Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MapQuest 360 View with Immersive Media

MapQuest surprised the online mapping community yesterday with the reveal of "360 View", providing 360 degree panoramic imagery of an impressive starting coverage area. 30 US cities now have 360 View coverage in an online interface similar Google Maps Street View and Bing Maps Streetside.

At the Mapquest Blog, they describe the process involved in creating the new feature:
"We have studied our industry, gleaning tidbits here and there, and polled our customer base in creating a simple, easy-to-use interface that fits seamlessly into the MapQuest mapping experience you have come to know and understand."

I have to say, I like it. The spherical orange breadcrumbs in the middle of the lane are handy for jumping a precise distance between images and the large format, side to side layout of map and image is straight forward.

The images are supplied by Immersive Media and their logo is watermarked in the corner. Immersive Media also originally supplied the imagery for Google Maps Street View, but Immersive Media also shoots 360° video, as I've mentioned here many times. Here’s a 360° video I shot while paragliding in Alaska with their Dodeca 2360 camera mounted to my helmet:


Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Immersive Media and currently work with SlopeViews, a new partner in Immersive Media's "Agent Program".
My first role at Immersive Media was as a "GeoImmersive Data Producer" on what we termed the City Collect Project. Teams of two were dispatched around North America to shoot 360° video, matched frame by frame with precision GPS coordinates. The equipment was mounted to vehicles that we drove through a carefully planned course. I shot this picture of the Immersive Media VW Beetle in Arches National Park while passing through Utah on our way from Denver to Las Vegas.

Somewhere along the way, we learned that the major corporate customer we had been doing this for was Google. In early spring 2007, my City Collect partner and I drove around the Google Campus in Mountain View, CA as part of our San Jose assignment. We were kind of wondering why there was no coordinated effort (like this one) to say hello to the Google Maps users.

On May 27, 2007, I was in an Oakwood corporate housing apartment with three other Immersive Medians preparing to head back out on to the streets of San Antonio, when we got the call that Street View had gone live. We took the day off to watch the response online. I did take the Beetle and its roof rack camera mount out to get some groceries. Only three hundred yards away from the condo, I was flagged by someone in another vehicle asking if I was working for Google. The job had changed significantly. For months we had roamed the cities, day after day, as efficiently as possible, without being noticed by anyone. Interestingly, it was mostly the homeless people that we drove by that noticed our equipment. One guy even shouted, "Big Brother is Watching!" in downtown Denver well before Street View was launched.

Shortly after, I was brought into Immersive Media's Portland offices as one of two marketing coordinators, so I didn't have to deal with the new paradigm on the road too much. After we found a blog in which someone had followed a Google Maps Street View car back to the Google campus where they were storing over thirty new Ford Focus vehicles with roof rack camera mounts, we realized that the Google deal had ended for Immersive Media.

As one of the original drivers on what became an extraordinary feature, I am elated with what Google Maps Street View, what Bing is doing with Streetside, and, now, what MapQuest has rolled out as 360 View with Immersive Media. Congratulations are indeed in order for both MapQuest and Immersive Media on staying in the game.

This development does beg the question here at the 360° Video Blog:

Will MapQuest be utilizing Immersive Media's 360° video capabilities?
Your guess is as good as mine.

Bandwidth for video on a scale that large must be a concern, but I would certainly like to see MapQuest give it a try. A portal where 360° video providers could sell rich content would make for an interesting advertising model for destinations and retailers alike.

As with all of the street-level imagery projects before MapQuest 360 View, the real congratulations go to the people in the vehicles capturing the imagery. It is not an easy job. Well done, Street Teams all. This video by Dan Meth at College Humor is for you guys:
*****Video Here****

Dan, you really nailed it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

SlopeViews @ Birds of Prey

Careful observers might have noticed 360° video cameras all over the television last weekend. Immersive Media had cameras at both the MTVu Woodie Awards and Hockey Night In Canada on Friday night. Immersive Media’s new agent, SlopeViews, lived up to their name at the Birds of Prey World Cup Ski Race event at Beaver Creek Ski Resort. I’ll be posting about each of these projects in 360° video this week, but today, I want to discuss SlopeViews.

Focused on destination resort marketing, SlopeViews is a relatively new arrival on the 360° video scene, but they have hit the ground running on a number of projects. The Birds of Prey Ski Race was an opportunity to showcase their capabilities to the snow sports industry that is gearing up for the Winter Olympics in February.

