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Tech Trends

Turning Heads

Advances in camera technology are pushing the boundaries of what people can see and record. Adventurers and athletes were among the first to exploit 360-degree lenses. Now a growing number of business owners are seeing the light.

At a motocross race, one rider has eyes in the back of his head.

He's Chikara Shoji. Before every race, he mounts a camera to his bike. It's fitted with a fisheye lens.

Afterwards, Shoji plays back the image on his tablet.

Using a special app, he can analyze a 360-degree field of view, including the track in front, his posture, and what was going on to the right, left and behind.

"I can't see someone following right behind me, but with this camera, I can check what happened later to see how I was passed," he says.

The all-seeing camera--developed in the US--is ideal for sports.

But that's not the only possibility. The camera's Japanese distributor is busy testing other applications. One is as a driving recorder.

Installed in a car, it can capture the driver's view, what the driver is doing, and everything happening around the car--at the same time, and with a single camera.

The distributer is in talks with other companies to develop driver recording systems to sell to the public.

"Currently the camera is used mostly for capturing active sports scenes, but in the future we expect it will be applied more for business purposes," says Makoto Kondo, the Executive Manager of Maspro Denkoh.

Other cameras offer even wider perspectives.

At the Shibuya crossing, a major tourist destination, a camera is used to capture footage with a 360-degree view.

The device offers all-round vision--not just front and back, but also, above and below. It's the work of a Japanese manufacturer.

The maker fitted fisheye lenses on both sides of the camera.

Each lens films separately. An app then merges the images, allowing you to observe the scene in any direction you can turn your head.

The 360-degree camera makes the process of filming property much cheaper and simpler.

The camera allows more real estate agents the opportunity to offer virtual tours of their properties.

One house buyer says, "Well I'm really impressed. I felt like I was really looking around inside the property."

Thirty percent of the companies listed on this rental property website use the omni-view camera.

Agents say the dynamic visuals are pulling in more business and shortening the time needed to close a deal.

"Many customers first take the virtual tour on the web before asking to view the actual property. The 360-degree camera helps us stay with the times," says Masahiro Araki, the General Manager of Chianti.

360-degree cameras started out as a bit of fun. But the technology is expanding fast -- and so are the commercial applications.

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