Film Grenade

[Image: The "Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera" by Jonas Pfeil].

The "Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera," designed by Jonas Pfeil as part of his thesis project at the Technical University of Berlin, creates spherical panoramas after being thrown into the air.

The camera "captures an image at the highest point of flight—when it is hardly moving." It "takes full spherical panoramas, requires no preparation and images are taken instantaneously. It can capture scenes with many moving objects without producing ghosting artifacts and creates unique images." You can see it at work in this video:

Pfeil explains in detail:
Our camera uses 36 fixed-focus 2 megapixel mobile phone camera modules. The camera modules are mounted in a robust, 3D-printed, ball-shaped enclosure that is padded with foam and handles just like a ball. Our camera contains an accelerometer which we use to measure launch acceleration. Integration lets us predict rise time to the highest point, where we trigger the exposure. After catching the ball camera, pictures are downloaded in seconds using USB and automatically shown in our spherical panoramic viewer. This lets users interactively explore a full representation of the captured environment.
It's easy enough to imagine such a thing being mass-produced and taken up by the Lomo crowd; but it seems equally likely that such a technology could be put to use aiding military operations in urbanized terrain, with otherwise disoriented squad leaders tossing "robust" optical grenades up above dividing walls and blocked streets to see what lies beyond.

Either way, a throwable camera strong enough to withstand bad weather and strong bounces—and able to store hundreds of images—sounds like an amazing way to start documenting the urban landscape. In fact, the very idea that a "photograph" would thus correspond to a spherical sampling of all the objects and events in a given area adds an intriguing spatial dimension to the act of creating images. It's a kind of reverse-firework: rather than release light into the sky, it steals traces of the light it finds there.

(Spotted via Popular Photography).

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Blogger Adam said...

This is very cool. I can certainly imagine it becoming a big hit with the general public, but I don't see why the military would use it when they already have hand-held micro-drones at their disposal.

October 17, 2011 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would be very useful for photogrammetry as well. Toss the ball up in a few places, feed the photos into some software, extract the 3d terrain data.

October 17, 2011 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to go skydiving with one of these...

October 17, 2011 6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on my own modest motion design experience I can say that for small scale photogrammetric applications, the ball wouldn't need much more than a few frames per second when thrown in a lateral arc (like a game of catch) in order for software to calculate and display the nearby visible geometry of walls, windows, arches, alleyways, etc. The tactical applications rush to mind as I can't help but be reminded of the essay "Lethal Theory" by Eyal Weizman—dealing with the 2002 invasion of Nablus and discussed on this blog under the entry "Nakatomi Space":

October 18, 2011 4:00 PM  
Blogger Foster said...

When marketed to the general public, what do you suppose the cost will be?

October 18, 2011 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Gerco de Ruijter said...

It would be great if you could kick it like a football...
It reminds me of a technique used by kite aerial photographers: you take one fisheye image straight down with the camera on the kite. On the ground you take an other one straight up.
These two images are combined in a so called bubble panorama: Bubble Pano
Now you can virtually navigate inside the bubble.

October 19, 2011 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Cedric said...

Or rather - taking the military use thought a bit further - replace explosive grenades with photographic ones and deploy a force of organized trained journalists to document life in occupied places. Just steal bits of combatants souls rather than blow them to bits...

October 19, 2011 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am only being mildly flippant when I say that I think this has potential applications for GoogleStreetView. In the future you won't see the vans, instead you'll see stoned-looking dweebs throwing their padded green balls in the air.

October 21, 2011 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Wow! What an innovative device! This would be a great tool on a site visit. I can see a lot of potential (as suggested above) in taking it a step farther to combine images to create an accurate 3D model of a place. That would be a real stride forward in 3D modeling (and 'virtual tourism'). Can't wait to buy one!

October 28, 2011 6:48 PM  
Blogger Schenck said...

What happens if you don't catch it? Seems like something like this will break before too long.

REally clever idea obviously, I especially like that it takes the photo at 0 acceleration, being the highest point. Very clever.

March 02, 2012 11:09 AM  

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