3D Technologies: 360 Cameras

While our project relies upon building 3D models with a modeling program, such as Google SketchUp or Blender, and then assembling them in the Unity 3D engine, we’ll be trying out various 3D and immersive technologies so the student team has an idea of how each works. Anticipating a future field trip, Angel Nieves and I went out to Beacon Hill to try out some socially-distanced 360 photography with a GoPro Max. This is one of the captures we made; since the camera can be operated remotely with a cell phone, we’re hiding around a corner and using the view finder to capture Smith Court.

Stitched panorama of Smith Court. William Cooper Nell's House, the African Meeting House, and the Abiel Smith School are visible in this image.
Stitched panorama of Smith Court. William Cooper Nell’s House, the African Meeting House, and the Abiel Smith School are visible in this image.

The camera has a stitching algorithm that merges the capture from two spherical, 180 degree lenses by identifying overlapping artifacts in each image it is piecing together. A similar technique is used to merge pictures in photogrammetry processes. Photogrammetry is a popular way of creating 3D models of physical objects through series of circuitously-captured photographs.

360 photographs require EXIF data that tell certain programs to interpret them as spherical captures rather than flat, distorted panoramas. We installed a WordPress plugin that lets us tell WordPress whether to interpret an image as a 360 image, or just a normal .jpg. The VR toggle in the lower right creates a stereoscopic view for your phone, which can be viewed with inexpensive VR devices like Google Cardboard. You can also view the image immersively in 360 by navigating to this page with a head mounted display, such as an Oculus Rift S or Quest, selecting VR mode, and looking around.

Normally, there’d be more people on the street, but because we took this picture during the pandemic, Smith Court was pretty empty. The 360 capture will be useful for thinking about spatial relationships between buildings in this area.

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