Can Photo Spheres Change the Way We Experience The World?

Written by: Colby Brown / 48 Comments

Logo for Android Photo Sphere Jelly Bean 4.2On October 29th, 2012 Google announced the Android Jelly Bean 4.2 operating system as well as a slew of new Android Nexus devices (Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10). One of the key photography focused features in 4.2 that was showcased was called “Photo Sphere“, which effectively allows you to capture immersive 360 degree panoramas (covering both horizontal and vertical elements). However currently, there are already other applications for mobile devices that allow you to take amazing standard panoramas but the end results are always the same….a flat image that makes it somewhat difficult  to really get a feel for what you are looking at.

Android Photo Sphere taken on a Galaxy Nexus at Horse Shoe Bend

Android Photo Sphere taken at Horse Shoe Bend during sunset when viewed as a flat image

This is where Android’s Photo Sphere takes things to the next level. If you have ever used the “Street View” feature on Google Maps, you will have an idea of how a Photo Sphere works, which isn’t by accident considering the feature was created by members of the Google Maps Street View Team. The basic premise is that the viewer is in the center of the action, allowing them to experience a location as if they were standing on the very spot the Photo Sphere was taken. When looking at a PS, you can use your mouse (or finger on a mobile device) to rotate around the image, constantly changing your perspective. Want to look up at the sky as if you were there? No problem! Want to see what was behind the photographer? Easily done.

Up until now, the only way to view a Photo Sphere properly was on Google+ or on an Android mobile device running the 4.2 software (or higher). I am happy to announce that I have been working with the amazing team of engineers over at Android and you can now embed a slide show viewer onto your website to showcase your very own Photo Spheres to the world (Instructions have been removed by Google, but will be back soon).

*Use your mouse to click & move around the Photo Spheres below

Over the course of the last six months, I have used my Android Google Nexus & Nexus 4 smart phones to capture Photo Spheres all over the globe including locations in Jordan, Australia, California, Utah and Colorado. While mobile photography technology still has room for improvement, I am constantly surprised by the detail captured in a PS. While my professional images will always be the best way that I can showcase a given scene or moment, I have truly enjoyed creating and sharing Photo Spheres as they tend to offer a very immersive experience to the viewer…showcasing the world all around me, rather then just a small but very specific moment that is found in my work as a photographer.

Viewing a Photo Sphere from within Google+

A Photo Sphere of Little Petra in Jordan from within Google+

This year I have numerous upcoming trips (Iceland, Africa, Thailand, Myanmar and others) and you can be sure that I will be capturing Photo Spheres along these adventures. As Google and Android continue to improve the software with PS and mobile photography technology continues to advance at the rapid rate that we have seen over the last 36 months, things are only going to get better and better. Be sure to look for an in-depth tutorial (that I am co-writing with the Android team) on how to best capture your own Photo Spheres as well as other major announcements in the coming months.


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