Sony has demonstrated a multi-directional video camera capable of generating 360-degree high-definition digital video panoramas.
The prototype system uses custom-designed software to stitch together multiple images created by the camera. These images could then be streamed on to websites for viewers to interact with.
A Sony spokesman said: "Sony has taken the motion picture medium a step further by creating a 'frame-free' visual world. The individual viewer [on a PC or PlayStation2] can pan 360 degrees within a full-motion image and enjoy the feeling of actually being present at the scene."
Sony has also released images of the camera being used to capture 360-degree views for a forthcoming PlayStation2 music video game called Space Venus.
Full technical support will be launched in spring 2001 for professional film and TV companies interested in using the 360-degree technique. Sony is understood to be looking for technical partners to help develop the concept further.
Initially the field of view available will be a 360-degree horizontal field, but eventually Sony plans to augment this with extra imagery to form a 360-degree horizontal and vertical picture - in effect, an image shaped like the inside of a ball.
According to Sony, first users of the system could be PlayStation2 owners: the company intends to start developing 360-degree games for the games machine, with the software distributed on DVDRom.
Streamed panoramic video on the web will have to wait until more people worldwide have broadband internet access facilities, said Sony.
Industry insiders, however, have already pointed out that Sony isn't first with so-called wrap-around video. US company BeHere iVideo launched a 'surround picture' camera earlier this year, and the first films have already been shot on the format.
BeHere's website (http://www.behere.com) has full details of the US version of the technology, and an extensive online gallery of panoramic video clips.
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