Build VR experiences using panoramic photos

We’ve recently released our beta platform to allow anyone to easily create interactive VR experiences for the web. And one of the biggest question has been:

“Where do I find 360 photos?”

Of course, if you own a 360 camera like the Gear 360 or Rico Theta, you can easily take one yourself just like a regular camera. And if you don’t, you can still find photos online through Google images searches or this Flickr group. But using other people’s photos are not fun. After all, what is the point if it’s not your own creation? So for these of you who don’t own a 360 camera, I’m going to show you how you can build your own 360 experiences with a panoramic photo and MS paint.

360 photos are often stored in the form of equirectangular photos, these are photos with a size ratio of 2:1, which means the length of the photo has to be exactly two times the height (For example, the Gear 360 exports photos to the size of 7776 x 3888). Here’s an example 360 photo we took:

360 photo of Victoria Park in downtown Kitchener taken on the Gear 360 camera

These photos are created automatically by the camera by stitching together the images from two sides, but you can also simulate the process with just your smart phone camera and MS Paint. Here’s how:

First, Take a panoramic photo. This can be done easily with a smart phone’s panoramic shot feature. Most modern phone’s camera app will have this built in. For convenience sake we’ll use this one I found on Google Images.

Edit: I’ve found this panorama app which is great for taking panorama files. So download and try it here:

Then open up MS paint and paint the entire canvas black with the paint bucket tool. Change the canvas size to 4096 x 2048 using the resize option. Make sure to uncheck the Maintain aspect ratio checkbox.

Then open up a separate MS paint program, and copy & paste the panoramic photo you took there. Without deselecting the image, resize the photo to 4096 pixel in the horizontal direction. This time with the maintain aspect ratio checkbox checked.

Now copy and paste the resized picture to the other MS Paint with the black canvas, and position the image in the center of the canvas. You can zoom out by holding down the CTRL key and scroll down the mouse wheel.

Make sure the canvas size is 4096 x 2048 as shown on the bottom

Once that’s done, save the file as a jpg file and you now have a equirectangular 360 photo that you can use for virtual reality!

You can check out the comparison here:

As you can see, panoramic photo doesn’t quite provide the same experience as a native 360 equirectangular photo, but it does allow anyone with a smartphone to start create virtual reality experiences. If you are really interested in building 360 VR experiences, I do highly recommend get yourself a 360 camera. The 360 cameras are getting a lot more affordable for individuals now, and you can easily purchase one for a few hundred dollars.

Also, if you are interested in the tool that was used to make the comparison. Check out our homepage and sign up for our beta to start building VR experiences today!

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