I reviewed my first and only Android VR headset last year, and while it was fun to use for short periods, I found it very uncomfortable to my eyes and head for periods of usage over 15 minutes, and would definitely not watch an entire movie on such device. Avegant’s engineers worked for a headset for the military that had to be used for long periods of time, and they found they could adapt their product for consumer use and create Avegant Glyph, and alternative to VR headset that looks like a stereo headset, but also includes two 720p DLP projectors placed right in front of your eyes, hereby creating your own private, and portable – home theater.
Avegant Glyph specifications:
Resolution – 1280x720p per eye via 2 million micro-mirrors
Aspect Ratio – 16:9
Field of view – ~40° diagonal
Diopter Adjustment – +1 to -7 range
Adjustable IPD, and projectors vertical position.
Head Tracking – 9 Axis IMU
Video & Audio Input – micro HDMI
Audio-Only Input – 3.5mm TRRS (standard AUX)
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz; Dynamic Range: 95 dB
USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
Battery – 2,060 mAh Li Ion battery with up to 4 hours video playback, and unlimited passive audio
Dimensions – 190.5 x 190.5 x 101.6 mm
Weight – 411 grams
The device weight is about the same as the virtual reality headset I used, but I can still believe it might be more comfortable due to the different weight distribution. It’s also not a standalone device, so you need to connect a source via the micro HDMI port and/or audio jack, which in many cases means purchasing a XXX to micro HDMI adapter. The Glyph firmware can be upgraded for “enhanced features and capabilities”. Beside watch 2D and 3D movies, it can also be used for 3D gaming, flying drones, private mode while connected to laptop, etc… Note that contrary to VR headset, you still have peripheral vision, which may be an downside since it’s less immersive, and an upside, as you are still aware of the environment around you.
Charbax interviewed a company’s representative as they showcased the Glyph at Mobile World Congress 2017.
Avegant Glyph first started to sell in the US last year, and some larger blog already reviewed it, such as Wired and Engadget, and while they really liked the video and audio experience, they still found it to be a little uncomfortable to use for longer duration, although it was an improvement over VR headsets. Customer feedback on Amazon, where is it sold for $499, is positive on average, but with many mixed reviews, possibly because the company made some adjustments to their product since they fist launched it. You’ll find more information on Avegant website.
GOLE has designed GOLE 360 video camera to connect to your smartphone via its micro USB, or USB type C port, and let you shot 360 degrees videos or photos. The company has sent me a review sample with a USB type C port in order to test it with Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone. I’ve spent about two days playing with it, so I’ll report my experience with the 360° camera, and my attempts at playing the videos back on my computer.
GOLE 360 Unboxing
The camera is sent in a white retail box with “Micro USB” or “Type C” option, and as requested I got the latter.
The camera comes with a pouch, a useful user’s manual in English, and a USB to USB type C cable. I did not use the latter since I instead charge the camera with my phone’s power adapter and cable.
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One side of device comes with a wide angle camera and the power button, while the other includes another wide angle camera, two LEDs: blue for recording status, orange & green for power & charging status, a small microphone opening on another side, and on the bottom: a reset button, a USB type C port for charging, and a micro SD slot.
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If you have ordered the micro USB port version, you’ll get a micro USB port for the phone connector, and the same USB Type-C port shown above for charging.
Gole 360 Initial Setup
The camera’s battery should have some charge, but you may still want to fully charge it before using it. The LED will blink with orange color during charging, and blink with green color once it is fully charged.
My phone is up to 1 cm thick in the area around the USB type C port, and the camera does not fit perfectly, but it still usable.
You can scan the QR code in the user’s manual, or download it directly in order to install GOLE 360 Android app. I used Gole%C2%A0360_1.0.2.apk & HiGole_1.0.6.apk (from the previous link) for this review, but I did not see any obvious differences. You’ll also want to insert a micro SD card formatted with FAT32, as the app cannot record photos or videos directly into your phone’s storage.