James Hay, SlopeViews CEO, tells me that they captured some amazing imagery that will bring audiences all of the energy of the event. They shot the initial build up and transformation of Beaver Creek Ski Resort, who already has some fantastic 360° video virtual tours on their website, into a World Cup venue. The Vail Valley Foundation has the time-lapse piece from the building of the Finish Stadium here and will be featuring more content in days to come.

We can look forward to seeing athlete interviews, fan rowdiness, and much more from the Birds of Prey via the SlopeViews 360° video camera and their crew of Immersive Media Producers. With backgrounds in adventure sports, media, and travel industry marketing, the SlopeViews’ team is ideally suited to bring clients and their prospective visitors the ultimate experience of a destination online and, finally, fulfill the promise of the term “virtual tour”.

And here are some photos that SlopeViews provided via their active Facebook page.

Friday, November 20, 2009

360° Video of the Day: YEASAYER "Ambling Alp" will Freak You Out!

UPDATE: Yeasayer "Ambling Alp" Video

So that was the "standard" video. The rest of the post below is about the 360 degree video that was produced to coincide with this video release. This marks the first official use of 360 degree video as part of the transmedia package for a property. Congrats to Bill Meikle and Kirby McClure/Radical Friend for an excellent collaboration.

CLICK HERE for an EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE, but/and/or it does Contain Nudity

YEASAYER's 360° video teaser for the new album, "Ambling Alp", is an intoxicating trip into new territory for the medium.

This online experience matches Yeasayer's experimental, subconscious-tapping music as it takes you through a series of five scenes in which you are among a group of naked people. The user will quickly learn that by simply rolling the mouse over the circular video frame that there is more to see. Clicking the image will load the next video scene, transporting the user into another dream-like scenario in a deliberate effort to disorient and add to the compelling nature of the interface design.

The user wants to figure this out.
In the meantime, the audio/visuals sink in.

Riding a black horse through black volcanic tuff

Running to the Silver Fist

Close Around in a Mirrored Room

Hands Out Stretched

Lying Down

Hopefully, you've had the experience now. If not, go to http://www.amblingalp.com/ right now and spend some time exploring the scenes, let the music effect you...

Ok? Now we can talk about it. I don't know about you, but I think this is going to give me strange dreams tonight. No, it's not the nudity, although I am rather proud of this new 360° video medium for it's first public nudity being of the artistic variety. There has always been speculation that it would go the other way. It's just so trippy and a big part of that is the user interface.

I can't get over the idea of using deliberate disorientation to drive the experience. Genius! Absolute genius, in my humble opinion.

Congrats to Yeasayer and all who were a part of this project's creation. Bill Meikle's 360° video imagery, shot with the Point Grey Research Ladybug 2 camera is exceptional for this piece. The effects usage to irregularly warp the image periodically lends to digital dream-like quality and the graphic design of the loading images also deserve real credit.

Although, this has already been tagged with a warning at bit.ly, I think the public will quickly get over their puritanical impulses and accept this for what it is, really good art.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

360° Video(s) of the Day: Mount St. Helens by Helicopter

Three different 360° videos for you to explore today that will take you on an exclusive helicopter tour over Mount St Helens and its blast zone created by the massive eruption in 1980.

Created last year for the United States Forest Service by Immersive Media, these short edits were taken from a larger GIS project in which Immersive Media comprehensively "video mapped" the area while testing a prototype helicopter mount for their camera that was custom designed in Portland, OR.

30 frames per second 360° video was captured by the Dodeca 2360 camera and the GPS coordinates of the helicopter's position were imbedded into each frame of the video. Rendered together with detailed maps in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, the project will provide a user detailed visual information of any area that the helicopter passed over. By simply clicking anywhere on the path of the helicopter on the map, the user will be pull up the 360° video from that exact location, be able to look around from a view point below the helicopter skid, zoom in on an area of interest, and control the video play from that point.

With a comprehensive flight plan, the entire National Monument land area was efficiently documented in this manner. In dynamic landscapes such as the interior of the crater, the imagery captured in this project will help volcano researchers determine change over time in areas of interest, like the volcano's growing lava dome that has split the crater's glacier into two lobes.

