Paris Motor Show: virtual tour in 360° video

Oct 5, 2012
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Yesterday, Citroën launched their new website dedicated to the Paris Motor Show, one of the most important auto shows in the world that is expected to attract more than 1.5 million visitors. No worries if you’re unable to make it to Paris before 14 October, Citroën’s home page features a 360° tour of their exhibition floor, and it feels as if you were there — but without the crowd! The tour player is embedded below, just click and move your mouse to look around:

You’ll also find similar virtual tours on the Mercedes and the Smart websites.

We’ve seen 360 tours before with Google Street View, based on 360 photos, but this is a whole new take on virtual tours as it is based on a 360 video. The trajectory of the camera is really smooth and obviously there’s been a lot of attention to detail. The video is completely interactive, you can look anywhere in the space, but you can also click on hotspots that will show more information or take you to 360° cockpit views inside the cars. The only criticism I would make is that it’s in French only, but if you take a few seconds to play with it you’ll quickly find your way around.

How does 360° video work, you ask? By using 5 to 6 small cameras pointed at different angles, arranged in a similar way to the Ladybug (shown below) or the Google cam, and stitching the images that these cameras capture.

The Ladybug camera, developed by Point Grey Research

The resulting 360° stitched image is then mapped onto a sphere in 3D by the player. Shooting in 360° is not easy since you can’t use traditional steadicam systems and you can’t have any staff or equipment around since it would be in the 360° field of view — except if you place it underneath the camera, where the operator is. Then there’s the issue of placing hotspots (clickable icons) that show up at the right place on the 360° video frame, at any point in time.

The tours were produced by Loop’ In, a Paris-based startup that is also a JEI (young innovative company). They don’t only produce photos and videos but also create new technology around 360 videos. In particular, they developed the tour player and its interface. Loop’ In is a true example of technology meets art — here, cinematography — and it looks ready to take on its major competitor, the Netherlands-based Yellowbird.