The Polycam App Turns iPhones into 360-Degree Cameras


Polycam, an iPhone app originally designed for 3D scanning, has launched a new feature that turns an iPhone into a 360-degree camera without any external hardware.

The new feature asks users to take a continuous panoramic photo in a full circle and then uses generative artificial intelligence (AI) software to fill in the blanks and complete a 360-degree image. The AI, which is powered by Stable Diffussion, completes the unseen areas and blends them seamlessly with the original capture.

“In other words, it allows the app to generate what normal panoramas can’t capture — above and below,” Polycam says. “This enables a much more natural user experience for capturing 360 photos that is similar to how people already capture panoramas.”

The new feature joins the suite of other capture modes on Polycam and is supported on iPhone 11 devices and newer.

“Up until now, 360 photos were a specialty – something exclusive to people with expensive cameras and equipment,” Chris Heinrich, CEO of Polycam, says. “With our new 360 Capture, we’re democratizing 360 capture by bringing it to everyone with an iPhone.”

Polycam positions the new feature as something that has appeal to a wide variety of users. Casual photographers can use it to build 360-degree images to share with friends and families, or can even use it to better show off a space to those who might not be able to join them in person.

Professionals, such as architects or 3D artists, can utilize 360 Capture to document spaces or create virtual environments for gaming or virtual reality. In the video above, Polycam shows how 3D models of objects can be placed in the 360-degree spaces to see how they interact with that kind of an environment.

Polycam shared two examples of outputs from the app, both of theater-like outdoor space. In one example, the shift from the iPhone’s capture to Stable Diffussion’s AI generation is subtle, but noticeable. There is also a bit of a smudge in the sky where the AI didn’t quite do a perfect job and the ground right below the photographer’s feet is a bit of a mess.

The second example is a lot cleaner, likely due to the lack of clouds in the sky, but the gradations of blue still aren’t quite right. The ground in this example is, however, excellently rendered.

Overall, while there is room for improvement and the AI struggles the most when it has to create visuals from scratch, the technology shows promise.

Existing Polycam users can start using 360 Capture this week. Upgrading to Polycam Pro will remove a small watermark on any images that are captured. Polycam Pro Costs $15 per month or $80 per year and is available on the Apple App Store.