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As soon as you start Gole 360 app, the screen with rotate upside down, and you should see a blue screen showing no file. This will be fine for most phones, but in case your manufacturer decided to put the USB port on the top of the phone, it might not be convenient to use. Now we can press the power button for five seconds in order to start the camera and use it. The green LED should be on at this stage. Note that the LEDs are not very bright, and while that’s good enough indoors, they are very difficult to see outdoors. The user’s manual also explains how to use the camera in standalone mode. i.e. without smartphone, but I don’t think it would be very convenient so I skipped that part.
Gole 360 App and 360° Photo Shots and Video Recording
We now need to press the top right “camera” icon to connect to the camera by enabling USB Tethering. I had to do that each time I started the app, except for the middle step after selection “Do not prompt”.
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Once USB tethering is enabled go back and you should see the camera output in sphere mode (left), but you can also switch to planet mode (center), or flat mode (right) using the bottom left icon in the main zone. You can pinch to zoom in/out, ad swipe to move up/down and/or left/right in all three views.
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The battery level is shown on the top right together with the remaining number of photos or video time based on the free space on the micro SD card. I had not installed a micro SD card at that time thinking I could record to the phone’s storage, and that’s why it shows “0”. Another option is “virtual reality mode”, but it can only be used during live preview or playback, as this mode is designed to be used with virtual reality headsets while watching the video.
Virtual Reality Mode
The bottom bar of the app has three icons for file manager, shot photo/record video, and switch between photo/video mode. At first I recorded videos in sphere, planet , and flat modes, but I soon felt stupid, as I discovered it does not change the output format of the photo or the video, only the way it is shown.
You may also want to change the settings by pressing the bottom right button.
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I did not change anything, and tested with the default options: 1920×960@30fps, 5MP, and normal recording. Once you’ve recorded a few video, you can access the file manager to watch your videos or check out your photo using the four modes: sphere, planet, flat or VR. There’s also a “download” icon to transfer the videos / photos to the internal storage of your phone.
I’ll include some raw samples if you want to check it out by yourself. You just need to install Gole 360 app to watch them on your Android phone, TV box, or VR headset.
You could also watch the short demo below to more clearly understand how some of the features.
Attempts at Playing GOLE 360 videos on Laptop / Desktop Computer
The easiest way to watch the 360° videos or photos recorded by the camera on a big screen is by using GOLE 360 app on a TV box, your phone with a VR headset, or a standalone Android VR headset. But I wanted to try to play the videos on my (Ubuntu 16.04) computer. So I took out the micro SD card, and browse to DCIM/100CVR directory with two more subdirectory for “Video” and “Photo”. I clicked on one of of the MP4 videos in the Video folder, and it started Totem video player with the video looking like the screenshot below.
So obviously , we need a special 360° video player to play those files, and I found GoPro VR Player, that very easy to install on Linux as a Deb package is provided. If you prefer an open source program, VLC 360 (beta) can be used but the developers only release binaries for Windows or Mac in binary format. Source code is available for Linux, which means you’d have to built it from source, until your distribution packages it, or somebody offers a ppa or equivalent. Anyway for a quick test, I played the video in GoPro VR player, and it “worked” , well sort of, as the stichting job is awful.
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So far my main experiebce with 360° videos is through YouTube, so I directly uploaded a video, and it looked like the first Totem screenshot. After further research I found the videos need to be processed before upload. YouTube also explains:
YouTube currently supports 360° videos with 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, or 60 frames per second. We recommend uploading 360 videos (equirectangular format with a 2:1 aspect ratio) at a resolution of 7168×3584 or higher, up to 8192×4096.
With our 1920×960 camera we are quite far from the recommend upload settings, but I tried anyway, and downloaded and installed Spatial Meta Data Injector for Windows. Selected one of the MP4 videos on the micro SD card, made sure “My video is spherical (360), and clicked on Inject Metadata, which will save the video with the suffix _injected.
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I uploaded the videos on YouTube, and it “worked” but with the ugly stitching job.
