use & build

How to use the website?

The web page uses the A-frame framework, which is an open-source web framework for building virtual reality experiences. The framework should support desktop and mobile devices, although interaction with the website might vary depending on your device.

On a desktop the A-frame framework provides a standard scrollable spherical panorama or a true immersive experience on HTC Vive and Oculus rift virtual reality headsets. If you own one of the latter devices let me know if this feature works, as I do not have access to either one!

On mobile devices the A-frame framework will use the device sensors to figure out it's relative position, and present you with an interactive experience. Remember, if you put a device on a table the device is pointing down and you will be presented with a black image (as I mask the pole on which the camera sits). Point your device upwards to experience the interactive scene. On devices without a compass you will have to scroll side to side using your touch screen rather than moving your camera about. The latter issue also limits the use of the immersive features such as Google cardbox.

How to build your own camera?

The camera is a combination of a Ricoh Theta S controlled by a raspberry pi (using the USB API), in a DIY water-proof housing. The housing is made of standard PVC fittings, sitting on top of a garden fence post. The optics are covered by a glass lamp shade to provide optimal transmission and limited deformation (acrylic globes can be used as well). The only custom part is the plate on which the camera is mount using 1/4" steel thread. This plate is cut out of 3mm acrylic plastic. A vertical support also holds the raspberry pi to keep things tidy (the cad files and scripts which run on the pi can be found in my github repository). I use two 3mm plates for extra rigidity (glued together). You can also use a 6mm top plate and a 3mm vertical plate. The inside of the "lens cover" is (ideally) spray painted matte black to limit reflections. Constructed and placed in the forest the camera looks like a garden lamp (see figure). Here the blue wire is the ethernet cable which runs to a nearby hub, and serves as the internet and power connection. The yellow wire is the ground wire for the surge protector, to protect the camera from voltage spikes due to nearby lightning strikes.

A dataset consisting of one full-day of images can be found in a github repository. You can use this dataset for VR software development, creative projects etc..

Parts list

I assume that common items such as screws and glue (pvc, silicone) are available to makers.

Item Price ($)
Ricoh Theta S (or newer) $350
Raspberry pi 2 (or newer) $36
Raspberry pi PoE hat $25
24V POE injector $10
APC surge protector $18
200ft / 50m Cat5e cable $13
8" glass globe lamp cover $35
4" (10cm) PVC pipe $20
4" (10cm) PVC coupler $2.5
3.5" Wooden Fence post $5
36" ground anchor $30
3mm Plexiglass sheet $5
1/4" stainless steel rod $1
1/4" (coupling) nuts $1
1/4" washers $1
TOTAL ~$550