NCTech and Top Gear USA capture the Rubicon Trail in 360 degrees

iSTAR camera used to create immersive visual experience of challenging off-road route on Google Maps

Apr 27, 2016 -- NCTech, the developer of reality imaging systems, today announced that its iSTAR panoramic camera has been used the Top Gear USA television show to create the first ever virtual online experience of the infamous Rubicon Trail, using high-resolution 360 degree imaging. The images are being uploaded to Google Maps to provide a visual online record of the Top Gear team’s journey – a route that Google’s Street View cars could never access.

The Rubicon Trail is a 22-mile-long route, part road and part 4x4 trail, located in the Sierra Nevada in California. It is viewed as one of the most difficult off-road vehicle routes in the world, with an average driving speed of 2 miles per hour during the trail section meaning that it takes several days to complete.

Top Gear is an American motoring television series, based on the BBC series of the same name. The show's presenters are professional racing driver Tanner Foust, actor and comedian Adam Ferrara, and automotive and racing analyst Rutledge Wood. The Rubicon Trail feature was part of Top Gear’s new season premiere, which aired on April 26.

“The Rubicon Trail is one of the toughest and most well-known 4x4 routes in the world and based on our research, no one has ever captured it in 360 degrees,” said Patrick Costello, Showrunner and Executive Producer of Top Gear USA. “So we wanted Top Gear USA to be the first. Our research into 360 degree photomapping led us to NCTech and their incredible iSTAR camera. NCTech helped us put together all the technology to turn this big idea into a reality. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. The iSTAR camera impressed everyone. Top Gear is tough on everything, vehicles, camera gear, etc. and the iSTAR camera held up perfectly to heaps of abuse.”

iSTAR is the world’s highest resolution, fully automatic, 360-degree HDR camera. Machined from solid metal for robustness and accuracy, iSTAR precisely captures full spherical immersive images and high resolution panoramic data streams for fast, efficient visual documentation of almost any environment.

With the camera set to automatically capture an image every minute or so, over 6,000 images were captured as part of the project, each of them automatically location tagged with iSTAR’s built-in GPS module. For the upload to Google Maps, a reduced number (around 2,000) will be added. To date, around 30 images of the journey have been uploaded, with the full number to be completed over the weeks ahead.

“When we heard what Top Gear were hoping to do, we were instantly interested because the project was a perfect fit for the easy-to-use and rugged capabilities of iSTAR,” said Neil Tocher, Co-Founder and CTO, NCTech. “We assisted their team build a mounting plate so the iSTAR could be easily attached to any of their vehicles, sent them some quick instructions on how to use the camera and set them loose with it!”

About NCTech
NCTech designs and manufactures leading 360 degree reality imaging systems that automate and streamline the workflow of image documentation and can be used repeatedly, accurately, consistently by anyone anywhere.

NCTech’s industrial-grade camera, iSTAR®, is a fast, fully automatic, 50 megapixel, 360 degree HDR camera. Fully calibrated for high precision applications such as colourisation of laser scans or extracting photogrammetric measurements, iSTAR has multiple applications: from covert operations and police reporting of crime scenes to 3D laser documentation and asset management for the engineering and heritage sectors. In 2015, the company launched iris360, a non-calibrated camera system, intended for aesthetic panoramic image capture and fully integrated with Google Maps’ new Street View app.

NCTech is headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland and is funded by Archangel Investors Ltd and the Scottish Co-Investment Fund. For more information, visit

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