Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to create a virtual reality 3-D panorama with your phone for Google Cardboard, for free

I'm sharing this 'tutorial' in the hopes of improving it with your input and because I googled this very thing and I couldn't quite find what I needed, so I'm trying to figure it out.

The concept is simple. Panorama and 3-D apps have been around for a while. With the advent of Google Cardboard, a lot of these images can now be seen in virtual reality. The idea then is to construct an image and making it available for others to see as panoramas, but mostly in virtual reality. The challenge is to do it for free. Sure, it'd be nice to have a 3-D rig with 16 GoPro cameras for 3-D video, but lol newsroom budgets.

On that note, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Vice and others are exploring virtual reality photo and video storytelling and their efforts are worth watching.  The Times is even giving away cardboard to support their upcoming VR app.  It's very early, still and everyone is still trying to figure things out.

So let's jump in and do it ourselves.

The ~free~ part assumes that you have an iPhone (5 or newer)  and a Google Cardboard viewer, unless you have SPECIAL EYES. 

I've got a Knox Lab V2, for $23.95.

The ridiculously easy way

Get the Seene app.
Shoot a 3-D photo, click view in VR. THAT'S IT!

Even better, 'seenes' are embeddable and show up as animated gifs when shared.

This is, however, not a panorama (but 3-dish, so it gets points for that).

The 3-D virtual reality panorama way

You'll need a tripod (not necessary but highly recommended), an iPhone and Google Street View app.

* Find a cool spot to make your panorama. 
* Duct tape your phone to a tripod (you should use a proper mount, but whatevs).  Or stand up very, very still (good luck with that).
Here's my rig.
This is a Google Glass photo lol

* Using Google Street View app, shoot your scene and upload it. You will be able to share it as a panorama and view it in virtual reality. 

With street view, however, you cannot embed your own images to share with those that don't have a viewer. And it's still funky when sharing on mobile. And that's a bummer if you want to bring people to your site or if you want everyone to enjoy it, regardless of device.

SO ...

3-D virtual reality panorama, better

What you need:

Sphere app, (or Google Street View!) to create the panorama. 
Roundme app, to be able to access panorama in Virtual Reality mode and share embeddable view. 

How to do it:

* Start Sphere app and hit the plus button to record your scene. It'll take a while to get all the spots, so be patient when shooting. It's pretty intuitive, much like Street View, which you can also use in the same way. Again, use a tripod. You CAN shoot without one, but you won't like the results.

Here are the different steps, regardless of what app you used to shoot the panorama:

* Save the image to your camera roll.
* Start the RoundMe ap and hit 'Create.' Upload the 360 image, and view in VR. You can share that and embed it as well for sites and desktop views.


The tricky part remains how to share something for Cardboard itself for others to see in virtual reality.
In RoundMe, this is a easy as following a person (or searching for "Daily Freeman" to find the scenes above, for example). I'm at round.me/@ivanlajara

This is my first pass at this, so let me know what you think and what else we can come up with.

In the near future, likely in a #dfmchat, we'll explore journalistic applications for this platform. There are some impressive ones.