I will comment on your suggestion for inverse panoramas, though. Traditionally this concept has been called "Object Movies", but mapping a texture map onto a cylinder doesn't really work when looking inward.
Back when QuickTime VR was released, they had a panorama mode, which used a cube projection, just as Photosynth panoramas and Bing Streetside panoramas do today, and secondly an object movie mode where frames were taken at an equal distance all around an object, via a turntable and tripod or similar systems. The result was something that you could spin around smoothly and get a good illusion of dimension from, but the illusion breaks if you attempt to merge the frames. The end result is really nothing more than a video which you can play in multiple directions at multiple speeds, depending on how fast you're moving your mouse.