What Is an Android Photo Sphere?

A collection of images can be rendered in 3D

Android photo spheres are panoramic images that can be taken from some Android devices. Built-in to the Camera app, this feature lets you take 360-degree images of anything around you, and even share them on Google Maps.

The Android operating system began supporting photo spheres in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and the Nexus 4 was the first phone that shipped with photo sphere capabilities out of the box. Your device must have a gyro sensor in order for it to work.

Taking a Photo

Using the photo sphere feature involves locating dots on the screen so that the camera can capture everything around you.

  1. Open the camera app.

  2. Tap Photo Sphere from the menu.

    On some phones, it is hidden in the Modes tab along the bottom of the camera app.

  3. After opening the Photo Sphere tool, tap the camera button first, and then line up the circle with the blue circle. And then, locate the white dot on the screen and hold your camera there until it turns blue and the dot disappears. You might have to tilt the phone or tablet in every which way to see the blue dot.

  4. Move the camera to the next dot until it turns blue and disappears as well.

    How to take a photo sphere with an Android device camera

    Repeat this until you no longer see any white dots.

    You can tap the checkmark/done button at any time to finish, but you scan might not be complete.

  5. Tap Done.

Use Cases

A panoramic image offers a significant business case for:

  • Real-estate agents showing off a room.
  • Detectives or other investigators capturing the dynamic of a crime scene.
  • Artists capturing scenic vistas.
  • Journalists capturing a scene for later reference.

Tips and More Information

When taking a photo sphere, remember the following:

  • It may look odd taking pictures of people or other moving objects since the images won't be pieced together well. Landscapes and interior shots are your best bets.
  • Keep one foot on the ground and circle around on that foot only, to avoid varying perspective shots.
  • Have your phone remain directly above your foot while creating the photo sphere to ensure that it captures images fluidly throughout.

Because they're not like regular images, such as JPGs that display on most web pages, you might have trouble viewing photo spheres on most devices. The image will most likely look long and flat, with wavy areas where it would normally bend if opened in a panoramic viewer.

You can open the photo sphere in the Gallery app on your phone and upload it to Google Photos to view it there.

You can also view a photo sphere online via a site like Photo Sphere Viewer or a freeware app such as FSPViewer.

The Android photo sphere capability debuted in 2012, and since then, many different smartphone manufacturers have built or offered some sort of 360-degree photography app. For example, Samsung devices can install Surround shot from the camera app to take a 3-D photo of any object.

Because there's no standardized format for 360-degree photography, images taken by one device or app may not be fully interchangeable with any other device or app. Since Android device photo spheres, are a Google offering, they're compatible with the Google ecosystem, but your mileage in other platforms may vary.

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