Update, 5/30/07: I knew this wasn't the first concept of its kind, and sure enough, our own Candace Lombardi had covered one in a previous life. Cedric Tay's 360 Degree Digital Camera even won a European design award.
While it lacks the visceral impact of the film version shown to the left, designer Ye Chen's hypothetical digital camera optimized for shooting 360-degree panoramas has the advantage of being a lot smaller and cooler looking. The camera concept, posted today on the Yanko Design site, incorporates a rotating camera lens, essentially turning the entire camera body into a tripod. It's a simple, relatively elegant design.
Ironically, though, the camera itself isn't the most interesting aspect of the story. What is? For one, the designer dubs the camera the "Nikon 360." Given all the attention it's getting on the Web, can you think of a better way to draw the attention (hopefully non-legal) of a potential client?
The other thing that intrigued me was the response of the blog sites that covered it. Gizmodo says, "If this were to actually be manufactured I highly doubt it could sell enough to stay afloat, but it could be a good schtick camera." And Tech Digest comments, "I wonder how much of a selling point panoramic shots are outside people who hike up and down hills for fun." With all the Web sites and businesses reliant on practical tools for visualizing an environment--applications such as Hopstop and Google Streets, not to mention the huge potential for real estate and travel sites--relegating panoramic imaging tools to a niche market seems surprisingly short sighted.