360° Video Maps like this are the future of the online virtual tour and the race is on for the first provider of 360° video to release a functional application that has both exceptional user-interface design and a distribution model that makes sense. Map data need not be restricted to GIS level, but an application should also be versatile enough to function well when positioning from GPS and other sources aren't available, such as indoors. In those cases, visual acuity is sufficient to identify the position the camera was in when imagery was recorded on a floor plan or artist drawing. The application should allow lines to be drawn to indicate the route taken by the camera through a building interior. An application to incorporate 360° video with a floor plan or map would elevate the medium to a position as a useful tool over a visual novelty.

Immersive Media describes such an application as "coming soon" on its website, calling it IM OnScene. I know, because I wrote and narrated the video that describes it (not my best work, but it was tough to get excited by video of a grade school and the benefits to first-responders instead of the bigger picture applications like online destination marketing). That video went up publicly on the Immersive Media website almost a year ago, but there has been no publicly released usage or testing of the IM OnScene application since.

Question for Immersive Media representatives: Is this product or service currently available for online distribution?
If not,
Question for Immersive Media management: Why not?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

360° Video of the Day: South Pacific Journey

It's tough work, but somebody's got to do it. In this case, most of the "work" was done by the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation, a dedicated organization that has just completed its fourteenth year at sea on its mission to preserve coral reefs through innovative programs in science, education, and technology. With a 360° video camera provided by Immersive Media, the PCRF crew provides us first with a few glimpses of their journey and then with an amazing perspective on indigenous South Pacific culture.

The first 360° video we begin with a view from the deck of the SV Infinity in the tranquil waters of the South Pacific. This 120ft ketch is a home at sea for researchers and volunteers of PCRF for months at a time. One of their missions is to create a baseline map of coral reefs and to grade the degree of health of the reefs they encounter. The images from their research have been used to demonstrate the degree of damage that the bleaching phenomenon represents to world reefs and were featured in Vice President Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

Underwater sequences were accomplished with a custom built underwater housing by Ken Sexton of Salem, Oregon that has since been tested in the heavy surf Tahiti's Teahupoo by Red Bull athletes. Pictured below, Craig Adkins readies the Immersive Media camera with surf housing for surfer Jamie O'Brian.

The coral reefs featured in the 360° from PCRF surround an island in Fiji and are among the healthiest and most diverse on the planet. The second half of the video takes the viewer through a day at an island market to see the colorful fruits and flowers available.

The second 360° video takes you on a privileged island adventure aboard a hand- built outrigger canoe of original design in Papua New Guinea. Off the Trobriand Islands, the traditional Kula Canoe, built to transport significant goods for trade with nearby islands, slices low through the water. Men in traditional sailing attire hold a tight thatch sail and constantly shift their weight to maintain stability with the wind.

The people of the Trobriand Islands invited the PCRF 360° camera crew to enter the center of several of their traditional dances and canoe launching celebrations to give us a unique view of their culture. Thanks to them and to PCRF for the experience and to David McCutchen of Immersive Media for making this imagery available to the public.

Because a South Pacific dream vacation is out of reach for most in this economy, a 360° video experience online from the world's most amazing destinations seems like a winning proposition. Who ever is working on that project, do you need any help on your crew?

Monday, November 16, 2009

360° Video of the Day: Among Giants: An Immersive Experience with National Geographic

Today's 360° video holds a special significance for me as it represents an incredibly complete documentation of the most amazing experience of my life.

In late summer 2007, National Geographic's Crittercam inventor, Greg Marshall, invited Immersive Media to join a research team in Southeast Alaska and document the deployment of Crittercam on to the backs of humpback whales in 360° video.

Craig Adkins and I got the assignment, but had little idea of what we were in store for. We would be aboard an 18ft inflatable boat for up to ten hours a day in the cold and wet Southeast Alaskan marine environment, while getting up close and personal with some of the largest creatures on earth. As a former whitewater rafting guide, I'm pretty comfortable around inflatables and the water, but the idea of attempting to reach out and touch something so powerful, which would be necessary to attach the Crittercam to the whale, both intrigued and intimidated me.

National Geographic's Crittercam has been providing wildlife researchers with a window into the worlds of their subjects. In the case of the humpback whale in Southeast Alaska's Chatham Straight, researchers with the Alaska Whale Foundation study the unique feeding behavior that these whales employ here and nowhere else in the ocean.

