If the plethora of developments that took place in 2015 is anything to go by, one thing is for certain: the focus is now shifting towards creating more life-like, immersive audio-visual experiences. And this is all the more evident from the launches seen at the 2016 edition of the annual Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona. VR headsets are now more popular than ever – the Galaxy S7 launch event was in fact orchestrated in virtual reality with Gear VR headsets. 360-degree cameras were a dime a dozen too, with varied use cases and a wide scope in the future.
With a range of VR headsets, portable clip-on cameras and 360-degree cameras, MWC 2016 had a lot to offer. Quite evidently, the onus is now on making virtual reality less virtual, and more real. So in this piece, we try and showcase some of the more interesting developments in the imaging and audio-visual experience space.
LG 360 VR
LG 360 Cam
Sony Xperia Eye
Samsung Gear 360
HTC Vive VR
The Motorola VerveCam is an IP67-certified, waterproof, Wi-Fi connected portable camera that comes with a 138-degree lens. The wide-angle lens ensures that video is recorded from virtually any angle. The camera is capable of recording video at resolutions up to 2.5K at 30fps, and can also live-stream directly to a smartphone.
LG’s take on the virtual reality movement came in the form of the LG 360 VR. The headset is more Oculus Rift than Google Cardboard, and comes with two 1.88-inch screens with image resolutions of 960 x 720 pixels. The headset needs to be tethered to a mobile device, and the connection is made via USB Type-C cables. Apps supported include YouTube 360 and Google Cardboard, besides a few others.
360-degree cameras are now in vogue, and LG’s product in this regard is the 360 CAM – a spherical compact camera with a dual camera (front and back) setup. Both cameras have wide-angle 13MP lenses which support 2K video recording. For recording audio, there are three microphones to capture sound from all directions. It also connects to phones via Wi-Fi for easy access and seamless streaming.
A bridge between devices such as the GoPro and Memoto, the XPERIA Eye is a wide-angle camera that clips on to clothing, vehicles or helmets. It allows the user to take a video of whatever is in front, through specially designed 360-degree spherical lenses and an EXMOR sensor which stimulate the human eye view. It can also reportedly recognise voice commands, detect faces and automatically snap stills.
Looking alarmingly similar to a human eyeball, the Gear 360 is Samsung’s take on the portable 360-degree camera. Coming with two wide-angle lenses (capable of recording at 195-degree fields of view) with f/2.0 aperture, spherical photos of 30-megapixel resolutions, videos of up to 3,840 x 1,920 resolution and a microSD card slot (upto 128GB supported), the Gear 360 comes with its own stitching application that is currently limited only to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge and will be available to ‘select devices’ in the near future.
HTC’s Vive VR was announced at last year’s MWC, and it’s now ready for commercial release. Coming in with a $799 price tag and a February 29th preorder date, the Vive VR will include integrated phone functionalities to enable users to answer calls and view alerts without removing the headset. The Vive also features front-mounted cameras, which warns users about walls and other obstacles during usage. The Vive Consumer Edition ships with two wireless controllers, a pair of Vive Base stations, Vive earbuds and a Vive Link Box. Aimed at developers and VR enthusiasts alike, the Vive VR will meet its nemesis in the form of the Oculus Rift later this year.