Tools like Google Street View and even Apple's iPhone allow you to view the world as captured in panoramic photos, but a new camera called Centr delivers the same kind of immersive experience in high-definition video.
Created by a team of ex-Apple employees, Centr is a beautifully designed, palm-sized panoramic camera that you can control with your smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android).
"Think of it as a GoPro plus," Centr CEO Bill Banta told Mashable. "It lets you do everything you could with a GoPro, plus see another dimension.
It allows the user to get perspectives that they couldn't normally get with a GoPro. Now you have the opportunity to create a panoramic selfie.It allows the user to get perspectives that they couldn't normally get with a GoPro. Now you have the opportunity to create a panoramic selfie."
Giving users the ability to record 360-degree high-definition video is something the team has been working on for several years. Working under the name Stealth HD, the team provided private panoramic video recording solutions for the military, sports organizations and companies like Red Bull and National Geographic.
But it was only within the last 12 months that the team reached a point where they believed the technology could be made available to the general public at an affordable price ($399 at retail, with lower prices available now during pre-order).
"Our dream has always been to bring this type of tech to the mass market," says Banta. "We had a real breakthrough last year. We got to a point where we were able to do all the calibration and processing in real-time."
Using in-camera calibration, Centr's four independent HD image sensors stitch together panoramic videos in real-time, delivering an entirely different, and often quite revealing perspective on reality.
"The real value is you don't have to worry about anything being out of frame or out of focus," says Banta.
With up to two hours of battery life for continuous shooting (six hours standby), the device, which can be held through its center hole, or using a tripod, immediately opens up the possibility of innovative filmmaking using Centr's 360-perspective.
"The longest we've recorded is a full day at Burning Man," says Banta. "If you have a 64GB SD card, you should be able to get 7 to 8 hours of recording time, assuming you're recording at 720 resolution."
The camera can also shoot 1080p video and is equipped with 8GB of flash storage, three microphones, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability and a USB 3.0 connector.
Once they decided to release the product commercially, the team turned to Kickstarter, a route startups are increasingly relying upon to test out market demand. In this case, the makers of Centr are looking to raise $900,000 from early backers, a pretty ambitious goal for a product that is likely to appeal to a small niche of users.
"For people that just take pictures, it's probably not the perfect product," says Banta. "It's for people who love video and who love capturing memories and experiences through video."
Another factor that may bolster the project's success is the fact that the product's DNA is infused with Apple tradition and attention to detail. Banta managed Apple's supply chain for its camera group for four years, and Centr CTO, Paul Alioshin, led camera engineering at Apple and was part of the team that brought the built-in iSight camera to the Mac, MacBook and iPhone.
As of this writing, the project has garnered nearly $300,000, with 25 days to go, so that nearly $1 million goal may not be as lofty as some might think.