Surrounded by dancing girls

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Sony has come up with a product that should turn some heads at NAB-or maybe not. It's a 360-degree camera that captures everything going on around it. On playback, then, the viewer can pan around in the full circle without moving his or her neck.

Right now, the only medium with the bandwidth and the interactive control needed to handle the 360-degree images is Sony's PlayStation 2 videogame console. Demonstrating the technology for reporters in Tokyo two weeks ago, Sony played a 360-degree disk by the Morning Musume, Japan's hottest girl troupe, on a PlayStation. Using the game controller, viewers could watch any of the 10 girls as she sings and dances around the camera. They could also zoom in and out as they panned. In just one month, Sony has sold 130,000 copies of the disk. It's now involved in the production of another.

The so-called multi-directional camera is actually eight cameras mounted inside an eight-sided cylinder. Each camera points down and picks up one-eighth of the 360-degree image off one of eight mirrors mounted at a 45-degree angle below the cylinder. Software combines the individual images into one seamless image. The cylinder also has eight microphones to ensure true 360-degree audio.

Sony says the camera is available for lease.

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