Friday, February 22, 2013

Visiting Tagaytay and Taal Volcano in Philippines

Taal Volcano 360 Panorama
360 Panorama View of Taal Volcano © Peter Watts

The City of Tagaytay is of the most popular places to visit in the Philippines. It is perched on the ridge or the Taal Volcano caldera, making the small city is much less humid and a little cooler than the surrounding lowlands. Nearby are the Tagaytay Highlands, which has some of the most expensive housing to be found and a large, popular park.

On one side, the city has views over the lowlands and Manila. On the other are dramatic views over Taal Volcano and the caldera lake surrounding it. It is this volcano that is the main tourist attraction in the area. That and the casino. On the ridge is the beautiful, 5-star Taal Vista Hotel. Aptly named as it offering some of the best views available over the lake and volcano from its luxurious grounds.

Panorama of City of Tagaytay supplied by Panoramic Earth

And then there the Taal Volcano itself, the main tourist attraction in the area. Visiting the volcano takes at least half a day, starting with a windy, thirty minute drive down the steep caldera cliff to resorts that line the lake edge. This is followed by an outrigger-canoe ride over Taal Volcano Lake and then either a walk or donkey ride up to the edge of the crater.

This volcano is active, and has erupted in recent times causing fatalities in the surrounding villages. The crater lake is boiling in some sections and steam vents can be found on the rim and hillside. On clear days there are great views over the massive caldera, itself formed when the father of Taal Volcano blew up around 100,000 years ago. Those not concerned with polluting the area can pay to drive a golf ball into the lake below.

As with anything in Asia, it is always worth bargaining for better prices, and travelling as a group will get the best deals. Visiting Tagaytay and Taal Volcano make for a very memorable trip.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ricoh Displays Single Shot 360 Spherical Panorama Camera

Ricoh have been working on a very small, portable device that takes a spherical 360 panorama in one shot and sends it automatically to a smartphone or tablet. It uses two 180-dgree lenses, combining the image internally before sending the result for viewing.

At this point there was no information about image size and resolution. Currently it only takes stills, but the company is considering trying to also capture video. At this point there. As the Ricoh demonstrator explains: 

 "It has two fish-eye lenses, each of which covers 180 degrees. The camera combines the two pictures, and sends them via Wi-Fi to a tablet or smartphone for viewing. The idea is, the pictures you take arrive automatically. When viewing it like a regular panoramic image, you can also see up and down. When you pull out from the image, it finally becomes a circle, and you can also look at it as a sphere." 

"This camera represents a step beyond SLRs and compact cameras. The project began with the idea that, if taking spherical panoramic photos was easy, the results might be fun. Currently, the camera takes still photos. But we'd like to enable it to handle video, too. We're still just presenting this technology, so the specs haven't been decided yet. Right now, we're at the stage of seeing how people react. If people think this camera is fun, we'd like to commercialize it, and make it a bit smaller. We want to keep developing it, so we can offer a version for consumers." 

 "This is a project we're discussing with staff at art colleges. We think this technology could also be presented as a "panorama ball," where the pictures are stuck onto a sphere."

New Panoramas on Panoramic Earth