What you should know about technology

Angela Merkel was impressed by a 360-degree camera at the CDU party conference in Essen and asked what kind of device it was. The answer to the Chancellor’s question and what else you should know about it.

What kind of device is that?

As the cameraman explained to the Chancellor, the device that is causing so much enthusiasm is a 360-degree camera. Unfortunately, neither the answer nor the video shows which device and which technology the CDU works with.

How are 360-degree videos created?

Basically there are several options, which differ mainly in the number of their lenses. In the variant with a lens, the lens “looks” upwards, so to speak. There is a mirror there that directs the light rays into the lens. Next to the lens there is another mirror that guides the light, and thus the image, towards the first mirror. This allows the camera to generate a panoramic image of its surroundings, even though it is “looking” upwards

Another possibility is in cameras with two lenses. Two so-called fisheye lenses are used. These wide-angle lenses can each cover a field of view of 180 degrees. Together, the images then result in a panoramic view. There are also cameras that have even more lenses, each of which then covers a smaller field of view.

Virtual reality glasses

Diving goggles for the virtual

Whether Oculus Rift, Playstation VR or HTC Vive: All virtual reality glasses work on the same principle. A screen shows the virtual environment in the field of vision, lenses are supposed to provide an all-round effect. The image is adjusted with every movement of the head – sensors measure every change, the computer calculates the new image at lightning speed.

Oculus Rift from Oculus VR

Founder Palmer Luckey assembled the first data glasses from smartphone components. In the meantime, the Facebook subsidiary has refined the technology so that a first consumer version of the Oculus Rift will be ready in 2016. Oculus has set the price for the long-awaited 3D glasses at 699 euros in Europe, higher than expected by experts.

Gear VR from Samsung

Samsung already offers the Gear VR data glasses as an accessory for the smartphone – it is pushed into the holder and serves as a display, the two lenses in the glasses ensure the 3D optics. This means that the system is not as powerful as competing products, but it is mobile. Incidentally, the technology comes from Oculus VR.

Vive from HTC and Valve

The electronics manufacturer HTC is developing its virtual reality glasses Vive together with the games specialist Valve. In order to determine the position of the player as precisely as possible, two laser sensors are installed in the room, which are permanently in contact with the sensors on the device. A special feature: users can use it to move around the room. Introduction: end of 2015.

Cardboard from Google

Virtual reality doesn’t have to be expensive: With Cardboard, Google has developed a foldable cardboard construction into which users can slide their smartphone. An app prepares the images appropriately. The other systems are technically superior, but Cardboard gives an idea of ​​the possibilities.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different techniques?

For technical reasons, cameras with only one lens cannot produce images and videos with a perfect all-round view. You leave out the area above and below the cameras. With this technique, you don’t have to combine several images into one. This is exactly what you need for cameras with multiple lenses. Depending on the resolution and number of videos, putting them together can require a lot of computing power. In addition, unsightly transitions can occur when assembling

What other technology do I need?

Many 360 cameras come with an app for smartphones. This allows you to look at the image that the camera is currently taking. The videos can also be viewed with virtual reality glasses.

How expensive is such a camera?

As is often the case, this also depends on the requirements the device should meet. For a fancy video from your vacation trip that you can use to impress your friends on Facebook, you have to spend less money than the PR agency that produces videos for companies. Inexpensive entry-level models start at 190 euros. Expensive models can also cost over 2000 euros.