Occipital is the group that brought Red Laser to the iPhone, providing real-time barcode scanning using the iPhone's built-in camera. In 360 Panorama, Occipital ups its game to leverage the unit's onboard gyroscope and accelerometer for real-time image capture. What's more, the app actually "sees" precise movement via the camera, so it also works on the iPhone 3GS despite not having a gyroscope. The application tracks your body movements to map what the camera sees to how you're holding the phone. Powers adds, "While the new gyro is awesome, we could never get the quality of panoramas that we currently get without the realtime vision part!"
Back in October, Jeff Powers gave a talk about the upcoming improvements to this application at the Philadelphia Voices that Matter conference. He discussed the mathematics for supporting iDevice sensors and how developers could use them to create better augmented reality applications. I remember him demoing an early version of his updates at that time and wowing the crowd with how it worked. Now, over a month later, the reality is even better.
360 Panorama feels like magic. Your panorama is painted in real time onto a virtual surrounding wall as you slowly spin around, holding your iPhone. The experience is so seamless and intuitive (due in part to the update's massively improved real-time processing) that you wonder why other applications involve so much effort to create real-world panoramic photographs. Using 360 Panorama is a gratifying and immersive creative process. It just works.
The application provides simple (if not perfect) social networking integration via TwitPic and yfrog. I would have liked easier local library management (particularly, a way to reload saved panoramas back into the application) and some basic UI tweaks, including friendlier font sizes for older users.
Those small concerns aside, the application is a delight. For just a dollar (at least during the current sale), it's a marvelous little utility for anyone who visits places of natural beauty ("OMG! The Grand Canyon!"), sells real estate ("Here's the inside of the house.") or just wants to share their world with others ("Look Ma! Here's how I decorated my new dorm room! Isn't my Goth Hello Kitty theme to die for?").