Dr. Fred Sharpe uses the term Social Foraging to describe the cooperation observed between the whales when they corner a large school, or bait ball, of herring against the surface of the water. Their prey is further restrained with a constant and deliberate stream of air bubbles blown by the lead whale as it swims a tight circle around the fish. The herring will not swim through the curtain of bubbles as they travel to the surface. Once the "bubble net" is closed in a circle and arriving at the surface, all of the adult whales in a group will come together and swim to the surface, opening their enormous jaws and breaching the surface at exactly the same moment to swallow the sea out from under the herring. Moments before the whales "lunge" at the surface, the seagulls overhead will concentrate on the location of the bubble net, the whales' high-pitched song fills the air, and a mountain whale maws erupts as silver herring scatter through the whitewater.

Dive, organize, lunge, regroup, dive...every fifteen minutes this feeding routine cycles, over and over again, day and night (for there is little difference here during the summer) for a month. Hundreds of tons of fish are consumed and the humpbacks pack on reserves for long months of migration across the sterile open ocean. The population of humpback whales that visits these quite backwaters of the northern Pacific each summer are the only humpbacks in the world known to feed this way and the Alaska Whale Foundation needed the Crittercam footage to learn more about how the animals are organizing underwater.

The strategy for deploying the Crittercam onto a whale's back was to follow the group at a safe distance until they lunge on a school of herring and then race in while they are at the surface catching their breath and regrouping toward the next feeding. Time and again, attempts were made, but each time the nearest whale would avoid us nimbly at the last moment or Dr. Sharpe, whose research permit allowed such close proximity to these endangered marine mammals, would call off the chase, not wanting to stress the animals to the point that they would stop their feeding and miss out on critical resources. "It will happen," he said after each failed attempt while watching the tails or flukes of the whales disappear as they dove again. Indeed, it did happen eventually.

Everything finally did come together as Dr. Sharpe motored the boat among the giants and audio researcher; Sean Hanser readied the suction needed for Corey Jaskolski's Crittercam cam at the end of the long deployment pole. Like an Inuit hunter, Corey steadied himself as one whale approached the boat from the port side. When the whale's dorsal was within feet of the four of us, he gently dropped the Crittercam onto the whale's back and the suction running through the cup clasped it tightly tot he animal before disappearing below the bow. Scanning the surface for confirmation that we had managed a successful deployment, we spotted the whale as it came up for its next breath. The Crittercam was there attached like the remora fish on which its design was based. The researchers would have more video data to analyze and a bit more about these amazing creatures would be brought to light.
Read Crittercam 5.7 Tech Specs

The Crittercam provides more than just great imagery, though. Also onboard its waterproof housing are sensors for recording depth, temperature, and velocity, as well as an accelerometers and a compass. All providing the researchers with deep knowledge about the journey it takes with its host animal, but only if it is recovered.

At a pre-programmed time, the suction on the cup is released and the Crittercam floats to the surface with its delicate radio frequency antennae pointing up. The team tracks it with radio telemetry and can tell by the signal that is has come off the whale. Finding the little data package on the surface of the water can still be very difficult in the flat evening light of the northern latitudes.

It was right after we recovered the Crittercam that we were rewarded with closest whale lunge of the trip. We were sitting quietly talking about the adventure of the day when the first bubbles hit the surface right next to the boat. The eerie song from the deep called out just as the quiet was shattered by the five leviathans lunging for another meal within ten yards of our raft. This time we didn't need to rush in, but could just stand there and watch with our mouths, too, wide open.

All of the experience I've described here was documented in 360° video over the three days we were with the humpbacks of Chatham Strait, and much more. Let's just say that there is a whole other story about the Alaskan Brown Bears of Chichagof Island that got up close and personal with the Immersive Media 360° video camera.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

360° Video of the Day: In the Crowd at the Obama Inauguration

President Barack Obama takes the oath of office and becomes the 44th President of the United States. Immersive Media's inventor and Chief Technology Officer, David McCutchen, was out of his hotel room at 2:00am that morning to wait in long lines of happy people to find his place on the lawn among almost two million others to celebrate the Presidential Inauguration. Like almost everyone else there, David brought his best camera to document the occasion.

This is the kind of 360° video I really enjoy the most. It captures a significant moment in time from a very natural perspective. The emotion in the crowd is captured as much with the camera's 4 microphones as it is with the eleven video sensors. Despite Chief Justice John Robert's failure to remember the proper phrasing, the new president managed to take the oath and be sworn in. The crowd, as they say, went crazy.

Thanks to David's hard work, this 360° video allows you to experience that moment again as if you were a part of that historic crowd. It is also the first time (online) that David has appeared on camera in one of the 360° videos he has pioneered. He is the one with the biggest smile on his face. Good times.

