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Google is today announcing a new Android app that lets people make panoramas with smartphone cameras. These panoramas can then be viewed in 3D and 360 degrees with the Google Cardboard virtual reality headset, using the new Cardboard Camera app. Plus, the app records the audio around you as you make these panoramas.

It’s really quite a cool experience. All you have to do is hold your phone straight in front of you, hit the record button, and slowly turn all the way around, allowing your Android phone’s camera to capture the entire scene.

In Cardboard mode, you can look at the specific panorama you want to view and then use the button to select it. Then you can hear and see what you recorded. But it could become much cooler when you can show it to other people who aren’t there with you and your phone and your Cardboard.

“We’re working on a great sharing feature, and it’s going to come out pretty soon,” Google product manager Mike Podwal told VentureBeat in an interview.

The Cardboard Camera app.

Above: The Cardboard Camera app.

Image Credit: Google

This is a free app, in contrast to fancy and expensive multi-shutter camera rigs from GoPro and Nokia. The audio isn’t directional — it’s just a basic recording of what’s happening. At least for now, Google isn’t tracking what people are recording and looking at in the app, as all data stays on your phone by default.

You’ll see blurry circles if you look up or down while viewing a panorama in Cardboard mode — so it’s not a perfect sphere.

And the app doesn’t currently support any headsets other than Cardboard.

But the app puts imagery data together almost immediately, and you can make these panoramas with your smartphone — and enjoy them virtual reality-style, unlike panoramas made with iOS devices. And all of that is pretty impressive.

The app is available today in the Google Play Store in 17 languages, Google Cardboard Camera software engineer Carlos Hernandez wrote in a blog post.

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