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Jump Shot: Panoramas Made Easy

As breathtaking as large, panoramic photos often are, the process of creating them is, to many photographers, a much less attractive prospect. While painstakingly stitching together images from a recent vacation, Technische Universität Berlin graduate Jonas Pfeil came up with a better idea: a spherical camera, called a camera-ball, that can take 360-degree panoramas in a single snap. Once the softball-sized sphere is tossed into the air, a built-in accelerometer tells when the ball has reached its zenith. Then a microcontroller triggers simultaneous action by 36 two-megapixel cellphone cameras, capturing a mosaic of images.

Pfeil, a computer engineer, and his research team have built a prototype with an exterior protected by small blocks of foam and a flexible interior made of a resilient nylon material that can be 3-D printed. A lithium-polymer battery is housed in a protective cage in the center of the ball. Once the panorama has been captured, users can transfer it to their personal computer via USB cable.

So, next time you want to preserve a gorgeous mountaintop view or photograph your whole family reunion, just throw your hands (and the camera) in the air. Don’t forget to “cheese.”

Images courtesy of Jonas Pfeil

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