360 captured by @sandrauddback. Click and drag to pan around.

We have added 360° camera support to the iOS app. "A picture is worth a thousand words" is a common English idiom. I'm not aware of an idiom about 360° photos, but I'm sure some techy philosopher will come up with one soon.

Consumer-grade 360° cameras are getting better and better, and also more and more affordable. With 360° photos you cover all directions in one capture so there is no need to capture the same road four times to capture all four directions that you would need to do with a traditional camera. Plus, you can also pan around smoothly and zoom in the viewer to look at exactly what you want. Try it out in the viewer above if you haven't already!

LG 360 Cam

The first camera we have added support for is the LG 360 Cam (R105). The LG 360 can be purchased for about $200 and is capable of taking a photo every two seconds, which is good enough for driving slowly in cities or walking.

It implements the camera standard Open Spherical Camera API, or simply OSC for short. This means that we can control it from within the app. In this case, the LG camera supports OSC v2, which adds the interval capture mode, which makes it useful for capturing sequences for Mapillary.

For instructions on how to use a 360° camera via the Mapillary iOS app, head over to our Help Center.

Mounts

GorillaPod and CineSquid
GorillaPod tripod and CineSquid suction mounts

To get good 360° photos, it's a good idea to give the camera some height so that you or your car doesn't obstruct the view too much. A selfie stick is perfect for walking, and for driving, a bigger tripod that you can attach to the roof will do the job nicely. We have had good results with a GorillaPod SLR-Zoom equipped with the CineSquid suction mounts. It's a very sturdy setup and perfect for cars.

Our community members are very creative and come up with neat DIY solutions all the time. Mapillary Ambassador @zimmy combined a traffic cone, a selfie stick, and a magnetic car roof rack on the roof of a car to make his own mount suitable for 360° capture:

Traffic cone and selfie stick
MacGyver would have been proud

Here's a sequence captured with the DIY rig above. If you look down you can see the cone!

360° captured by @zimmy

Other 360° cameras

Other OSC v2 capable cameras may work out of the box, but we haven't tried any other cameras yet. There are other OSC cameras out there, some support only v1 and some support both v1 and v2. Even though it is a standard, we have found that the camera manufactures don't strictly follow it, so we need to adapt our implementation a little bit for each camera.

Next up is adding OSC v1 support and we are using the Giroptic camera to try it out. Once OSC v1 is implemented, the Ricoh Theta S should work too, but we might need to do some smaller adjustments.

We also have a Samsung Gear 360 in the office, but it doesn't stitch the images on the camera, so it require us to implement stitching either in the backend or in the app itself. It also appears to not follow the OSC specification that well at all. Perhaps a software update can solve this in the future.

If you have some great 360° sequences, we would love to hear about them in the comments section below! Also, if you have some suggestions for cameras we should support in the future, post them too.

/Anders

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