LetsGoDigital.org found a design patent for what could be the 2018 Gear 360. While some sites have already begun to predict its characteristics, I have an entirely different take. Here’s my analysis.
LetsGoDigital.org is an online magazine about news in consumer electronics. They discovered that Samsung filed a design patent with the Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS). The patent filing included diagrams and photos of what at first glance looks like a revised version of the 2017 Gear 360.
The timing is ripe for rumors for a 2018 Gear 360. Almost exactly one year ago, the camera that we now know as the 2017 Gear 360 was rumored to exist, and those rumors eventually turned out to be true.
The patent that LetsGoDigital found looks like a cartoonish anthropomorphic version of the 2017 Gear 360. It has a huge head, laughing eyes, and tiny feet. It’s way too early for April Fool’s, so my take is that this is not a camera but some kind of accessory or toy. Here’s why.
First, let’s take a step back. Not all patents are the same. The kind we usually call a patent is a utility patent, and creates a legal protection for a novel method of achieving a particular result. By contrast, a design patent gives protection to an object’s design (shape, etc.) itself. A famous example would be the Coca-Cola bottle. Therefore, the fact that a design patent for something exists does not necessarily mean it is an actual device. It could be purely ornamental.
In this case, there are a few things that make me doubt this is a camera. Most telling of all are the “eyes.” I see no functional reason for them. Moreover, if this were truly a 360 camera, those eyes would appear as slight blurs in the 360 image, similar to scratches. Would you want to buy a camera that comes pre-scratched? I didn’t think so. Even if the eyes are a one-way design that are visible to an onlooker but invisible to the camera’s lenses, they would probably have different reflective or refractive properties compared to the unprinted portion of the lens, and those differences will show up under certain conditions such as when sunlight is shining directly on them.
I also don’t see any tripod hole. Instead, you have tiny feet. It’s possible that Samsung would make a camera that intentionally is made to look cute, but omitting a tripod hole, and putting feet that would make even a GoPro-type adapter more difficult is inconceivable to me. Then again, maybe adding a tripod hole may have been too scandalous. lol
Other strange characteristics include the tilted head. If these are truly lenses, the tilt would mean that the horizon would not be level. It’s of course possible to use vertical correction or image stabilization but if the camera was made to not be vertical even when placed on a level surface, it just makes the user totally dependent on the accuracy of the internal gyro. This seems like a terrible design if this were truly a camera.
Note also that both the 2016 and 2017 Gear 360 have buttons beside the ‘head,’ and both have an OLED display. This one has neither. The buttons in front could conceivably operate the camera. (The Insta360 ONE for example, has only one button) but wow it would be a significant downgrade to lose the Gear 360’s best-in-class on-camera menu system.
In short, the design is so strange that I simply cannot believe this is the 2018 Gear 360. Usually, my predictions are correct but I’ve been wrong occasionally — for example I thought Samsung Round was the prototype Samsung AroundMe wearable 360 camera*, and instead, it turned out to be the silly new name for the Samsung Project Beyond (see my analysis of its lens configuration) But this is just … too … bizarre. If it is an actual camera, I’m guessing it is a toy camera for kids. More likely though, it is simply a promotional toy figure or something, a cute looking one at that.
*update: Samsung AroundMe was released at CES 2018 as the Linkflow FITT360.
Other facts that reinforce my theory is that the design patent shows the same character donning VR glasses. That wouldn’t be possible if it were a camera.
On the bright side, this seems to show that Samsung may be using the Gear 360 as some kind of mascot, which could bring more publicity to the Gear 360 and 360 cameras in general. There’s also a possibility that this mascot may mean that the 2018 Gear 360 will look very much like the 2017 Gear 360.
Thank you very much to LetsGoDigital.org for sharing this news! You can check out their article here. For more information about the 2018 Gear 360 and other 360 cameras, including updates to the 360 Camera Comparison page, please subscribe!
UPDATE: the news is spreading and other major tech websites are reporting about this as if it is indeed a camera. So far, I’m the only one saying it’s not a camera. Hopefully we’ll find the answer in a few months. 🙂