Prototype Insta360 light field camera lets viewers move through the scene

When 360 and 3D video technologies are combined, we tend to call that virtual reality. But there’s a key limitation of current VR cameras: The point of view is fixed in space. What if the viewer could move through the scene, as if controlling the camera in real time? That’s the goal of Insta360’s new “6DOF” light field camera, one of two new cameras unveiled by the company on Tuesday, January 9, at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Looking more like an LED light panel than any traditional video camera, the prototype is actually 128 individual cameras arranged in a grid. Working together, those cameras record information on both the intensity and the direction of incoming light, compiling it all into a single image. This is the same basic idea behind the shoot first, focus later Lytro Illum, but the Insta360 camera uses its multi-perspective data to allow for six degrees of freedom (6DOF) of movement. Viewers can freely change their viewing angle by taking a step closer, back, or to either side. High and low viewing angles are also allowed, and the scene in front of them will have parallax and depth just like a real environment.

It sounds like magic, but there are a couple of limitations. In its current configuration, the camera only produces a 180-degree field of view — not a full 360 — so it’s a not yet true VR. But this is just a prototype, and Insta360 says the technology can easily scale up to 360. However, what may be the higher hurdle is that freedom of movement is limited to 1.5 feet in any direction, enough to let viewers examine an object relatively close to them, but hardly sufficient for a fully immersive experience. Still, it’s an intriguing technology that demonstrates how camera manufacturers may one day completely break through the final barrier to achieving true virtual reality.

Insta360 has said nothing about what such a 6DOF camera might cost, but did mention that information on “products incorporating [its] light field technology” will come at a later date. This leads us to believe the current prototype is likely not to become a marketable product.

The other camera Insta360 showed off today was an eight-lens professional stereoscopic 360 camera. It looks quite a bit similar to the existing Insta360 Pro, a $3,499 8K VR camera. This new model, however, is decidedly higher-end, making use of larger 4/3-inch image sensors for improved dynamic range and reduced noise in low light scenes (this is the same sensor format used by Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras). While details remain scarce, Insta360 says it will be priced “at roughly $12,000.”

Product Review

Rylo is the 360 camera that finally makes 360 video useful

The Rylo puts a new spin on 360 video by focusing on flat, fixed-frame output. It can’t quite replace your action camera or camcorder, but it shows a glimmer of what the future of consumer video could be.
Mobile

Which smartphone has the best camera? We found the sharpest shooters

They say that the best camera is always the one you have with you and that makes your smartphone camera very important indeed. Join us for a closer look at the best camera phones available right now.
Smart Home

Facebook's Alexa-enabled video-calling devices begin shipping

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Product Review

With the Z7, Nikon gives DSLR holdouts the mirrorless wonder they've waited for

Nikon’s long awaited full-frame mirrorless cameras are here, and the Z7 is the new flagship model. But does it stand up to the company's DSLR pedigree, and, more importantly, does it have what it takes to compete with the likes of Sony?
Photography

Flickr just expanded Pro tools — but free users may have to delete some photos

If you have more than 1,000 photos on a free Flickr account, you might want to decide which to delete . Flickr announced some changes following an acquisition by SmugMug, including a new way to calculate the free account storage limit.
Photography

Premiere Pro A.I. plug-in for Adobe paints your videos in the style of van Gogh

CyberLink is bringing its suite of artificial intelligence-based video effects directly to Adobe users as a plug-in for Premiere Pro. The A.I. Style video plug-in "redraws" video in the styles of artists like Vincent van Gogh.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Photography

Photography News: Flickr keeping Creative Commons photos, ONA gets colorful

Flickr has confirmed it's saving all Creative Commons images, ONA has released a new capsule collection in partnership with Passion Passport and 7Artisans has launched a new drone-specific 35mm f/5.6 lens.
Photography

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Smart Home

Picture this: The Aura packs thousands of photos in a single frame (for a price)

Are you one of those people who miss the good old days of flipping through photo albums to see each and every favorite photo? If so, you might love the Aura digital photo frame. We tested the device and came away impressed.
Photography

Full frame or 4K for less than $1K? These 4 older cameras still have a lot to offer

Looking for a great camera deal? Sometimes, you might be better off buying one that's a few years -- last generation's professional models may not cost much more than today's entry-level models.