How to: Add Flair and Physical Presence to Scene Pictures with Android Camera Panoramas

You’ve seen panorama photographs. They’ve been around for a number of years, and most mobile operating systems add the panorama feature to their camera apps.

Recently, Google’s Android 4.2.2 camera app leaked (get it here). You will need to sideload this app, and there’s always risk to that. I’ve checked this app and it’s clean, but that’s not a guarantee.

The camera app is cool, but what I think attorneys will really love is the ability to HD panoramas called “Photo Spheres.”

What’s a Photo Sphere?

Photo Spheres take panoramic images to the next level. You can see some examples from this Google+ group (here’s a sweet one from Kailua Beach in Hawaii). But basically, when you hear Photo Sphere think 3D, 360 degree, point-of-view image.

Photo Spheres, for lack of a better metaphor, immerse the viewer in the scene. Just check out the links, please.

What makes Photo Spheres pictures so great?

I can think of a number of uses for Photo Spheres, but attorneys will like the fact your can share your picture to Google+ (meh) or to Google Earth/Maps.

Before we start, I want to issue a word of caution: anyone will have access to your Photo Sphere picture if you send it to Google Maps – think Google Street View on steroids. In other words, if you don’t want it there, don’t do this.

If you’re okay with that (and you probably should be if you’re going to use the picture in court or the “public sphere”), then it’s easy to get started with Photo Spheres.

Note: at some point the “how to” is going to turn into theoretic conjecture, because, despite my big talk, I haven’t actually, really used Photo Spheres for anything more than snapping pictures of my messy living room and backyard.

Let’s get started.

Your first step is to get acquainted with the Photo Sphere function. You’ll find the Photo Sphere mode in the camera options, which looks like a world.

photosphere mode

Take the panoramic picture, which essentially equates to keeping the phone level and matching a dot to a hole, as you turn 360 degrees in your personal sphere. Remember, 360 degrees includes the sky and the ground, thus the word spheres.

Next, open the Gallery app (be careful because after side loading the app, you may have two photo galleries), and share the Photo Sphere with Maps or Google+.

Photo Sphere share to Maps

You can share with Gmail or another service, but the picture will be panoramic, but not a Photo Sphere (click the links to see the difference).

Sharing a Photo Sphere on Maps, then visiting this site and signing in with your Google account, gives you this:

I had some problems with the site rendering properly, which caused my browser to freeze or crash. It’s very frustrating, and shows the Photo Spheres program is still very much in beta testing.

You can get full details on this site about Photo Spheres.

What’s the big deal?

So here’s how I see attorneys benefiting from Photo Spheres:

  • Personal injury or criminal defense attorneys use Photo Spheres to give the first-person experience for a client’s accident or crime scene, then project the Photo Sphere to help the jury gain perspective.
  • Market your law practice using Photo Spheres to show off your office’s plush interior or exterior.
  • Document the interior of your home or office in case of fire or other damage.

Update (6/30): A couple people have asked about sideloading apps. This just means downloading the app from a source that’s not Google Play. To sideload you’ll need to go to Menu > Settings > Security > Unknown sources. I suggest enabling that for this install, then disabling unknown sources after the install. I also fixed the link. It should be an .apk file

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.