Google has just launched a new photo application for iOS users called Photo Sphere Camera, which allows you to take 360-degree photos, then publish them to Google Maps or other social networks. The app is an expansion of a feature that was previously available via Google’s Android operating system, and shipped on the Nexus-branded smartphones.
Now available on iOS, the new app lets you stand in one place, pointing the viewfinder at a dot on the screen then tilt and move the phone until you’ve captured the scenery around you.
360 images are not exactly a new idea for smartphones. iOS offers its own “Pano” mode and third-party apps like Sphere, 360 Panorama and the nifty hands-free Cycloramic have offered similar functionality for some time.
But what makes Google’s Photo Spheres different is that they let you look not just left and right, but also up and down – like you can with Google Street View, for example. That makes them a more immersive experience, and lets you feel like you’re really seeing the view captured, like a beach, mountains, cityscape and more.
Of course, Google’s entry into this space is more about gaining access to another stream of user-generated data which it can use to augment its Google Maps product. It’s like the consumer-grade version of the Google Street View camera.
After users create a Photo Sphere, they can opt to publish to a dedicated community within Google Maps called Views, or social networks like Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, explains Google, locally relevant photo spheres may appear in Google Maps itself, helping people to virtually explore the world.
Photo Sphere is fun to use, if a bit much for everyday use. The app is a free download here on iTunes.