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New mirrored lens turns a GoPro into an inexpensive 360-degree camera

A new Kickstarter project is aiming to create a 360-degree GoPro lens through a concept so simple that store clerks have been using it for years to see around aisle corners: a curved mirror.

The Actioncam360, designed by Pano Pro, fits on any GoPro, putting a curved mirror in front of the existing lens. That lens creates a 360-degree circular video. Using the bundled software, users can unwrap that footage for a full-screen, 360-degree experience, navigating all around the video. Placing the camera with the lens attached toward the sky, users can get a 360-degree horizontal perspective.

Why the mirror? Multicam 360-degree rigs are expensive — the GoPro Omni, which includes six cameras in a circular mount, runs about $5,000, for example. A pledge of $184 will get early backers 360 video with the simplicity of a curved mirror.

Of course, the Actioncam360 isn’t going to get quality that’s anywhere close to the Omni. The mirror and software takes something that fits on a small sensor and stretches it to create a 360-degree view — that’s going to mean a loss in resolution and overall quality. Still, with the price of 360 rigs, the lens could be an affordable way for non-pros to shoot 360 video, because, well, 360 is fun.

The designers are also working on an app to calibrate and unwrap the video from the original sphere shape, and the developers also hope to include a Live View feature. If the campaign reaches full funding, the 360 lens could start shipping as early as September.

The Kickstarter campaign has yet to reach its goal, however, with less than two weeks remaining and over $50,000 to go. An early version that lacks the optical improvements and app updates planned with the crowdfunding is available through the manufacturer’s website.

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