Turn your Android phones into VR cameras with Google's latest app

By Money Times

Dec 10, 2015 02:41 AM EST

Virtual reality is here, and Google Cardboard is one of the most prominent platforms bringing the technology to the masses. Now you can turn your Android phones into Virtual Reality (VR) cameras as the Google has launched a new app Cardboard Camera that allows you to capture 360 - degree photos in seconds.

According to BGR, when you fire up the app for the first time you are given five sample photos to immediately try out the virtual reality experience. These photos look like your usual panoramic photos, but strap on the Cardboard VR, and suddenly they become more immersive. The 360-degree photos become 3D-like with nearby objects seeming so close that you can almost touch them.

Cardboard Camera is available on the Play Store now. Currently it is not available on iOS but we imagine it's only a matter of time. The app, free to download, is kind of like a normal camera app in that it lets you take photos, but it's what it does with those photos that makes it interesting. It's simple to take a photo: just hold out your phone and move it around you in a circle. Later, when you place your phone inside a Google Cardboard viewer, you'll get to experience something new: a VR photo. And if you want to add another dimension, you can record sound along with your still too.

Wired reports that, unlike VR video, the elements in the picture aren't moving; it's a still frame moment in time, enhanced by the natural sounds of the scene. Mike Podwal, Google product manager says that the app was born out of a natural question that they had while developing Jump, Google's professional grade virtual reality video platform.  "What if we could let absolutely anyone create experiences for VR?" Podwal says. "How do we make this more universal and open?"

Podwal worked on the project idea with Carlos Hernandez, a software engineer from Google who had a lot of experience in photography apps. Basically, Cardboard camera uses computational photography and computer vision to recreate the 3-D experience without the special camera. The app took one year to develop and as Podwal tells, the team concentrated on just one thing: the act of taking the photo themselves. The focus seems to have worked: it takes only one minute to output each picture, and the pictures publish in .JPEG - a common image format that is compatible with most computers and smartphones. Though there is one limitation in the app: it doesn't have a share button. The only way for folks to let their friends enjoy their VR picture is to actually hand them Google Cardboard unit with a phone that captured a particular scene. But that's acceptable for now, since every household doesn't has a Google Cardboard unit sitting in its living room

Google's Cardboard Camera app is super fun and very easy to use. The app takes the experience of looking at panoramic photos to a new level. If you have a supported device and Cardboard, then the Cardboard Camera app is a no-brainer and you should download it today.

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