Fully immersive video experiences are really only just getting started, and the newborn market is still trying to establish its identity. One of the best ways to get a media market to grow is to have tons of content creators making new and more competitive content on it. However, one problem the 360-degree video market has been struggling with is a shortage of readily available consumer-grade video capture technology. Today at MWC, Samsung unveiled their solution to this problem alongside the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge: the Samsung Gear 360.
It looks a little bit like Wheatley from Portal 2 and a lotta bit like a disembodied human eyeball. Nevertheless, the Gear 360 is a pretty impressive little device. It has wide-angle cameras affixed to opposite sides that enable it to stitch together a complete 360-degree image in a snap. The double-lensed cue ball has a flattened bottom, which means it can rest easy on basically any surface, but it comes with a nifty little tripod as well.
The Gear 360 has a replaceable battery tucked away inside a small door, and you can add a microSD card for up to 128GB of on-device storage. It’s splash-proof and dust resistant, but from the feel of it, we wouldn’t expect it to take a ton of abuse. Although this might not be the best device for adventure footage for that reason, what the Gear 360 has over more robust, professional grade equipment is consumer-friendly accessibility.
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This spherical camera interacts seamlessly with a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, but non-Samsung users can still take advantage of the device’s capabilities through the use of a PC app. The camera itself doesn’t have much processing power, so it outsources the stitching process to either your Galaxy handset or your computer.
The quality isn’t perfect, but it is suitable. The still shots are 30 megapixels, but you can still see errors in the stitching if objects are too close to either lens. The video quality isn’t quite as good, clocking in at 3840×1920 resolution. It’s still an excellent experience on Gear VR, but it’s still outstripped by professional-grade equipment.
Perfect quality isn’t the point of the Gear 360, however. This device is looking to put 360-degree video tech in the hands of the masses, which is a great step toward boosting the VR platform toward its inevitable mainstream adoption. We don’t have pricing information on the Gear 360 yet, but some believe it may be available in a package with the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. Whether or not this friendly looking little camera achieves its goal of making 360-degree video available to all will hinge largely on how affordable it is.