Urban change shown in pictures

McMaster is going to use a 360 degree camera to record urban change

Parts of Hamilton that were once an eyesore have seen a real resurgence in the past few years. And as the changes take place, the gentrification is now being captured on a pretty impressive camera. It’s all thanks to a team of researchers at McMaster University.

If you’re going to capture the transition of a city, you want one of these. This is a six sided video recorder that can capture a 360 degree video of the street. It is similar to what you might see from Google Street view, but with a slight twist. It secures easily to the roof of a car and is easy to spot. But Professor Jim Dunn is using McMaster’s mobile urban video recording system for a big job.

Jim Dunn of McMaster University: “At a bare minimum, what I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do is get a snapshot of every street segment at least once a year.”

That’s every street in Hamilton, for at least 5 years and the snapshot is unlike any other. The video recorder doesn’t just take images, it takes 360 degree video.

Jim Dunn: “And the spherical image is basically a projection on the inside of a bowling ball, and basically the viewer sits on the inside of this bowling ball.”

Dunn earned grants totalling $520 thousand dollars from the province and federal governments to buy the recorder and also create this lab which allows students to manipulate the image to truly give that 360 degree view.

Jim Dunn: “One of the big components that we just aren’t able to research very easily up until now are the visual components.”

So with the visual components, Professor Dunn is creating a catalogue of the city to monitor urban development: “Hamilton’s great for this because we know that there’s going to be a lot of change.”

The city has already seen huge growth in the past few years. Locke Street business scene, or the artistic surge on James Street North are prime examples of what Professor Dunn is trying to capture. There’s also small examples like Café 541 on Barton Street. Previously an abandoned bank, now it is a place where the community gathers.

“I was talking to one of the community developers actually in the city about this project and she said ‘oh, this is, that’s fabulous. Do you mean that if you’d gotten a shot of this place before they renovated it and then again after, you’d be able to track change?’ And I said exactly.

The camera will initially be used for early childhood development and how the environment affects development. Once the camera is in place, they’ll be able to look back at the past and forecast the future for who our environments affects how we live.