Friday, November 13, 2009

360° Video of the Day: B.A.S.E Jump

Before we take the plunge, I wanted to introduce a new feature here at the 360° Video Blog that I have been doing for sometime via my @video360 Twitter account: a semi-daily 360° Video for you to sink your teeth into. Mostly, it's because I'm beginning to see some real traffic to this blog and I feel a bit guilty that there is not always consistent stream of content, but I also can't deny that now that I have some traffic, I want more. You'll always get as much of the background as I know or can share about each video and a link to where I found it.

Because I prefer to embed videos here (instead of sending you elsewhere) and the majority of 360° videos currently out there with available embed codes are from Immersive Media, you'll find that the bulk of the content is theirs. It is my hope that all 360° video providers will see the benefit in allowing others to share their content and provide embed codes for their content as yellowBird and Immersive Media have so wisely done. All right, let's jump off a building, shall we?

360° Video of the Day
B.A.S.E Jump off the Kaula Lumpur (KL) Tower

Last year, Immersive Media's senior cameraman, Craig Adkins, was invited to join Red Bull Air Force member, Miles Daisher, in Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia. While Craig has logged a lot of time strapped to the side of helicopters and skiing powder while managing to get great shots with the Dodeca 2360, he wasn't about to throw himself off the KL Tower's 1,099 ft perch (this time) so he rigged the 360° video system up to the athletes and, literally, let it fly.

Thanks to Miles Daisher and the Red Bull Air Force for doing what they do and letting the rest of us live vicariously through them. CAN NOT WAIT to see Human Flight 3D next summer!

Thanks also to my friends and former colleagues at Immersive Media. I will, from time to time, have criticisms for the videos that I review here and for things that I see the company doing, but most of you know how much I believe in the good work you are doing to broaden the online video experience.

That said, here is my issue with the piece embedded above and most of the demo pieces you currently have online. The idea that the optimal length for a 360° video is around 30 seconds does your content and your entire value proposition a disservice. The majority of first time users of 360° video must overcome the learning curve of becoming comfortable using the control of the point of view, as NewTeeVee's Liz Gannes recently pointed out. 30 seconds simply isn't enough time for many of them and for those of us who know how it works, I'll tell you a secret: we want to see more, explore more, and see it again. That's not a bad thing. After all, the landing is a really important part of a successful BASE jump.

If you ever do add more content to your set of online demos (there has only been one addition this year), I hope it gives the viewer a little time to look around. That is the point, right?

As always, your comments are welcomed here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

More Great Press For yellowBird

Great BBC explanatory 360° video for yellowBird

If only those that are so far ahead in 360° video development did as well as yellowBird at marketing themselves, the medium would be much farther down the road to wide acceptance.

Today reporter Dan Simmons of BBC Click, the BBC's flagship technology program, put up an excellent report on yellowBird, the new Dutch company that has made great strides with Point Grey Research Ladybug 2 cameras.

The BBC and yellowBird have put together something I've wanted to see for some time...an explanatory video that uses both 360° and "standard" video versions to tell the story. On the BBC Click post, you can watch a "standard" version of the video that does a great job of showing how the technology works and the above 360° video (which can also be found at yellowBird's website)uses Mr. Simmons description ahead of some of their best demonstration footage. The skiing and helicopter footage is really impressive and the best I've seen from mobile Ladybug 2 cameras.

It mentions that it takes yellowBird about a week to turn around an hour long 360° video, which is actually quite fast even when compared to a standard production studio. To ensure the best quality of image for their clients, they are not above doing some of the "stitching" of components by hand, which is truly essential for some environments.

Marc Groothelm, yellowBird's CEO, discusses some future applications for their platform, including live broadcast and multiple 360° camera streams. It is good to hear that they are working towards those goals, but it must be mentioned that Immersive Media and MATIvision are well ahead of them on those developments. Immersive Media, the original provider for Google Map's Street View, has been broadcasting live feeds from their own 360° video cameras for several weeks from the set of MuchMusic's pop music TV show, Much On Demand, and even streamed an entire hour-long concert by Billy Talent.

MATIvision is the only provider of 360° video that has been successful in integrating multiple 360° video cameras to record an event. The user simply picks which camera they want to view the show from a diagram of the stage setup. This functionality brings an incredible sense of freedom to the user who can see just about anything at anytime happening on stage or in the venue. According to the MATIvision homepage, they have recently completed a project with MTV Studios in London to record a live session by UK rockers, Biffy Clyro.

