Eyes in Back of Your Head

Techno-lust rises during the holidays, especially for action cams that take selfie-friendly video to a whole new level. Driving my hormones this season is the V.360º, a wireless camera with companion apps for Android and iOS devices. Though its manufacturer, VSN Mobil, likens the cylindrical cam to a 9-ounce can of Red Bull, the immersible camera captures a 360-degree view—8MP photos and 6480 x 1080 video—without stitching.

Whether you’re surfing, biking, skiing, or snowboarding, attending a wedding, shooting a concert, or sitting on the floor with friends and relatives in a circle opening presents, the V. 360º will never crop away a wave or those around you on account of being out of frame. Stick the camera on a car dashboard, and you’ll record not only what’s ahead but what’s behind—such as the driver and a passenger chatting away in stereo. There’s even a time-lapse function for 360 degrees of surveillance.

The V.360º app hijacks your mobile device’s Wi-Fi connection to stream the live view or play video saved to the camera’s MicroSDHC card (not supplied). You can control the camera from your phone or tablet, neither of which you’d want to bring along on a surfboard. That’s one reason a Bluetooth remote is included.

Played through a phone, you can swipe the video from either side of your touchscreen to bring into view the remaining panorama. Using the free desktop application for a Windows or Macintosh computer, you tug the rest of the picture into view with your mouse. With Google Cardboard or VSN Mobile’s more durable V.360 Viewing Goggles ($40), you insert your smartphone and simply turn your head to see who or what is behind you.

I placed the camera on the floor in my dining room occupied by guests and their dogs and recorded a few minutes of MP4 video. Played back through my smartphone mounted in Cardboard (see ”VR for the Rest of Us”), the perspective was uncanny. I replayed the room, so to speak. Seeing my dachshund wander by, I turned around to see her headed over to the water bowl for a drink.

You can also hook the camera directly to a 4K TV using an HDMI cable (not included). With four video resolutions to choose from, the 3840x640p/30 fps setting is perfect for fitting the entire panorama across a 4K display.

The camera comes with adhesive, 1/4-inch-20, and GoPro mounting options. The V.360º embeds GPS and other data in files, but there’s a retro bubble atop the camera to help you keep the picture level with the horizon.

Beyond action sports, the camera has more sedate uses. When attached via a USB cable to a computer, the V.360º empowers a festive Skype session. With the camera centerpiece at a Thanksgiving table, for instance, a remote “guest” will see all the diners displayed as an elongated panorama not unlike the scene depicted in Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

While I was impressed by the many uses for the V.360º, the documentation was subpar. The operative word in learning to use this product is patience. Still, the more I played with the V.360º, the more dissatisfied I became with a conventional camera’s limitation of seeing only what was in front of the lens. Considering that at $449, the V.360º can stand in for a virtual-reality rig holding multiple cameras and lenses adding up to thousands of dollars, home video making will never be the same.

For more information on the V.360º, go to vsnmobil.com.

For another take on the V.360º, see “The Whole Picture”.