LucidCam is a virtual reality camera for the everyman. It's being called the point-and-shoot of virtual reality, and for good reason. It is simple, pocket-sized, and at $349 doesn't cost a fortune. All of which explains why it's about to hit its $100,000 Indiegogo target with weeks to spare.
With this new virtual reality creating gadget, regular people can shoot home movies in 180-degree Full HD, stereoscopic 3D video and easily share them with friends and family who can watch the videos on something as inexpensive as a Google Cardboard headset.
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In fact, Han Jin, LucidCam's CEO, says his motivation for creating the camera was to share his life's experiences with his grandmother across continents.
"In other words, a grandson on the West Coast of the United States can create vivid videos for his grandmother in China to show her exactly what his world is like," he said. "And the grandmother can use something as simple as a cell phone paired with our various Cardboard and other viewing devices to look at the 3D 180-degree video. I know, because I'm that grandson."
The Indiegogo campaign launched on 1 November and Jin notes that it has been a revelation in terms of understanding what people are looking for. "This lets you understand whether what you are doing is right, before you start locking in the technical specs," Jin said. "It's better to put a product out there in its early stage, when you can still make changes, and learn from feedback what people actually want."
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"I always spend at least three to four hours every day with my customers, just talking to them one to one. One of the biggest pains I've come to realise from this campaign is how much it costs and how long it takes right now to create virtual reality content."
That's why LucidCam is so unique. It is simple to use, inexpensive to buy, and doesn't require any post editing, unlike current virtual reality rigs, which are cost prohibitive, bulky and cumbersome, and can take weeks of post-editing activities. Then again, they are aimed at studios and filmmakers with production crews and money to spare.
The LucidCam itself weighs eight ounces and features two camera modules (one for each eye), each with 1080p and 2K resolution. It sports 16GB of internal storage, which translates to approximately 320 minutes (on average) of virtual reality video and runs on a rechargeable battery that lasts approximately one hour of non-stop VR capturing.
One significant new feature that the LucidCam was not originally supposed to have is Wi-Fi. From an early backer survey, Jin discovered that users want the simplicity of being able to upload their content directly to their smartphones via Wi-Fi, instead of transferring it from the LucidCam to their computers using an SD card.
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So, true to Jin's word, the final product will include both an SD card for storage, and the ability to upload videos to the user's smartphone via Wi-Fi.
The camera shoots 180-degree video instead of 360 for a good reason. Jin said that he wanted to build a camera that was simple, small, and easy to use. With 180-degree shooting, the camera only needs two modules, which keeps the file size down. Plus, he was able to design a pocket-sized point-and-shoot style gadget, which would be impossible right now with 360-degree cameras. Plus 180 is scalable while 360 is not.
That being said, the other major change added to LucidCam during the crowdfunding campaign is the ability to capture 360-degree virtual reality. Because backers overwhelmingly requested the ability to record all the way around them, the company specially designed a camera rig that holds three LucidCams in place, allowing them to capture true 360-degree video. The 3D printed mount and three-camera package are now part of the LucidCam platform.
Adding 360-degree capability doesn't mean that Jin and his team are pushovers when it comes to features that consumers want. For instance, another request from backers was the ability to live-stream VR content.
"I asked hundreds of people to tell me how many times they live stream content from their phone. They were like, 'uh, maybe once or twice,'" Jin said. "Consumers don't know exactly what they want, but they are pounding on the table for something that doesn't make sense."
They decided against adding live-stream capabilities in order to keep the camera as streamlined as possible. "We wanted to focus on features that make the device simpler to use," he said. "It's all about simplicity."
LucidCam's Indiegogo campaign has about 30 days left to reach any stretch goals before production begins. The device is expected to ship to backers in December 2016, hopefully giving the team the time they need to perfect the camera before it is delivered into the hands of consumers. "We want to make a product that produces what people expect," Jin told us. If he can get his LucidCam units into backers' hands by next Christmas, then he stands a good chance of satisfying his first customers.