RENCI explores uses for 360-degree camera system

Every picture tells a story, but high-definition, 360-degree imagery can put you in a real situation, able to look around in all directions and notice the details.

RENCI’s research using a Dodeca 2360 camera system from Portland, Oregon-based Immersive Media aims to recreate real spaces in cyberspace using an 11-camera, geo-referenced imagery system that shoots high resolution video in full 360 degrees. The system collects huge amounts of data: 1 million pixels per second, or 1 gigabyte per minute.

The possible uses for the Immersive Media system are many, but RENCI’s current focus is on uses for disaster mitigation and response. The camera system attaches to a custom backpack and can be carried into the field after tornadoes, hurricanes or other disasters. The system’s high-resolution capabilities capture interviews and damage assessments faster and more accurately than paper.

RENCI plans to survey the entire North Carolina coast with the camera system to give emergency responders an accurate “before” picture of coastal communities that could be compared to 360-degree video shot after a damaging storm passes through.

“The system can give emergency responders an accurate picture of evacuation routes, beaches and their characteristics, and private and commercial properties,” said Scott Madry, a geospatial data scientist and part of RENCI’s emergency management research team. “Even more importantly, the system makes a great damage assessment tool.”

Although research with the camera system now targets disaster mitigation and response, the setup has many practical uses. Universities could capture walking tours of their campuses, buildings and recreation resources, post the imagery on the Web and use it as a recruiting tool. Communities could capture 360-degree video of commercial building sites and tourist attractions. Public safety officials could document streets and walkways and discover areas that are poorly lit or otherwise unsafe.

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