Google today unveiled at CES a pair of point-and-shoot stereoscopic 180 cameras from Lenovo and Chinese camera manufacturer YI Technology. The cameras, respectively called the Lenovo Mirage and the Yi Horizon, are the first consumer cameras in Google’s growing VR180 camera platform.

Delivering high quality 360 video is tough. Most consumer hand-held 360 cameras top out at 4K resolution and are usually monoscopic, two facts that don’t always make for the highest quality VR viewing experience. To remedy this, Google is assembling a number of  VR180 cameras which put 4K resolution in a front-facing half-sphere, hypothetically making visual clarity two times higher than contemporary 360 cameras. The cameras’ ability to take locally-stored and streaming stereoscopic video/images is another feature aiming to increase VR immersion, making for a truly VR-first camera solution.

image courtesy Lenovo

Google says the Lenovo Mirage Camera and YI Technology’s YI Horizon VR180 Camera will hit shelves starting this spring, with a third camera coming from LG later this year. No pricing info is available yet on either Lenovo or Yi VR180 camera, but the company says they’ll be offering up more info in the near future.

Google also worked to include the professional-level Z Cam K1 Pro into the VR180 platform, and is working with Panasonic to include support in their GH5 cameras.

Footage taken with the cameras can be viewed in 2D on mobile or desktop devices (example below), but the real usecase here is watching the 180 3D video in VR headsets like Cardboard or Daydream. Essentially any headset with the ability pull content from services like YouTube and Google Photos should hypothetically be able to view the videos/images however.

image courtesy Lenovo

Lenovo Mirage Camera Specs

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 Platform1
  • Audio: Dual Microphones with Single Speaker
  • Memory: RAM : 2 GB
  • ROM: 16 GB eMMC2
  • Card Slot: microSD Card; Up to 128 GB
  • Battery Removable : Yes
  • Front: Dual 13 MP
  • Aperture : F/2.1
  • FOV : 180° x 180°
  • Video : 4K/1440P/1080P @ 30 F
  • Type : Li-ion Polymer, 2200 mAh
  • General Usage : Up to 2 Hours
  • Charger : USB Type-C
  • Travel Charger: 5V / 1A
  • WLAN : WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
  • WiFi Direct : Yes
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2 + BLE
  • LTE Bands3 – UMTS : B1/2/5/8 – FDD LTE : B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/20 – TDD LTE : B38/40
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​YI Horizon VR180 Camera Features:

  • Capture stunning 5.7k resolution photos and video
  • One-button live video streaming
  • 2.2 inch, 640×360 retina touch screen
  • Features Type-C USB port with HD speed data transmission
  • Professional-grade 4 microphone design with outdoor noise reduction
  • Easily manage photos and videos by using the VR180 app by Google
  • Compatible with YouTube and Google Photos

Check out the video below to see what the 2D video looks like when viewed on flatscreens.

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  • I am liking 180 3D videos. I hope these cameras make them easier to produce. That said I think Amaze is stealing the spotlight from Google when it comes to content…

  • MosBen

    Is it just me, or does this just scream, “Don’t purchase these. Just wait a year or two for 360 cameras to improve.”? This seems like a novel solution to the problem of current hardware not being able to produce sharp enough 360 video, but I feel like these 180 videos will very quickly look super dated.

    • Jim Cherry

      If your making content for todays hmds why should you care about looking dated tomorrow:)

      • MosBen

        Because these are consumer devices, not professional. I, personally, don’t want to buy a camera that does decent 180 content just to have to replace it in a year or two when cameras are available that do decent 360 content. Yes, technology is always getting better, and you could say something similar about any piece of tech. But it seems like it’s going to seem really odd in just a few years to have some 180 pictures/video in a family album in a way that it won’t seem weird to have static 2D pictures or video. It’s just a weird (literal) half measure that will be phased out almost immediately. It’d be like if someone had put out an early color TV that could only display red. So things in a shot would be red, but the rest would be black and white. Sure, it’s interesting, but probably better to just wait until someone puts out a product that does the full spectrum.

      • V Zaporozhets

        The problem is that 180 looks dated today, not tomorrow. My todays hmd is capable of playing 360 content and this is how I like it.

        • dk

          360 videos also look dated …good quality 360 3d high res spatial audio is pretty good …..but not even a little positional tracking will be pretty lame at some point ….and people r working on that

          • Barabo

            Yes, there are some 6DOF solutions for 360 video that will eventually reach the market in some time and it will be amazing. However, 3DOF has it’s own qualities. For instance, not everyone is interested in that level of agency as offered in 6DOF, a lot of people just want to sit back and semi-passively enjoy some video content.

          • dk

            and 2d 360 is pretty lame 180 3d is much better

          • G-man

            360 3d in real life from a camer doesnt really work though. to film 360 you would see the cameras with the other cameras. and you only get several points where the 3d is correct. the only real option for 3d 360 is cgi, because you dont have to render the camera. but even then we’re better off with lightfield, but who knows when that will be a usable thing.

          • dk

            well it does work ….and if u check out some great quality videos it’s pretty great even with today’s camera setups….but there is always space to improve……and obviously the best case will be some sort of light field camera setups like google’s demo app and plenty of other companies r doing great stuff like that ….and of course there is great room for improvement in a system like that too

          • G-man

            i have, they arent that great.

          • dk

            well vr headsets r not perfect either …but the point is they r better than they have ever been and r constantly getting better

          • G-man

            i can, and i did. i love vr. but 360 “3d” video spheres are garbage at best. and need a lot of completely different technology to make the very idea of the medium ever work. at that point the are no longer vidoes and they are rendered 3d environments.

