Google uses 360-degree cameras mounted on vans that drive the streets of the world to collect data. The data populates Google's "street view" feature in Google Maps. The mobile app 360 Panorama can deliver the same interactive, 360-degree view from a mobile device as well as streamline the process of sharing detailed site photos.
"We take many site photos and then use Photoshop to merge them for panoramic views to send around," says junior architect Nathan Harelson. “If an application simplified that process, we would use it all the time.”
The app does simplify the process but so do several others on the market. Developed by Occipital Inc., San Francisco, 360 Panorama goes a step beyond making panoramic shots: It creates a stitched-together spherical bubble that becomes interactive when viewed on a mobile device that has a gyroscope, putting recipients in the sender’s shoes.
This link shows what a 360-degree image looks like when browsing on a gyroscope-equipped device.
Since the app can't give a simple iPhone or Android camera a 360-degree lens, it works by using the phone's gyroscope and a 360-degree reference grid to piece together the camera’s relatively narrow view. Whatever the camera can see is projected onto the grid; when it is rotated, the app creates a whole environment, frame by frame.
ENR tested the app on an iPhone 5 and was able to get nearly perfect interior and exterior views of everything from the interior of St. John's Baptist church interior to ENR's office on 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. Interior and low-light shots were more difficult to get perfect.
It is important to keep the camera rotation as tight as possible when turning. Users should also allow for a 50% overlap of photos. In Google Play, for example, some users complain the app is slow. When ENR tested it on the iPhone, the experience was seamless. But when editors tested on an older Android-based smartphone—that is, the Motorola Droid 2 Global—the app took one picture and crashed, which happened multiple times. But if the phone has the horsepower and the user has 99 cents, this app is well worth the time it saves.