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360-degree camera shoots VR movies for Oculus Rift

Imagine looking around you and finding you're a character in your favourite movie, thanks to the 360-degree Panopticam camera for Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus.

The Panopticam bristles with 36 HD cameras for all-round filming. Figure Digital

Step into the silver screen with movies shot using the Panopticam. With a story filmed in 360-degrees, you could look around, up and down within the scene when wearing a virtual reality headset such as Oculus Rift headset or Sony's Project Morpheus.

So far, the buzz around Oculus has largely been around games. But with the Panopticam, filmmakers could put you right in the centre of the action. Imagine being able to look around during the opening battle scenes of "Saving Private Ryan", for example, or while floating in space during the heart-stopping "Gravity."

Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets let you step into other worlds. Figure Digital

Looking like some kind of Dalek with a bunch of GoPros strapped to its dome, the Panopticam captures 360 degree footage that puts you in the middle of the action when you don a virtual reality helmet. It's being developed by the augmented and virtual reality specialists at London's Figure Digital, who are also building an associated VR video-editing software plug-in to enable filmmakers and advertisers to shoot and edit 360-degree footage.

The Panopticam bristles with no fewer than 36 HD video cameras, mounted on a 3D-printed spherical casing. It measures 15 inches all the way around and weighs 5kg so it's light enough to move around -- with the camera rig potentially being moved through a scene on rails. The rails can be digitally painted out afterward, so when you watch the footage, you get the effect of moving.

The resulting VR movies can also be made interactive, if different outcomes to a scene are filmed and played through the helmet depending on your actions.

Already working with Oculus Rift, Figure has also spoken to Sony about the forthcoming Project Morpheus headset. Sony's ambitions may be for more than 360-degree PlayStation games. Sony has a movie studio too and is often pushing at the boundaries of moviemaking with new technologies -- so virtual reality movies could be the next frontier.