So I have not found a proper way to play videos in my computer, or upload them to YouTube. There’s probably no standard for 360° videos so everybody is doing their own method, but it would probably be a good idea to make it compatible with YouTube…
If you don’t mind playing the videos with GOLE 360 Android app, and you can purchase GOLE 360 for $104.81 shipped and up on GearBest or Banggood.
GOLE is better known for their mini PC tablet combos like GOLE1 and GOLE1 Plus, but the company is about to launch GOLE360 360 Degree Panorama VR Action Camera looking very similar to Insta360 Nano camera, but instead of being designed for iPhones, they made is for Android smartphones with either a micro USB port, or a USB type C port.
GOLE360 camera specifications:
SoC – InfoTM C23 32-bit processor @ up to 600MHz with 128MB RAM on-chip
Storage – micro SD slot up to 128GB
4 MP sensor
Camera lens: aperture F2.4, focuses: Efl 0.94, angle: 210o
Video – H.264/MOV up to 1920×960@30fps /1472×736@30fps
Photo – JPEG @ 3008×1504 /1920×960
USB – 1x micro USB 2.0 port, or 1x USB 2.0 type C port depending on model
Battery – 3.7V/800mAh
Dimensions – 11.68 x 3.7 x 2.2cm
The camera runs Linux 3.10. This is not the first 360 degree camera for Android smartphone, and we’ve covered Insta360 Air spherical camera, but GOLE360 offers a different form factor, and includes a battery which will allow you to use it in standalone mode. The Android app is currently only available as an apk, and is supposed to support photo and video recording and streaming using flash, sphere, VR and planet modes.
Insta360 Nano is a dual camera designed to take 360 degrees videos selling for $190 and up on Amazon US, but it only works on iPhone 6 & 7 series, so the company has designed a new model – Insta360 Air – specifically to work on Android phones with a micro USB or USB-C port, and packaged in a spherical shapes in order to be compatible with most, if not all, brands and models. It also works with laptops thanks to a rigid yet flexible USB cable.
Insta360 Air specifications:
210° dual fish-eye lens; minimum Aperture F2.4
Photo Capture Resolution – 3008 x 1504 (3K)
Video Capture – 2560 x 1280 @ 30 fps (some smartphone models also support 3008×1504 @ 30 fps, e.g. Samsung S7, S7 edge, and Huawei P9)
Connector – USB micro/Type-C
Dimensions – 37.6mm Diameter
The camera can be used with Insta360 Air app allowing you to shoot spherical images and videos, and share them to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, WhatsApp, Messenger, Line, Wechat, QQ, QZone, and Weibo. If you have friends that don’t have the camera, they can still watch your video using Insta360 Player app that offers normal, virtual reality, and “little planet” viewing modes. You can also connect the camera to your computer or laptop in order to use it as a 360 degrees webcam with Skype or other video conference programs.
Insta360 Air camera has been launched on Indiegogo, and with 10 days to go the project has already raised over $230,000 from about 1,100 backers. A $99 pledge will get you an Insta360 Air camera with a transfer cable for laptop, but you may consider pledging $125 instead to add a smartphone mount, a smartphone tripod, and a smartphone adapter. It’s unclear to me what the mount and adapter are for, and note that you’ll have to choose between micro USB or USB type C at the time of order. Shipping is free to China, but adds $20 to $26 to the rest of the world. Delivery is planned for March 2017. You’ll find a few more details on Insta360 Air product page.
ASUS Zenfore AR is an interesting beast, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, it’s the first processor I’ve heard to come with 8GB RAM, and also the first to support both Google DayDream virtual reality, and Google Tango 3D depth sensing camera. On top of that, it’s allegedly cooled by an “advanced vapor cooling system”.
