Web publishing pioneer takes on virtual reality with new camera system

Halsey Minor was one of the pioneering figures in web publishing. Now he’s hoping to get in on the ground floor of virtual reality.

Minor has founded Reality Lab Networks, a Los Angeles startup that’s developed a camera system and a cloud service for use in creating 360-degree videos. The company’s goal is to make it easy and relatively inexpensive for creative professionals to produce, edit and distribute high-quality virtual reality videos.

The company plans to ship its Live Planet camera system, which has 16 high-definition camera modules arrayed in a circle, in the fourth quarter. On Friday, Reality Lab will announce that it’s taking pre-orders for the Live Planet system and will sell the first 500 for about $5,000, or half off its regular price.

“What we’re trying to do is make it so creatives can spend their money being creative,” Minor said.

The Live Planet device itself will stitch together the images captured by its cameras. Reality Lab will offer a cloud service that will allow creative professionals to encode their videos in particular formats and distribute them to various virtual reality video hosting platforms. Reality Lab plans to eventually charge a subscription fee for its cloud service.

The camera system will be able to live stream 360-degree videos or record it for later streaming.

Reality Lab is one of a growing number of companies that are developing cameras or service for creating virtual reality videos. Among its competitors are Nokia, which makes the Ozo camera system, and NextVR, which produces live 360-degree video streams and has its own camera system.

Minor founded CNET, a company originally planned to be a cable channel specializing in coverage of computing, but which eventually became one of the first web publishers. He also co-founded Salesforce.com and Grand Central, which became Google Voice.

Halsey Minor, founder of Reality Lab Networks, stands with a prototype of the company’s Live Planet 360-degree camera system. The computer screen displays what the camera can see. (Troy Wolverton/Mercury News)


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