A few months back I visited the offices of Kandao, a Shenzhen-based start-up which had made a VR camera that can shoot stereoscopic 360-degree photos and videos at resolutions of up to 8k (7,680 x 7,680). Though the camera, named the Obsidian, hadn't been mass produced for consumers yet, it was already used in China on a professional level by corporations like the Chinese Basketball Association and QQ for streaming live 360-degree content. It also garnered a "Best Of Innovation Honoree" award at CES in Las Vegas and was one of the cameras singled out for praise by Facebook's VR engineer director, Brian Cabral.
Well, aspiring videographers (or just tech geeks) who want to get their hands on the Obsidian will now finally have the chance, as Kandao has made the Obsidian available for purchase by the public, albeit in very limited fashion.
Image 1: A shot taken with the Kandao Obsidian.
Image 2: Night shots come out clear without much noise.
The guys at Kandao say only 200 Obsidian cameras are available in this "early adopter program." Usually, this is just a fancy way to say "pre-order sale," but Lionel Lau, co-founder and chief marketing officer of the company, says they do hope the early-bird camera will land in the hands of very serious content creators, who are willing to provide feedback and suggestions to improve the camera's performance. Considering the US$9,999 price tag, I don't think they'll have to worry about any "not serious" people buying the Obsidian.
To that end, the company says "a prize has been set up" to "encourage early adopters to create compelling VR content." Though Lau doesn't have any details so far, but the idea is that they really want people who buy the Obsidian to create eye-catching content. After all, that'd only be free good publicity.
Image 1: The Kandao Obsidan is made up of six fisheye cameras surrounding a metal plate. All six shoot video
Image 2: The Kandao was designed to be able to transfer files (and connect to the internet) with just one ethernet cable.
The "early adopters" will also get the software that Kandao developed to work with the Obsidian. As I wrote about back in May, what sets Kandao's software apart is its "one touch processing," meaning the software will stitch together the six videos/photos into one seamless VR-ready media with one button press.
Kandao says the software can stitch footage based on optical flow via a learning algorithm, that means the seams between the shots will be less obvious than in other software. It can also process footage at 10 frames per second, more than twice as fast as other software. I haven't had a chance to see it fully in action myself, but I did get to take some 360-degree photos during my visit.
Image 1: The Kandao office in Shenzhen.
Image 2: The Obsidian will be ready to ship in August, says Kandao.
200 units of the Kandao Obsidian are available for pre-order now, and it'll ship in mid-August, according to the company.