Last November, TechCrunch’s own Sarah Lacy sat down with Vineet Devaiah from “social streetview” startup, Phototour.in, which, at the time, had just received term sheets from a number of high-profile U.S. investors and had recently been awarded the “Top Emerging Technology Company of 2010″ by Nvidia. The startup was the first international, non-funded, under-20-member company to win the award, according to Devaiah.
Since then, Phototour added Academy Award certificate-winner and entrepreneur Bala S. Manian as an advisor (who was honored for “technical achievement” for his contributions to optical technologies used in films, including Star Wars) and has gained more than 47,000 users for the alpha version of its image and panorama crowdsourcing app, “360”, on Android. Users have logged more than 75,000 panoramas in a relatively short period of time, so, considering the rumors that the iPhone 5 will have a native panorama app, sources tell us that 360 might be a candidate for a potential partnership with Android so that it can remain neck-in-neck with Apple.
What’s more, today the startup is officially announcing that it is rebranding as TeliportMe and is bringing 360 out of alpha and into the public sphere in ready-to-wear form. For free. Granted, 360-degree panorama apps for smartphones are nothing new. There are quite a few cool apps and gadgets that have these capabilities on the market, like “You Gotta See This!”, Occipital’s 360 Panorama, and Microsoft’s Photosynth, to name a few.
In light of this competition, TeliportMe wants to distinguish itself from the field by building a high quality Android app, that works across OEMs. According to Devaiah, panoramic apps tend to be very hardware centric because of their reliance on a smartphone’s camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, RAM, and so on. Because Android relies on so many different OEMs, it becomes a tricky proposition to build a good 360-degree app for Android and is the reason why most panorama apps are built on iOS (thanks to the vertical integration it has with its hardware).
Another obstacle for Android is that only about 20 percent of its smartphones have the processing capability of the iPhone, and as panoramic apps require a lot of image processing during photo stitching, many Android phones don’t have enough RAM to make this possible (at least at speed). Devaiah cited the example of a phone like the HTC Wildfire, which has processing capabilities lesser than that of an iPhone 2G. (Burn!)
This is where the technology that won the startup the “best emerging tech” award comes into play. TeliportMe is bringing its photo stitching technology to the Android smartphone, which to a large extent negates the issues caused due to multiple hardware configurations, allowing it to function smoothly over 200 models of android phones, the CEO says. (The startup has also built a version of its photostitching app that works on the browser, which it will be launching soon.)
So, 360 allows its users to quickly take high quality panoramas, which they can then view on the app’s 3D viewer. Users can share panoramas via Facebook and Twitter, as well as view, comment, and “like” photos taken by people all over the world on 360’s public realtime feed. The app also taps into the phone’s location to allow users to discover other people using 360 in close proximity, using its “Around Me” option.