Gloria 360 Camera
My most ambitious project to date, and the first product from my new company - Glorious Labs - Gloria is a user shared 360° camera that creates images and videos ready for both Virtual Reality headsets like the Oculus Rift as well as for posting to the new Facebook 360° video post feature.
360° images are created by stitching multiple wide angle photos or video in near real-time allowing for fully immersive experiences that give a deeper feeling of having been in an environment. The problem lies in the overall cost of these devices, which is the reason that industry giants such as Nikon or GoPro haven’t created their own all-in-one 360° camera - it simply costs too much for the average user.
Some camera brands have attempted to circumvent this cost limitation by creating one lens systems - like Kodak’s 360° camera - which leads to a low vertical angle of view, roughly only 360° x 200° images. Others, like Ricoh, create systems that avoid the high cost of interior electronics by requiring the user to plug the camera into their desktop or laptop in order to stitch multiple images together, adding another step to the experience.
Gloria, on the other hand, uses multiple cameras to create 360° x 320° images and videos, stitched entirely in-device.
However, as a result, we have a slight higher cost per-unit than other low-cost consumer 360° cameras on the market - which is key to how we work as a company. We do not sell these cameras to consumers (B2C), but rather offer them to major brands (B2B), such as Grey Goose or Absolut vodka, for whom we incorporate the camera into branded merchandise such as a drink tray and allow the camera to be shared amongst customers at a bar.
Gloria branded for Absolut vodka.
Gloria with Grey Goose branding - showing the LED array used as both as an area flash as well as additional branded colour.
A Moet branded device in another colour scheme.
The rational behind this is that the cameras create truly unique 360° image and video content for their social media campaigns - as one of the actual few brands that are able to serve this new type of immersive media.
More important is how the device can be 'shared' amongst multiple users - allowing for a single camera to be used by a table of restaurant or club guests to document their evening like never before.
Through our custom iOS and Android application, users are able to connect wirelessly over 2.4ghz WiFi and jointly share control of the camera. Through a proprietary system of user tokens on both the device and phone, only the photos and media taken by a certain user would appear on their phone - ensuring simultaneous group access while maintaining a level of privacy in a single users content.
The camera is able to seemlessly fit into a club environment.
Building this camera was a team effort split between our amazing hardware team, supply chain and sourcing management, industrial design, and software - itself split between the smartphone application and the internal firmware/image processing/stitching algorithm/and wireless communication. Our team was spread between a wide geographic area stretching from Southern Russia to Shenzhen, China, with a core team centered in Hong Kong - each with their own roles and responsibilities.
Some of our talented hardware teammates working on our camera sensors.
Starting with only the most simple prototypes to prove the concept, we stepped up our project through a series of sprints, with the hardware and software teams working in tandem, in order to test concepts and iterate through solutions faster than traditional hardware companies.
With exceptionally humble beginnings, the camera took shape with only open source electronics and increasingly complex 3D printed shells.
In time, our prototypes begain to resemble our final product - one of the key stages in the production timeline.
Working with some exceptionally talented industrial designers, who formally worked for Nokia, we were able to start forming the unique shape that our camera would take in its roll as brand ambassador for 360° content in restaurants and clubs. The LED’s included in the device work both to illuminate dark photographs, as well as to both add a sense of occasion to the event and accentuate the brand colours.
CAD Drawings begin to shape how the device will look and feel.
This final prototype round includes a ‘works like-looks like’ set of models - abet still using off-the-shelf open source electronics to control - it was able to demonstrate the full potential of a production run. Beyond this - the fun begins. Modifying the prototype from open source electronics to custom built parts just for our project.
Our 'Looks Like-Works Like' prototypes were able to demonstrate how the final product would be recieved.
However, at least for this stage, the prototypes were still powered by the same Open Source electronics.
This often required some clever engineering to find ways to fit everything inside.
Enter the ‘G1 Board’ our own custom built embedded system, running our own proprietary firmware, stitching algorithm, and image enhancement programs, the first line our unique computer systems. Designed in Hong Kong and built in Shenzhen, the G1 board includes more computational power at a lower cost, weight, and power draw that any existing embedded system to date.
We are currently gearing up for production, with the 'Gloria 360 Camera' launching Q2 2016 - Stay tuned for more!