Photospheres Get Improved In Android 4.4 with Better Stitching And Faster Rendering

photosphere create

One of the coolest things about owning a Nexus device is Photospheres. It’s the camera mode that allows you to take 360 degrees panoramas just like Street View does which are really cool are incredibly fun to show to your friends.

It’s all Google’s code and only Nexus and Google Play edition devices carry this mode which means it’s limited to the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, 5, and 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 GPe and HTC One GPe.

We’ve seen Google make adjustments to the way the rendering is done and it has improved a lot since it was first introduced with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The render is faster and the stitching is much, much better, you’ll get less broken lines and better color balance between shots, in most cases you can’t tell the original pictures used for the Photosphere.

Android 4.4 KitKat brings even more improvements according to Evan Rapoport, product manager for Google Maps, Street View, Photospheres and other products.

For starters, the rendering is much faster because now it’s using multi-threading. Until now even if it improved, it was still a little slow to render if you did a full 360. Another big improvement is “optimal seam finding” which is a new technique that tries to find the best spot to stitch pictures so you won’t have any strange artifacts like when people move and you get just a pair of legs in the middle of the scene. Rapoport said “In our testing, we’ve seen a big reduction in stitching errors on people in the scene”. This should also avoid having warped or curved objects in the scene since it will try to locate the object and use it from just one picture.

Finally, they improved some new techniques for stitching difficult scenes like indoors, Photospheres always had a bit of trouble when objects are too close to the camera.

As an extra, here’s a video with a few tips on creating Photospheres from the Google Maps team:

The camera app received a slight update with Android 4.3 but it’s still missing a lot of features to make it the complete app Nexus phones deserve, things like burst mode or ISO control would be a great addition. Maybe Google will release the camera into the Play Store and we’ll begin to see updates more often.