Have you ever seen one of these, son? Ricoh spins off 360° camera boffins to debut neuralyzer-shaped snapper

Hopefully more memorable than the Men In Black gizmo

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Japanese imaging specialist Ricoh has spun off its 360° camera team into a new company called Vecnos.

The new outfit, which boasts the same core team behind the Ricoh Theta 360 camera line, already has a first product in the works: a pen-shaped 360° camera that looks a bit like the neuralyzer from Men In Black.

Details are thin on the ground, but Vecnos said it is aimed at video-savvy younglings, who have collectively jumped head-first into clip-sharing platforms like TikTok.

Users will be able to upload footage to an app, where they can cut and edit it for sharing. Vecnos also waxed lyrical about AI enhancements while not really explaining how these will work.

In terms of imaging, the camera packs a proprietary four-lens system, with three lenses on the side, and one on the top of the device. This, the company said, has enabled the product to fit into a slim, pen-sized package.

In a statement, Ricoh CEO Yoshinori "Jake" Yamashita said: "Ricoh has always been committed to supporting innovation in visual communications. As part of our new business development initiatives, a team led by Shu Ubukata was formed in 2018 to create specialised cameras for a new generation of consumers.

"Ultimately, we all realised that it made sense for this highly entrepreneurial team to be spun out into its own venture. And with that, Vecnos was born. Ricoh is proud to be the lead investor in a young company with a Ricoh pedigree and a vision to build revolutionary products."

Although Ricoh is best known for its corporate copier and printing machines, it quietly spins a brisk trade in prosumer digital cameras. It has its fair share of fans, with the Ricoh GR III winning praise from critics and shutterbugs alike.

Ricoh has also produced several iterations of the Theta 360 camera, which was first introduced in 2013. The most recent effort was the well-received Theta Z1, which Ricoh launched in September.

It's understood that the new firm will operate with a decent degree of independence from its parent company, and will be led by CEO Hidenao "Shu" Ubukata.

That said, it'll be interesting to see how Vecnos will fare in targeting younger users. Although the firm is correct in identifying a trend for video content on social media apps, smartphone imaging systems are abundantly capable of catering for this meme-happy crowd.

In the past, standalone consumer-focused camera and videography systems, like the Flip Video camcorder, have struggled to withstand the unassailable rise of the iPhone.

And while 360° video is a fairly unusual selling point, most social media sites don't support the kind of immersive footage Vecnos's gear will ultimately produce. We suppose that's where the editing app comes in, but then one has to ask: what's the point?

Vecnos will release its camera and app later this year, which is when we'll get the answer to that question. ®

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