There’s a related market emerging alongside virtual reality, and although it often lives in the long shadow cast by VR/AR, 360-degree video is happening fast. YouTube and Facebook both support it, so half the battle is already won; part two is putting inexpensive cameras into the hands of average users.
We expect to see more than a few of these devices announced at CES, but today, at least, there’s the Luna.
It’s a tiny, (less than) palm-sized orb of a camera that uses two scratchproof 190-degree fisheye lenses. With a single click of its button, you take a picture. Hold it down for three seconds, and you’re shooting video. With the Luna’s Wi-Fi capabilities, you can use a connected smartphone as a live view device -- and others can tune in, as well, with independent controls that let them look around the 360-degree content.
Other features of the Luna include an interior gyroscope and magnetic power adapter, and the chassis is waterproof (IP68). The company also claimed that it has “artificially intelligent” onboard software that automatically stitches the video together. Ostensibly, this both removes the headache of stitch and also enables the live Wi-Fi streaming.
The Luna team has posted a simple video that shows how the Luna shoots and automatically stitches together its content. The resolution is poor, but a video they had posted previously (and have now taken down), was more high-res.) Be sure to pan around the video to get the full effect.
Taking Aim At GoPro
The Luna team is making no secret of the fact that the camera is designed to be something of an adventure cam. With the aforementioned waterproof, scratchproof, gyroscopic design, using the Luna in tough (read: fun) environments is an obvious use case.
Add in the fact that it’s eminently portable at just 6 cm in diameter with a weight of 180 grams (that’s about double the weight of a very light gaming mouse), and that you can add accessories such as a monopod, docking station, keychain (keychain!) and more, and the Luna seems like a winner on its face. (Performance, of course, is the killer metric, and we don’t have any data on that yet.)
There’s also the price. The Luna team did not state what the camera will cost if and when it hits retail, but you can snag one from its just-launched Indiegogo campaign for $199 (early bird price). (Scratch that -- the $199 deals are all gone, but you can still get an early bird for $249.) They pledged to deliver Lunas within 7 months.
|Cameras||-190-degree FOV (x2)-4K resolution-5MP|
|Software||Onboard auto stitching|
|Misc.||-IP67/68 waterproofing-Scratch proof lenses-Magnetic charger-Wi-Fi (for smartphone live view and sharing)|
|360-Degree Streaming||-RTSP-Codec: H.264 / motion JPEG-Bitrate: 1 Mbps|
|VR Support||-HDMs: Oculus Rift DK1/DK2, Samsung Gear VR-Playback: Kolor, Video-Stitch-Online: YouTube, Facebook, LittlStar|
Like presumably more, similar, devices coming soon, the Luna is built in part to take advantage of YouTube and Facebook’s new support for 360-degree video, in part to take a swipe at GoPro-like adventure video, and in part to tap into the coming Google Cardboard (et al) / smartphone trend.
With all the incredible premier VR HMDs coming soon, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the VR explosion might not be a high-end Rift or Vive connected to a monster PC running incredible games, but a series of small and inexpensive handheld cameras, Google Cardboard, smartphones, and the everyday adventures of average users.
Update, 12/9/15, 7:25am PT: The video embedded in the original version of this article was taken down by Luna, so there is a different one now in its stead. The text was commensurately adjusted slightly.
Seth Colaner is the News Director at Tom's Hardware. He curates and edits the news channel and also writes on a variety of topics. He would have become a professional ultimate Frisbee player, but he was born 15 years too early.