Automobile Dealer Market Opportunities for RICOH THETA Developers


A number of automobile dealers use the RICOH THETA to boost car sales. As automobile dealers focus on high-volume sales with competitive margins, they need to partner with a THETA developer to implement a system that provides a complete workflow.

Black Widow System by 3i Auto-Shot

3i Auto-Shot builds the Black Widow system to provide dealers an end-to-end solution for high-volume marketing of cars with 360 shots of the interior. The system uses a desktop computer and the THETA WiFi API.

Closeup of THETA with stand.

Computer Interface and Employee Workflow

Customer (Car Buyer) View



SpinCar provides similar functionality in a mobile app. Once the dealer takes the picture using the mobile app, the app uploads it to the SpinCar site.

Indie Developer and 3G Auto

Here’s a great example of an independent software and web developer Thomas Popowich creating sites for 3G Auto.

Thomas is using the open source software Photo Sphere Viewer to display the THETA image.

Business Opportunity

After review their systems, I thought of three areas where a THETA developer could improve on the features and either propose a partnership with 3i Auto-Shot or SpinCar or give a go yourself.

  1. Use USB API to improve speed of workflow and system stability. One of the limitations of the WiFi API is the slow speed of transfer for images.
  2. 360 Video. Both of the examples use still THETA images, not THETA video. As the interior of the car does not move, it’s not obvious why video would be needed. However, a creative use of video moving from the front of the car to the back in a vehicle fly-through might provide product differentiation and a flashy way for car buyers to experience vehicles online
  3. VR headset experience. The current buying experience is based on a web page and a set of 360 images. Although the number of people that would use a headset is small now, it might be another way to provide differentiation if there was an option for a VR experience and the buyer could experience the cars with cardboard


Two examples of the THETA USB API are:

  1. Photosphere by Koen Hufkens
  2. tlapser360 by Jason Charcalla

Ricoh’s official 360 image cloud hosting service,, can be used to quickly create 360 car image tours. I made a quick mockup of a site below. The advantage of is that car dealers can show multiple 360 images for one vehicle with a pre-made tour template.

In the example above, I created a black template map for each type of vehicle in my inventory. Once I have one template black map, I can use it for every minivan.

Read more about Ricoh’s 360 cloud service for businesses


I have interacted with one photography consultant on Facebook named Thomas Popowich who works for car dealers “on a regular basis.” He originally posted on Facebook about his first car dealership client in March 2017. Since then, I contacted him in late June 2017, and business appears good. He sent links to one example of a car dealership called 3G Auto, including pictures from inside an Audi and inside a BMW. I’m asking for more information on his workflow and if he used the THETA’s API to automate picture taking and uploading, or just does it “manually.” Popowich is based in Hungary.

Noticed some cool custom controls for the 360° images on the site:


Can you also find out what software he’s using to display the 360 image?

It looks like the widget he’s using provides the option of downloading the 360 image.

Would also be good to find out what software he’s using for the automotive marketplace.

There’s a number of companies like SHIFT, below that help people buy and sell cars. I wonder if there’s an opportunity for THETA developer to either partner with a company like that or sell the 360 picture taking workflow directly to the company.

It seems fairly difficult to build an entire automobile marketing platform from scratch, but finding an open source project to adapt or partnering with a company to provide the 360 THETA portion seems feasible and potentially lucrative.


I’ve been going through SpinCar’s YouTube channel and watching their user testimonial videos. The 360 interior images are a big feature. Also, optimizing the workflow. In the video below, person reduced the number of pictures taken from 33 photos per car down to 23 photos.

The 360 interior shots with the THETA replace 10 interior shots.

This guy:

Values these points.

  1. Efficiency of photographs
  2. Looks great online (to potential car buyers)
  3. 360 interior shot looks great and shows the key points of the interior
  4. uploading and ease of use (work process efficiency)


Looks like he’s using this viewer


Very cool, that does looks like the viewer in the website. How did you find it? Just Googling or did you know about this viewer from before?


Thanks for sharing that information. I had looked at Photo Sphere Viewer by Jeremy Heleine a while back, but never used it. I’ve been using A-Frame and GoogleVR more due to the brand name. It looks like Photo Sphere Viewer has more options, including markers. The navbar looks nicely customizable.


Interestingly, I started looking for ways to implement what @codetricity had shared and came across that viewer


Very cool, thanks for sharing it (again)


@jcasman if @rictan builds something for auto dealers, is there any way we can give his project more promotion?

Should we make a pitch to get a booth at Digital Dealer 23 and fill it with RICOH partners? Not exclusive to Rictan, but maybe have an invitation to a few qualified RICOH partners, similar to how we worked with HoloBuilder at DeveloperWeek Hackathon in San Francisco.

Realistically, Ricoh would want to invite big partners like 3i Auto-Shot and SpinCar to the booth, but we could make a case that a smaller partner would contribute more community engagement.

We should look at these attendees

Other ideas

NADA2018, March 22-25


@jcasman it occurred to me that @Bob_White is close of Las Vegas. If we participate in a show in Las Vegas, maybe we can work with him to showcase Little Black Box?

I think we’d need to work with him to create a custom demo interface for automobile dealers. There’s a ton of car sites out there that we can use as reference and then try to improve upon what the current dealers have. I think we can use Bootstrap as the basis.

Here’s some templates

Here’s a wordpress template

Here’s a Car Dealer Magento template, which would get the project closer to a full system, not just a concept.

IMO, the easiest would be to use Bootstrap and just shoot for a simple mockup of the automobile marketing site. These are the features I’m thinking about:

  • focus on interior only as there are many system that show the exterior and we have not advantage in duplicating it
  • take 360 pictures from laptop application
  • arrange 3-5 shots for display
  • download from camera to laptop
  • ability to adjust pictures
  • push pictures to some type of server, possibly on same laptop for demo purposes
  • server has bootstrap template and pictures are automatically inserted


@jcasman just a reminder to look at UsedCarWeek, November 13-17 in La Quinta, CA and the NIADA Convention


Great, thank you, I’ll talk a look


here’s an example of using Photo Sphere Viewer on a gallery with multiple 360 images


I realize you’re showing examples of using the Photo Sphere Viewer, which I think works well, and I like the simple controls at the bottom of the image, but I also like just mousing over the numbers to jump to different images. That is pretty cool. :slight_smile:


mousing over the image to change is done with jQuery. I can also make it “click to change,” but I thought the mouse over worked better. In the automobile sites that I saw, the sphere also rotated automatically. I have it set to 1 rotation per minute. This is adjustable.

There’s also a time delay before the image starts to rotate. I have it set to 500ms.

For a web page, I think that Photo Sphere Viewer is better than A-Frame, which is made primarily for VR headsets.


Just noticed this 360° panorama showing off the interior of the e-tron Golf, Volkswagon’s all-electric car. It’s in the colors section, pick Interior, and look for the circle with “360°” on the left.

It’s unclear what kind of camera made this, or if it was even a 360° camera. I notice this one artifact for some sort of stitching on the roof.


nodal ninja DSLR fulframe


I did a view source and looked for information that way. How did you find this out?


We are driving French cars here other brands use to pick there promotion ideas from Citroën :smile: