What Gigapixel Panoramic Cameras Mean for the Future of Business – and Privacy

| By Editorial Staff

One billion pixels. You can just hear Dr. Evil say those words with a sly smile across his face. One billion; so many pixels that the proper way to depict it is 109.

That’s pretty astounding seeing as it wasn’t so long ago when we were working with 1 megapixel digital cameras. Now technology allows us to capture 1,000 times that amount.

Chances are you’ve seen a gigapixel panoramic camera at work (have you ever used Google Maps?). The technique involves taking a large number of high resolution photographs and then using software to put them together. The result is an interactive, large-scale image that users can manipulate in various ways.

Sure, it helps us zoom in on our neighborhoods (Hey wait, that’s my car out there!), but what else can gigapixel panoramic cameras (gigapans) capture?

Turns out, just about everything.

Zoom, explore and tag! Gigapan meet Social Media

Being able to zoom in to the nitty-gritty of one’s neighborhood isn’t the only thing that can be done with a gigapan camera. This technology can become a potential marketing gold mine, particularly in terms of social media. Here’s how:

Let’s say, for example, that the home team just won the championship (it could be football, baseball, curling, etc.). Of course, there’ll be a crowd of fans flooding the streets to celebrate. Now, let’s say a local business takes a picture of this scene, but not just any picture. Let’s say they take a gigapan shot of the crowd, which is another way of saying let’s say they take thousands of photographs and then combine those pictures into one, massive, interactive image. Now what?

This local company could embed these interactive images onto their own website. Social media has made it imperative that all online content be interactive, and having an image that users can scroll through and zoom in and out of is far more enjoyable than a static shot. Marketing isn’t a one-way street anymore. It’s a constant conversations companies must have with their audiences, and this new technology makes it possible.

Fans can then find and tag themselves via Facebook. This is their way of saying “Look at me, I was there.” They’ll love it and will be sure to share it with their communities. But the benefit doesn’t end there. By tagging themselves, the local company will then have unique access to their profiles/communities (thanks to the way sites like Facebook work), giving the local company the ability to reach new audiences.

The possibilities for this technology, and the opportunities to make it social and shareable are endless. There is no limit to where these cameras can be used:

  • Sporting events
  • Festivals
  • Tradeshows
  • Public gatherings
  • Concerts

Brands and companies can make the gigapan camera an integral part of their social and web engagement strategy, while journalists and publishers can use it to cover stories in an entirely new way.

But what about the privacy?

These days a conversation involving technology will almost surely be closely followed by a debate over privacy. The gigapan camera is no exception. While most people have grown to accept that surveillance cameras line most city streets as a way to protect the public, the gigapan camera doesn’t serve that type of altruistic purpose.

Designed for both entertainment and marketing, the gigapan camera (and gigapan tagging) all but forces people out of the security of anonymity. If you have a Facebook page, and don’t have your privacy settings put into place, whose to stop anyone from tagging you from within a gigapan photograph?

They might think they’re doing you a favor by proving you were at an event, but what they might be doing is opening you up to a wave of marketing materials and ads that you never asked to receive.

Furthermore, as these interactive photos live on the web, whose to stop anyone with more nefarious ideas in mind from digging deep into your public profiles to acquire information you’d rather not be made known, including:

  • Where you work
  • What type of job you have
  • What you drive for a car
  • Where you usually go on the weekends

The posts we share each day with friends and family serve as a glimpse into the habits and rituals that make up our days. Do you often post pictures, on Tuesday nights, of you and friends at a bar for pub trivia night? Then someone with access to your profile – thanks to gigapan tagging – might realize you are likely not at home on Tuesday nights and might pay your house a visit.

For as many awesome and fun advantages this type of technology offers, there seems an equal number of downsides or concerns. Before jumping onto the gigapan tag bandwagon, be sure you know exactly what you’re doing: exposing yet another piece of your life to an even wider audience.