While both companies seem to be much farther along than yellowbird, neither has been able to grab nearly as much media attention this year. A TechCrunch post in August about yellowBird was awash in comments from amazed readers that had never seen a 360°video before despite the fact that Immersive Media has had its demos online in a Flash player since January of 2008. Today's BBC piece has had many similar reactions being shared via Twitter and Facebook. Immersive Media was recently featured in WIRED's Epicenter blog for it's new live streaming capabilities.

Each player in the 360° video arena will need to find the appropriate balance in its marketing efforts, but congratulations to yellowBird for getting the message out so well. Any increase in awareness of the medium is to the benefit of all.

Stay tuned to the 360° Video Blog for more information about the newest player, SlopeViews, an Immersive Media "agent" company specializing in virtual video tours for facilities such as resorts, campuses, golf courses, and sporting events. Based in the mountains of Colorado, these professional outdoor enthusiasts promise to deliver the most engaging 360° content yet for clients and their prospective customers.

Part of making engaging content is the ability to tell a good story. Until one of these companies finds the right project to use their platform to do that, acceptance and the demand that will come from it may be still be a long way off.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Experience MuchMusic's Much On Demand 360° LIVE

WATCH MOD 360° LIVE @ 5:00pm EST (2:00pm PT) EVERY WEEKDAY
Have you ever been part of a studio audience for the taping of your favorite TV show? Neither have I, but I would enjoy seeing what goes on behind the camera during The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or Saturday Night Live, but I live a long way from New York.

Well, fans who live a long way from Toronto where Canada's MuchMusic tapes Much On Demand, a show very similar to MTV's Total Request Live, can now tune in LIVE online to a 360° Video feed from the set. Viewers can watch their favorite VJs and celebrity guests or just people watch as the show goes out to its Canadian and worldwide audience. It's not a purely voyeuristic experience either.

With a social media live discussion running alongside the interactive video experience, MOD fans can join the discussion among other viewers of the 360° cam via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or Yahoo. Last week, an MOD audience member sat close to the Immersive Media camera, blocking much of the view for a few minutes (picture above). Facebook commenters bombarded the feed, asking him to move. During the next commercial break, a production crew member could be seen coming from the wings and directing him to another seat. Celebrations among the Facebookers ensued and quickly returned to who was the best VJ on MuchMusic. Looks like the MOD crew was paying close attention to what their audience was saying and responding accordingly.

A few weeks ago, MuchMusic also provided a 360° video feed for a Billy Talent concert (see previous post).

The MOD 360° LIVE cam has been a daily component of the MuchMusic online experience for the past weeks, but is not loading for me as I type this post at 2:00pm PT. It may have been an experiment for the music network since no press release has come out yet, but it did provide a glimpse into a future where a diversity of content delivery methods are bundled to get passionate audiences engaging through multiple technologies.

One Facebook commenter admitted to skipping school to get on the new 360° cam. With direct evidence of audience interest like that, I think it's safe to assume that the experiment is a success.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Microsoft's "Street View" in 360° Video?

Yes, video is better than still imagery. Yes, Google Map's Street View started out as Immersive Media's 360° Video. Yes, Google had good reason not to invest in the bandwidth that Street View in 360° Video would have required when they rolled it out in the spring of 2007. All of this is true, but what if a Street View-like application was launched using 360° Video instead of still imagery? What would it look like? How should it be implemented?

"Clearly no one would want to sit through a twenty minute video to prepare for a twenty minute drive...", states the narrator, who goes on to describe how a logical user interface has been built with the ancient secrets of common sense and fast forward.

Microsoft's application, as described at the ACM event, User Interface Science and Technology (UIST) 2009, and titled Integrated Videos and Maps for Driving Directions, provides an excellent visualization that will help us avoid getting lost on the way to our destination as much as Google Maps Street View has been helping us recognize our destination when we have arrived.

Score one for Bing.

Due credit for authors Billy Chen and Boris Neubert and Eyal Ofek and Oliver Deussen and Michael Cohen

Monday, October 12, 2009

MuchMusic Presents Billy Talent LIVE 360° Video!

Something happened in the world of music yesterday that just may have changed everything.

In celebration of Canada's Thanksgiving, MuchMusic held another of its Live in the Lot concert series near its offices in downtown Toronto. Featuring Canadian rockers, Billy Talent, this concert was free to anyone over 14 years old and owned a Rogers Mobile phone. It was broadcast on CTV's MuchMusic, but it was also broadcast LIVE online in 360° video so the online viewers had a seat on stage between lead singer Ben Kowalewicz and bassist Jon Gallant.

