Kodak PIXPRO's revolutionary SP360 4K camera is at the heart of a VR project set up in Holland that enables the elderly and disabled to undertake a virtual cycling trip in a safe home environment.
Deliver tools that come laden with potential and it’s a safe bet there will be creative individuals that will pick them up and conceive incredible projects that fully explore the boundaries of what cutting edge gear makes possible. So it’s proved to be with the introduction of Kodak PIXPRO’s revolutionary SP360 4K camera: the piece of kit at the heart of an amazing concept devised by Dutch company VRSpace, where individuals can take a virtual bike ride without ever leaving the safety and comfort of their own homes.
“The idea is that the person wears the goggles to view the film,” says VRSpace CEO Darius Heydarpour, “and that everything is connected up to a Virtual Reality Import Module (VRIM) that we’ve created. A wireless sensor can then be attached to bike pedals or anything that rotates, and these can be conventionally operated by the feet or even the hands. With our VR movie player people can experience riding through villages as if they are there. If you pedal fast you speed up, and if you slow down then the video scenery is adjusted to that speed. You can even do a full stop so that you can admire the scenery and look around.”
One of the prime uses for the VRIM is to enable those in care homes or undergoing physiotherapy to take gentle exercise inside while still enjoying the illusion of taking a bike ride for real, and it’s planned to roll this out throughout Holland shortly.
Looking for a camera that could do the job required, VRSpace tested out a selection of models that were on the market, and the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4K came out on top by a distance. Darius says: “It’s a very affordable model that’s easy to use, and yet the quality of the results we could achieve using dual cameras for full 360ºx 360° spherical content was amazing. It’s easy to stitch everything together in post and you get a really good, artefactfree result, unlike the one provided by competitor products we tried out.
“The camera is also extremely compact and easy to mount in lots of different places, such as the handlebars of a pushbike. That’s how we started out on our project, with the camera on a mount that was designed to take away all of the vibration. Motion is an area that many VR creators are extremely wary about because if the footage is wobbly then it can induce motion sickness in the viewer. Our early results were good, but we still felt that it was possible to achieve something that could handle bumpy roads even better.”
The solution was to develop a custommade robot on wheels, affectionately named the BotCast. Ultra stabilised to overcome bumps and potholes, the device can be controlled remotely and is able to travel long distances, effectively mimicking the view you might obtain from a cycle. Specifically optimised to accommodate the PIXPRO SP360 4K, another huge benefit of this approach is the fact that filming can be carried out from a distance, enabling the film crew to be safely tucked out of sight. Ultimately the BotCast will be made commercially available, and the plan is to keep the price below 10,000 Euros to make it as attractive as possible to fellow VR filmmakers.
Clearly excited by the potential of VR in general and the PIXPRO SP360 4K in particular, Darius is looking around for further projects to work on, and there’s no shortage of opportunities that he feels many others in the filmmaking business could likewise take advantage of.
“The PIXPRO is offering a really affordable route into VR,” he says, “and photographers and filmmakers should be seriously looking at what they can do with this technology and you can definitely make a business out of it. Even if it’s something as simple as approaching your local restaurant or estate agent to see if they might be interested in working with you, it’s important to be ahead of the game and becoming known for VR before everyone else joins in.
“And you just need to think out of the box a little. One of the interesting commissions we recently took on was to create a VR film of a venue where an international convention is due to take place later this year. The organisers then sent all of the 300 delegates a set of Cardboard VR goggles and the link to the film, and it meant that they could all explore the setting in advance, wherever they might be in the world.
“That’s the kind of thing that your rivals might well not be able to offer, and given the price point of the PIXPRO SP360 4K, it’s not an expensive investment. Once you’re set up you need to think of what services you can deliver and make sure your clients know that you’re in this line of business. In our lab we designed VRStations, which are totem-like cases that have all the technology aboard to use and demonstrate Virtual Reality experiences. We also did a lot of demos to create awareness among the public of VR.”
Get in on the ground level of this impressive new technology and you could benefit from being ahead of the game, and in the Kodak PIXPRO range you’ll have an entry point that is both simple to use and capable of extraordinary results. Use the camera on its own or go for the Dual Pro Pack so that two cameras can be used back to back for 360° Spherical VR Video.