It seems there is an abiding human fascination with the idea of being all-seeing. In the late 18th century, the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham designed what he called a "panopticon," a type of institutional building in which a guard could observe inmates without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. The name is also a reference to Panoptes from Greek mythology, a giant with 100 eyes.
"Still Work To Be Done"
With this, the panoptical perspective -- until now reserved for only wealthy major artists or the Google Street View camera -- has now shrunk to hobby size. The "Theta" camera from Ricoh, for example, has two fish-eye lenses facing opposite directions. Although the image quality leaves something to be desired, the Theta can still capture good landscape shots.
The ball camera seems to have similar weaknesses. Stitching the images together has improved immensely since 2011, but there is "still work to be done," Pfeil warns on Indiegogo. "At the moment, we are about 70 percent there, with manual adjustments needed here and there."
While indoors or in the case of dim lighting, he recommends mounting the camera on a stick and holding it in the air because throwing it could result in blurry images. Unlike the Theta, the Panono's bird's-eye perspective creates actual spherical photos -- 360 degrees both vertical and horizontal -- because it doesn't have to remain stationary, but seems to float in the air instead.
"Imagine I'm with friends on the beach and one person is barbecuing, another is surfing, and one is flying a kite … the Panono camera makes it possible to capture everything in every direction in a very high-resolution image," says Pfeil. "People don't get as tense. Instead, they laugh when they see that I'm throwing the ball camera in the air."
What other uses could there be for the ball camera? Real estate agents could document an atrium or courtyard with a single throw. Police could gain a quick overview of a demonstration. Students could take a class photo.
Still, for now, the quality of the photos remains distorted and unsatisfactory, and likely lacks the sense of reality required by most hobby photographers.