The VR / 360 Degree photography market is just starting to establish itself with the growth of VR headsets over the last couple of years. Products such as £10 Google Cardboard devices are helping to fuel interest in making and viewing VR and 360 degree videos and photos, but at the moment the technology to create this content is lagging behind the demand. With that in mind, Google have stepped in with an Android camera app to help you create 360 degree photos on your phone. So, how does it do?
Google Cardboard Camera
Using your Android phone to create 360 degree photos is now possible and simple with the Google Cardboard Camera App. This app allows you to turn the phone slowly around your environment to capture it for use with VR headsets (including, of course, Google Cardboard). The GIF below from Google demonstrates how it works:
The quality is, of course, only as good as your phone’s camera. I took the following with my 16mp Samsung Galaxy S6 and through the Cardboard viewer it looks good. The photo ended up at just over 5mb in size. You can see that there are some really minor stitching issues, but overall it is handled very well by Google’s software:
The app also records sound as you turn to photograph the environment, which is a really nice touch and adds to the experience. In the photo above, on the app, I can hear the river running and the birds singing. It gives you a great sense of ‘being there’, which we’re always looking for when using a Virtual Reality headset!
Is this ‘VR’?
Can this claim to be true virtual reality photography? Unfortunately, the field of vision does not expand in all directions – whilst you can look around you from left to right, much of the top and bottom of your vision is not captured by the cardboard camera. This makes it a 360 degree photography app, but not a true VR one. We do wonder if Google will release an update to this app to allow you to expand that range in the future.
Other than the field of vision issue above, I’ve been frustrated in my attempts to edit the photos from this app and then add them back into the app as ‘cardboard images’ ready to view on the VR viewer. The app fails to recognise them once they have been edited and there doesn’t appear to be an edit function within the app itself. This is a shame, because I’d like to play around with the photos a bit to add to the experience. I’m also struggling to find how to share the photos – I’d like to send these to a friend to show them where I was and let them see it for themselves, this is an important part of the VR experience and it’s sadly lacking at the moment from this app. I hope that they will add it soon.
This is a great start from Google in creating something simple and easy for creating 360 degree photos. There are a couple of issues that I hope they’ll iron out in updates, but to get you started with 360 degree photography, if you already own an android phone then this is a no-brainer. Download the app and get creating!