But, I’ve noticed in the last 12 months that there are several new 360° Video cameras appearing with their own viewer software and they may well steal a little Gopro thunder in 2014. Thats if GoPro don’t drop a Hero 360° this year! Of course theres already a couple of versions of this available (sort of) : http://www.360heros.com  http://freedom360.us

Here are the ones on my watch list.

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1. Geonaute (Photo and Video)

Retail Price: €399 (Pre-Launch offer) Launch date TBC – Sign up for info on their website or Follow them on Twitter

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 2. Bublcam (Photo, Video 720p/30fps 1080p/15fps, Live streaming)

Retail Price $579 Expected ship date June 2014  Pre-Order now on their website or Follow them on Twitter

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3. Panono (photo only)

The Panono is currently part of a crowd-funding project on Indiegogo Price and release date to be confirmed but it has already reached its funding goal. For updates follow them on Twitter

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4. Squito Serveball (Photo/Video)

The Serveball is currently in development by its inventor Steve Hollinger. No shipping date as yet.

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5. GoPano

You can record 360° Immersive video on your iPhone using the GoPano attachment. Obviously the overall resolution is substantially lower than that of multiple cameras stitched together but if you want to shoot on a shoestring this will be a good starting point.

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At the other end of the spectrum is a company immersivemedia.com who have several 360° cameras available with one suggested price being in excess of $20,000! Expensive to say the least and I doubt these guys will be happy if any of the above, particularly a 360° Gopro hit the market. Check out one of their demo videos: http://im360.immersivemedia.com/watch/?s=592 Follow them on Twitter

At the end of the day these 360° video platforms will live or die by the effectiveness and ease of use of their respective viewer Apps. While most support options to upload to the respective companies website into special viewer software, (which is embeddable) or alternatively to view the 360° video via a dedicated smartphone or tablet App, I think it would be very interesting if some of them developed a viewer  that works with the Oculus Rift which I mentioned in a blog post recently that truly would be IMMERSIVE.

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A final thought…If it becomes possible to live stream the 360° video to a widely supported viewer like Quicktime then the current trend for Radio stations to video live stream their radio studio output could get very interesting. In effect the audience could become the director of their very own show choosing which direction to look or which presenter/guest to watch. Fun times ahead!