          • dk

            xD garbage at best lol …..give me an example of a 360 3d high-end setup for thousands of dollars with 10 or 16 or more sensors ….that is garbage at best
            …..I agreed that there r limitations just like there r limitations with every tech that is just starting out…..the other day a dude with a rift was arguing that vr headsets r garbage at best and the present success is because of the hype around it and not because it works just good enough for a first generation
            …..and the truth is all these technologies work amazing compared to a few years ago…and less than 10 years ago it basically didn’t exist on the market

          • G-man

            it doesnt matter that sticking a whole bunch of cameras together has gotten better than it was a few years ago. it doesnt matter how expensive those cameras are. they still cannot recreate what our two eyes see when we rotate our head around. they will always be a camera capturing the light one specific fixed position in space see and trying to bend that to kinda what it would look like either side of that. the 3d effect in any 360 3d video is garbage, it is. thats scientifically provable just from the principal of how those videos are made. the technology is flawed by design. It’s a chocolate kettle, and you’re trying to say “well it’ll hold water for a little while”, thats doesnt change the fact it’s not good. feel free to post an example of one that you think is good and i’ll point out to you how the 3d disappears and looks completely wrong for over half of the video. nd is only passable if you look in a few specific directions.

            i’m not some nut who has never tried vr claiming it’s crap. i fully understand 360 “3d” video technology and am explaining to you why it is not good. its you who cant seem to accept that it is just not good.

          • dk

            fine……….360 3d high-end setup for thousands of dollars with 10 or 16 or more sensors ….is garbage at best …..got it

  • Foreign Devil

    I”m glad they are going for 180 degree instead of 360. I hate the resolution hit going to 360 gives you and it is full of mostly unused data. . (how often do you look behind you in normal life?) high quality stereoscopic 180 degrees is immersive enough for me.

    • V Zaporozhets

      I often spend hours looking behind me in real life. Some bus and subway seats are facing back in my city and I like to vary my view while rading public transport, so I often spend trips facing back. I would also love to spend time walking looking behind me, but real life has this tripping limitation forcing me to look forward. Luckily, I don’t need to watch where I’m going in VR video.

    • Barabo

      ‘Mostly unused data’ is due to lack of understanding the very nature of a new medium. There is no ‘behind’ in 360 and as soon as everyone learns how to use it in the best possible manner, 180 will become obsolete. Actually, it is obsolete already. The resolution hit is being dealt with for sime time now, even the latest consumer cameras have 5.2K or 5.7K resolution. And there are professional 8K all-in-one cameras already.

      • Foreign Devil

        It doesn’t matter how high rez the cameras are if Youtube playback of 360 degree stereoscopic videos is incredibly blurry and low quality when it is streaming to due to the 360 degree X 2 (stereo) streaming data requirement.

  • Luke

    where may I download hig res examples videos please? is it at 60fps?

    • Zerofool

      30fps only, unfortunately. I’m tempted to use the “DOA” term, but let’s just say “Outdated before they’re even released”. Some VR porn studios are already shooting in 5.5K@60fps, while Google thinks 4K@30fps is just fine for consumers…
      People should understand that framerate is more important in VR that resolution. These peasant-grade devices always focus on resolution at the expense of framerate. Consumers should be better educated and demand what’s important – 60fps minimum AND real-time interpolation to 90fps (or whatever the display refreshrate) during playback.

      • Luke

        Yes, I’m a filmmaker and I hope is clear to every filmmaker that VR needs at least 60fps minimum. Google please wake up!

        • Zerofool

          Amen. Let’s hope they will.
          Not all is lost for professionals. The Z-Cam K1 Pro supports 60fps but it will have much higher price, 4-figures I presume. If you manage to find sample footage from it, please let me know.

          http://www.z-cam.com/180-vr-camera-k1-pro/

        • G-man

          does it though, will interpolated frames not be enough?

          • Luke

            video fake frames are often freak, don’t rely on them.

          • G-man

            yeah…. okay….

  • V Zaporozhets

    I have a cool idea to try when I get my hands on such camera.
    Mount it on the bottom of a drone facing down and then watch the video in a headset while lying in bed in bed facing down. For further immersion spread your arms. I bet it will feel like you are a flying bird.
    I always wanted to try this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWLHIusLWOc

  • Jistuce

    Does the Lenovo camera seriously not have any form of viewfinder?

    • dk

      like go pros and other cameras ….u connect it to your phone

      • Jistuce

        Ugh.

        • dk

          yep it’s somewhat annoying …..and convenient in cases like u can be anywhere around the camera and u can still see the viewfinder …..and it saves money

          • Jistuce

            As an option, I’m not opposed to being linkable with a phone. As the only solution… a hole through the case is basically zero cost and STILL better than this.

    • G-man

      it shoots everything in front of the camera. you cant tell what its filming? hold it on your forehead

      • Jistuce

        But I don’t have a forehead. It was amputated about a half a year ago. Hence my concern at the time about viewfinders.

  • dk

    damn it put those in a phone ….also a depth camera system on the back of phones

  • 180 3D is better than 360 2D in my opinion, it gives a better immersion

  • Lin Tzu-Yao

    I think VR180 might the right way in viewer.
    And I also saw a similar camera which made by Weeview at CES.
    Their demo videos are so interesting:
    https://www.weeview.co/news/weeview-at-ces-2018-the-next-generation-of-3d-vr-180