Zenfone AR (ZS571KL) specifications:
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad core processor up to 2.35 GHz with Adreno 530 GPU
System Memory – 6 to 8 GB LPDDR4 RAM
Storage – 32, 64, 128 or 256GB UFS 2.0 flash, micro SD/SDCX card slot up to 2TB, 5GB ASUS WebStorage for file, 100GB Google drive for 2 years
Qualcomm first mentioned Snapdragon 835 processor in November, but at the time, they only disclosed it would be manufactured using 10nm process technology in partnership with Samsung, and claimed the obvious “faster and lower power consumption” compared the previous generation. The company has now provided much more info ahead of CES 2017.
Snapdragon 835 key features and specifications:
Processor – 8x Kryo 280 cores used into two clusters:
performance cluster with 4x cores @ up to 2.45 GHz with 2MB L2 cache
efficient cluster with 4x cores @ up to 1.9 GHz with 1MB L2 cache
GPU – Adreno 540 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0 full, Vulkan, DX12
DSP – Hexagon 682 DSP with Hexagon Vector eXtensions and Qualcomm All-Ways Aware technology
Memory I/F – dual channel LPDDR4x
Storage I/F – UFS2.1 Gear3 2L, SD 3.0 (UHS-I)
Display – UltraHD Premium-ready , 4K Ultra HD 60 Hz, 10-bit color depth, DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB Type-C support
Video – Up to 4K @ 30 fps capture, up to 4K @ 60 fps playback, H.264, H.265 and VP9 codecs.
Audio – Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec and speaker amplifier; Qualcomm aptX audio playback support: aptX Classic, aptX HD
Camera – Spectra 180 ISP; dual 14-bit ISPs up to 16MP dual camera, 32MP single camera
Connectivity – 802.11ad multi-gigabit, integrated 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi with MU-MIMO (tri-band: 2.4, 5.0 and 60 GHz); Bluetooth 5.0
Modem – X16 LTE modem; downlink up to 1 Gbps, uplink up to 150 Mbps
Location – GPS, Glonass, BeiDou, Galileo, and QZSS systems content protection
Snapdragon 835 will use about 25 percent less power than Snapdragon 820, while being 35 percent smaller, and delivering 25 percent faster 3D graphic rendering. The processor is expected to be found in premium consumer devices such as smartphones, VR/AR head-mounted displays, IP cameras, tablets, mobile PCs, and more. The first devices announced with Snapdragon 835 are Osterhout Design Group (ODG) R-8 augmented/virtual reality smartglasses and ODG R-9 smartglasses and devkit for wide field of view (WFOV) experiences
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to announce the results the whole world is eagerly waiting for today, and as you’ve probably guessed it, by that I mean CNX Software Giveaway Week 2016 contest… obviously… We had seven winners sharing the prizes shown below from Android TV boxes, to a Linux TV stick, and an Android virtual reality headset.
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2016 has been an interesting year so far, putting statisticians, pundits, pollsters, and generally speaking odds to shame, and random.org apparently decided to join that trends, as while most of the blog’s traffic – and I’d assume entries – come from the western world (North America / Western Europe), random.org mostly selected winners from other countries:
Earlier this summer, Actions Semi has announced two quad core ARM Cortex A53 SoC designed for virtual reality applications, S900VR with a PowerVR G6230 GPU for higher-end 2K headsets, and V700 with a ARM Mali-450MP GPU for mid-range Android VR headsets with Full HD displays.
Actions Semi S900VR specifications and key features:
CPU – Quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processor
GPU – Imagination PowerVR G6230 with support for OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenGL 3.2, OpenCL 1.2EP, DirectX10
Display – MIPI-DSI & LVDS interfaces up to 1920×1080@60fps
HDMI – HDMI 1.4b up to 4K
Camera sensor – MIPI-CSI2 interface up to 12M cameras
Power – ATC260x companion chip with embedded PMU and Audio Codec
While the processors were announced in July, I found out about them about an Imagination press release mentioning Actions Semi, Imagination Technologies, and Nanjing Ruiyue Technology – better known as Nibiru – had partnered to released a 2K Android virtual reality kit running Nibiru OS powered by Actions Semi S900VR processor with sub 20ms latency.