Samsung's serious about virtual reality, and not just with a fancy headset accessory for the Note 4. The company's also built its own lightweight 360-degree camera, dubbed Project Beyond.
Though details are scarce, Samsung says it can give you a full 3D, 360 degree view of anywhere it films, and it won't just be a static image or a movie, either. By capturing a gigapixel of data every second from 16 full HD cameras, Samsung claims it can let you tap into a live virtual reality feed from another location. Sounds like one hell of a webcam!
Samsung has already set up the cameras in a variety of locations around California, and demonstrated streaming from one of them on stage at the Samsung Developer Conference.
Samsung also announced that the Gear VR headset you'll need to experience these scenes will ship early next month. Still no word on what it'll cost. Sorry!
Update: I just got my first look at the Project Beyond camera and some pre-shot footage on a Gear VR headset, and my impressions are a little mixed. The camera looks super easy to set up, just a large, thick, frisbee-sized disc with cameras everywhere. It doesn't record 360° audio, though, only video footage, so it doesn't provide a complete VR experience by its lonesome.
What's more, while the 360° footage looks pretty neat, it doesn't come close to the best I've seen. Whether I was looking at the marvelous columns of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, a Halloween party in a school cafeteria, or a beautiful beach, the experience was abnormally grainy and the 3D effect felt a little bit awkward compared to similar experiences.
Though there wasn't a lot of the distortion that plagues other early 360° cameras, Samsung clearly has some work to do to make it feel natural, and to eliminate distractions from the scene. In every omniview video, Samsung had tried to obscure the legs of the Project Beyond's tripod, but not successfully: the digital patches stick out like sore thumbs and detract significantly from the fun.
We're definitely looking forward to giving it another go when the tech's further along. In the words of Samsung's ThinkTank Team, which developed the idea: "Project Beyond is not a product, but one of our many exciting projects currently under development. This is the first operational version of the device, and just a taste of what the final system we are working on will be capable of." [Samsung ThinkTank]