Software Development

Shop Talk: Anthony Ruiz of Samurai Virtual Tours

You may have seen Anthony Ruiz in the corner of events like Refresh Philly diligently setting up his tripod. While Ruiz may first appear to be another semi-serious amateur photographer taking pictures for his Flickr feed, he is the owner of Samurai Virtual Tours, a South Jersey-based company that stitches together photographs, audio and video […]

Samurai's Owners Carole (left) and Anthony Ruiz

Samurai's Owners Carole (left) and Anthony Ruiz
You may have seen Anthony Ruiz in the corner of events like Refresh Philly diligently setting up his tripod.
While Ruiz may first appear to be another semi-serious amateur photographer taking pictures for his Flickr feed, he is the owner of Samurai Virtual Tours, a South Jersey-based company that stitches together photographs, audio and video to create vivid virtual experiences for businesses and events.
“We’re loving meeting the technology lovers in Philly,” said Ruiz who originally started the business in upstate New York, but moved to the Garden State to be closer to family. He says that South Jersey offers a proximity to several big cities as well as bunch of untapped non-tech related business in New Jersey.
Creating interactive tours takes a lot more work that using the panoramic mode on your point and shoot. After the jump, Ruiz gives us a peak into how he turns a dozen pictures into the closest thing the Internet has to virtual reality, and all without that awkward headset.
samlogoA virtual tour may seem like just another unnecessary gizmo to add to a Web page, but a well crafted tour can help move whatever the site is selling.
“It’s a marking tool. People want interactivity and people want to control their experience,” said Ruiz who at first expected real estate clients to be his bread and butter when starting the company in 2006. But Samurai has since done work for the Gloucester County YMCA, the Adventure Aquarium and the university-formerly-known-as-Beaver.
A good virtual tour, like these, first starts with six to 21 images taken with a fish eye lens on a Cannon SLR camera mounted on a special tripod. In some instances, Samurai will take several High Dynamic Range versions of the same frame at different light levels to help make the photos look as if they were being seen by the human eye instead of just pixels on a computer screen. Because the human eye has a wider range of light sensitivity than a digital sensor, a good set of HDR photos can give a tour that extra-realistic touch.
The company will combine the exposures using Photomatix and then stitch the photos together. After the photos are strung together, the company then goes over each image in Photoshop and hand corrects any errors.
“Most companies don’t have that human element to fix errors the computer didn’t catch,” said Ruiz.
The images are then dropped into a flash viewer program to complete the 360 degree effect.
“It’s a secret,” said Ruiz when asked about the details. There the company can add hot spots that play video, sound or display text when clicked such as this tour made chronicling a BarCamp NewsInnovation session by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com.
For those looking to do some home brewed virtual tours on the cheap, Ruiz recommends dropping photos into SPi-V’s free Flickr tool using panorama feature that is included in many consumer cameras, like these folks have done. However, if you would like the professional product, there is a couple in New Jersey that may be willing to help.
Every Wednesday, Shop Talk shows you what goes into a tech product, organization or business in the Philadelphia region. See others here.

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