With Immersive Media's 360° video camera visible to TV cameras on stage and multiple references to MuchMusic's Live In The Lot 360° website, viewers were able to tune in for a look around on stage for the entire hour long performance.

The experience was really very cool and marks the first time an event of any magnitude has been streamed LIVE in 360° video. Here are some screen grabs from the 360° camera mashed to some twitter posts it garnered and quotes from the show:
@justinerdman: My friends @muchmusic have THE coolest 360 degree video streaming happening here: http://bit.ly/72wGh for the Billy Talent Live In The Lot!
@ThatsSoLope: Dude the 360 camera for the Billy Talent show is insane! Sooo cool Ben Kowalewicz gets up close and personal with the online audience, "This is a 365 degree camera aimed right at my crotch. It's a World Wide Ball View!" Days in a year...Degrees in a circle...whatever...Thanks for the shout out, Ben.

So, that's the good stuff. Now, here are the bad and the ugly, because there is always room for improvement, people. The stream was mentioned to be freezing on many users' computers, probably low user bandwidth, but still. The sound was really pretty bad for a music show, although that could just be Billy Talent's music, I'm not really sure. The new Immersive Media live player rolled out for this event is an excellent experience because it shows the full image available to the viewer while focusing on the viewer-selected portion, and it has the much needed full-screen option. The only problem there was that the full screen option highlights the poor resolution and becomes a bit sticky when navigating.

All in all, this show was a break-through that can only be matched (and possibly surpassed) by having multiple 360° video cameras on stage and in the crowd at an event that the viewer can choose between (See MATIvision Rocks!)
Congrats to MuchMusic, Immersive Media, Billy Talent, and Canadian Music fans for an incredible online experience.

Now, let's see some more!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vail Resorts Go Big In 360° Video!

It has been a slow month in the world of 360° Video. . . until now! A project three years in the making went live this week in all of its 360° Video glory. Tons of content, 48 different 360° Videos in all, is now available to virtual visitors of Vail Resorts. You've got to dig a bit into each of the resorts' websites (which you can reach via snow.com), but the experience is well worth the effort.Those familar with the world of 360° Video will recognize the technology behind this unprecedented leap in virtual tours as that of Immersive Media. They've updated their Flash player with a desperately needed full screen option that is a bit sticky on my machine, but allows for a truly immersive experience.When looking at the project at large, the viewer can actually experience the evolution of this new medium by watching the learning curve that the production obviously went through. One would guess that they shot Vail Resort before they went to Keystone, because while the videos are fairly flat and prosaic at Vail, the Keystone material is absolutely inspired! Compare the dining experience at Beaver Creek's Saddleridge, an empty (although beautiful) restaurant to Keystone's Der Fondue Chessel dining experience, which surrounds you with happy guests dancing, laughing, and enjoying themselves. The latter shows the real power of the 360° Video medium to share an experience that has been branded by the client to show its product in the best possible light, being enjoyed by happy guests.Congratulations to everyone involved in this excellent online experience, especially Immersive Media cameraman extraordinaire, Craig Adkins, who designed and built the stabilizing contraption you can see in shadow of each of the skiing videos. It worked extraordinarily well to deliver a smooth experience for the viewer even while flying down the slope with each gang of skiers and snowboarders. It's easy to be jealous of a guy whose job it is to go skiing at the best resorts in the world, but getting great material like this takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and a little bit of luck! Great job!It's all enough to make me want to buy my season pass today! Let's hope it boosts sales for Vail Resorts in the difficult ski season ahead, because that will be the ultimate critique for a project like this. Everyone in the 360° Video production business should support such a high profile project, because it is exactly the kind of project that will lead to a greater demand for everyone. Please share this with your network at the button below.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Unique Experiences Online from the University of Plymouth

Karol Kwiatek, PhD researcher at the University of Plymouth's ICCI (Innovation for the Creative & Cultural Industries), has been working hard since becoming responsible for the University's wise investment in a LadyBug 2 camera from Point Grey Research.

With a unique take on story-telling through immersive experiences, Karol's projects provide the viewer with not only the look and feel of a place today, but also often incorporate a view of the past using historic panorama photographs, CGI, and audio dialog for contrast. Using Jason Vilmer's Lucid Viewer, the user experience of each project is unique and represents what can and will be done with this new medium.

