Two years ago, Sean Ramsay decided he wanted to build a camera that could record images and video not just from the front and from the back – but one that would be able to shoot at every angle, 360 degrees all around.
With a background in engineering, Ramsay knew he could do it, but he wondered why there were so few other kinds of cameras like this on the market. At the time, there were only a handful of cameras with that kind of functionality, and they were pricey, starting at around $15,000. Maybe this wasn’t something anyone other than the pro photographer was interested in, he thought.
But Ramsay began to build prototypes of his camera, eventually co-founding a company working off of his original tinkerings and melding them into the Bublcam, a 360-degree camera roughly the size of a baseball. He and the other founders built a company and named it Bubl Technology Inc., planning to price the Bublcam at around $700 with a shipping date of May 2014.
At the time of this writing, the Toronto-based startup has about 40 hours left in the runtime for its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. So far, Bubl has raised about $335,000 in its campaign from 770 backers – more than three times its original goal of $100,000.
“When we first started, we kind of thought it was going to take a little bit of time, like maybe a few days, or a week, in order to get to our goal,” says Ramsay, Bubl’s CEO.
“But when we reached our goal in 12 hours, I think that’s when we all started to be like, I think we have something here. After that, I think we were just surprised, excited, and really humbled by this.”
For Ramsay and his team, getting the Bublcam onto the Kickstarter platform was a way of testing the waters, seeing if its design would catch on. Essentially, the team was doing market research and trying to elicit some feedback from potential backers, gauging what people were thinking, Ramsay says.
Designed in a tetrahedral shape, the Bublcam has four cameras inside it – three on the sphere-shaped body and one on the top. What’s great about them is the lenses, which can ‘see’ for 180 degrees all around, something that’s a relatively new technology, Ramsay says. He adds that before 2009, the Bublcam probably couldn’t have even existed.
“I tried to find, what is the minimum amount of cameras that can be used to provide the highest potential quality of an image, with as little distortion as possible,” he says.
But what he’s especially proud of is the software inside the camera. Essentially, the Bublcam creates a multiplex image, which takes the four images (or videos) from each camera and consolidates them into just one image. This technology has generally been limited to the security industry, but the team at Bubl managed to lower the images’ bandwidth requirements to generate a smaller image using proprietary algorithms.
That’s what will set the Bubl camera apart from its competitors, and from any potential knockoffs, he adds.
While Ramsay eventually sees the Bublcam making inroads in the security market, he doesn’t count on replacing wireless Internet Protocol cameras right away. Bubl is working on making its camera complementary to other security cameras on the market, as well as trying to integrate it into video management systems. Those are the systems security professionals use when storing surveillance footage.
“That’s not our go-to market strategy,” Ramsay says, adding Bubl is mostly focused on consumers. But he says he can easily picture other applications for the Bublcam.
“There are so many different verticals and so many different ways the camera can be used, whether it’s going to be security, or consumers, or real estate, or for military uses … for retail,” he says. “There’s many, many different uses we can use it for, and we don’t necessarily have to target it, as long as people can buy it and get access to our software.”
In the meantime, Ramsay is looking towards the next 40-odd hours with some anticipation. Once the team saw how quickly the Bublcam was raising money, it decided to set stretch goals for tweaking its design. For example, if its campaign reaches the $350,000 mark, the team will work towards creating time lapse and time delays on the camera.
“We’re very happy. We did not expect this response,” he says, adding the team feels encouraged, aiming to build more products like these in the future – and to use crowdfunding to see what people think.