Take a tour of a Polish Heritage Site, experience the memories of a couple with an extraordinary wedding story, or just feed the pigeons at the link below:

Karol Kwiatek's 360video

Thanks Karol, for sharing your work, keep it up!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

yellowBird Captures T-Mobile Sing-Along 360° Video Experience

A couple of days ago, Tech Crunch had a piece about yellowBird, the Dutch startup employing LadyBug 2 cameras from Point Grey Research. Glad to see so many comments in favor of the 360° video platform, I chimed in on the discussion and mentioned that I had not seen much from yellowBird since it's initial demo was released last January. Well, thanks to another commenter, I was pointed to T-Mobile's Sing-Along 360° Experience. This is just good fun.

Apparently, the team at yellowBird were invited to Trafalgar Square by Saatchi & Saatchi London to shoot this T-Mobile brand-affirming event. 13,000 people gathered to sing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in front of a larger video display of they lyrics. This sort of branded flash mob sing-along has been quite popular with the people in attendance, on YouTube, and with T-Mobile as a way to connect with customers with little fun. It's great to see a company like T-Mobile wanting to take the concept still further. By documenting the event in 360° video, they gave the rest of us the opportunity to see and hear what it was like in the crowd.

It's also great to see a renowned creative team like Saatchi & Saatchi continue to bring 360° video to its clients. Saatchi & Saatchi teamed up with Immersive Media earlier this year on it's work with Armani Jeans in a guided 360° video brand experience for its new website.

Congrats to yellowBird on garnering significant attention for their work with 360° video. Apparently, the TechCrunch article (spread widely on Twitter) drew enough interest to overload their servers this week, those are growing pains that I'm sure they are happy to deal with. Here's the video that got people talking.

You can also experience a hot-air balloon ride with yellowBird's founders over the Dutch country-side while they interview for a TV news program here
Here's a photo from the Trafalgar Square event

Monday, August 3, 2009

Texas On Tour Update: 360° Experience Is Now Online

Big Look 360 has uploaded their kayaking adventure for everyone to experience online in 360° Video! As a kayaker who began my outdoor adventures in the Big Bend Country of southwest Texas, I am especially appreciative of the opportunity to relive my best memories of the Lone Star State through the Texas On Tour experience.

All over the country this year, the State of Texas's Tourism Office and Governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism have sponsored a travelling exhibit to promote travel to the state. One of the most popular pieces of the exhibit has been the virtual kayaking experience produced by Big Look 360, in which prospective visitor's are seated in a kayak and, through head-tracking, head-mounted display devices, are taken on a kayak tour of Texas waterways.

According to Lance Loesberg, Executive Producer for Big Look 360, the 360° Video experience is also combined with a variety of sensory components, including vibration, smell, and wind, to further immersed participants. Now, the visual experience is available to the rest of us online in an excellent, full-screen, Flash player that appears to be the Lucid Viewer referred to elsewhere in this blog. I just love it when great things come together!
Experience the Texas On Tour kayaking adventure now!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

360° Video Powers A Serious Game To Train US Army, Wins American Business Award

The YouTube video above describes RealityV, a 360° Video platform built by InVism, a simulation and visualization services company, in partnership with EffectiveUI, an award-winning user experience design and development agency.

The project effectively employs 360° Video in a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style training program for US Military personnel to put them into photorealistic experiences that they are likely to encounter overseas and aid them in effective and culturally-sensitive decision-making. Deployed as Army 360: Immersive Cultural Simulation the RealityV platform also incorporates "emotionally charged high-definition video" in combination with 360° Video. Marking the first publicly discussed use of actual actors, scripts, and production values for a 360° Video project, Army 360 appears to be a highy effective training tool.

You can see a rather long and slow to load trailer for the project here. Below is a simple screenshot from the trailer.

The project won a Stevie Award in the "Interactive Multimedia - Training" category from the American Business Awards according to Fox Business News on July 22 in New York. Read the full story here.

It is worth noting that the 360° Video content seems to have been captured with a GoPano optic from EyeSee360° on an HD video camera. This is the first time I've seen a project use this single-sensor system, and I am intrigued.

Congratulations to InVism (formerly Intelligence Gaming), EffectiveUI, and The US Army on an innovative and effective program that will saves lives, both military and civilian. I, for one, hope to see much more of this type of focused effort to create engaging, educational, and entertaining projects in the powerfully interactive 360° video medium.