We held our first Community Round Town Hall Meeting and are sharing investor Q & A.
We have added Imaging Software Engineer Grace Annese and University of Rochester Intern Benjamin Margulies to the team.
Stevens Institute of Technology Professor Kevin Lu visited the Circle Optics team at NextCorps.
We hope you are enjoying our #360Pulse #Podcast. We are featuring a few of our favorite programs including Vuzix Corporation's Paul Travers, NUAIR's Ken Stewart and TOPTICA Photonics Mark Tolbert. Please read, listen, subscribe and share!
Over the past six months, Circle Optics ran a Wefunder campaign. Our strong participation with 90 investors raised over $200,000 and unlocked a $500,000 National Science Foundation award to continue our commercialization process.
Here are the primary reasons people invested in us:
Earlier this month we hosted our very first Community Round Town Hall and believe the information shared would be valuable to our community at large.
Fundamentally what we solve at Circle Optics is the stitching problem. Traditional panoramic cameras have this defect called stitching and for the first time, we have eliminated the stitching problem.
Producing professional grade VR content costs a lot of money. Stitching experts charge upwards of $150.00 per hour for their work and processing can take several hours for a single minute of content. This is unscalable. Hydra II is the first professional VR camera available on the market where all you need to do is press a button, and the user gets 360-degree panoramic content instantly. Hydra II will be the highest quality 360-degree professional camera on the market.
Our strategy will be similar to Tesla. Telsa Roadster – the first Tesla car produced in 2008 –2012, at the beginning of sales cost from $98,950 (Tesla Roadster 1.5 Standard) to $128,500 (Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport). Over time, the base price came down to $55,000. Our goal is to start at a premium and work towards mass adoption. Hydra II sales strategy today is focused on contract sales. For $1.25M our government customers are receiving customized variants of Hydra 2 and engineering support for their application. Later this year, we will transition into pre-sales of our next generation prototype for $150,000. Pre-orders of this system will be targeted for the Air Force community utilizing VR content for training simulations. Our tipping point is when we can bring the price point to approximately $22,500. We will continue to miniaturize the camera systems and find cheaper ways to mass produce.
In addition to Hydra II, we have been concurrently working on a drone based product, Pegasus. There are several challenges with drones. The camera system needs to be light and use minimal power so that it doesn’t consume too much battery which minimizes flight time. The biggest challenge right now with the drone community is beyond visual line of sight regulations. Right now, if you fly your drone, you cannot fly further than the distance your eye can see. This constraint is holding back the entire drone community. Circle Optics wants drone operators to capture all types of more immersive and stunning content by enabling drone manufacturers to hit the regulation requirements. Drones currently lack the necessary detect and avoid (DAA) capabilities to properly identify and maneuver around other aircraft in a timely manner. The FAA’s primary concern is the potential of collisions of drones with passenger aircraft, which could cause damage, disrupt flights and potentially lead to accidents. To address this issue we are working on a product collaboration with NASA, the National Science Foundation and other entities. We have named this camera system Pegasus. Pegasus aims to provide an extremely high-resolution, co-planar views of the environment for drones, offering immersive experiences for users watching remotely while ensuring safer operations in our airspace.
Right now, the best camera-systems only see one mile out-which does not meet the FAA regulation that requires DAA range of two miles out. NASA saw potential in our technology to meet these requirements. With NASA we are going even further to meet regulations for heavier eVTOL systems that need to see 4 miles out. It will be the highest range DAA camera-system available on the market.
Our approach to Pegasus is similar to Hydra II. For companies like Lockheed Martin and Credos, we can provide a better enhanced vision system for human / machine teaming, providing remote operators with enhanced visual perception of what the UAS is seeing. Minimum orders are going to be 10 camera-systems at $150,000 per unit. Next year we will get that price point down as we ramp up with our manufacturing partners.
HERE ARE QUESTIONS FROM OUR INVESTOR COMMUNITY:
HOW SOON WILL THESE PRODUCTS HIT THE COMMERCIAL MARKET?
Hydra II is coming out this later this year. We are doing our internal testing in July and using the camera primarily for marketing purposes. The first units will be sold under contract to the Air Force. The reduced cost miniaturized version Hydra III will be available in December 2024. Our roadmap has a miniaturized version for the high-end consumer camera market called Hydra IV. We anticipate hitting mass commercialization in 2025.
Our flight testing for Pegasus, our drone camera, is on pace for December of this year. We expect to be taking pre-sales early 2024. Our goal by 2025 is to have the smaller version available at a much lower cost for mass adoption.
WHAT HURDLE DO YOU SEE FOR MASS ADOPTION?
The core hurdle that we see for mass adoption is price. This gets back to the Telsa premium strategy. It will take us some time to get both camera systems affordable and we have a roadmap for a two year process to get the pricing down to be available for the mass market.
WHO ARE YOUR MAIN COMPETITORS?
For Hydra II, our biggest competitor in the government space is a US based company Teledyne FLIR (Oregon). Their camera system is called Ladybug which is predominantly used by the Department of Defense and is the most popular 360-degree camera in the market today. Insta360, headquartered in Shenzhen, has also gained a lot of traction. The Department of Defense is focusing on American-made technologies and is seeking US based manufacturers like us to meet their requirements.
Pegasus’ main competition is a company called Iris Automation. Iris Automation has a 360-degree visual panoramic solution that sees one mile out, which does not meet the FAA’s minimum requirement. Pegasus sees outwards up to two miles for UAV’s and our longer range version sees four miles for eVTOL’s, doubling and quadrupling the highest end camera-based solutions on the market today.
There are three different categories for panoramic camera technology:
i) wide field of view that is fully panoramic
ii) high quality
Every product on the market today sits somewhere in between two of these three categories. There has never been a product that hits all three. Circle Optics is the first company to provide a premium experience of all three of these categories relative to the competition.
HOW MIGHT CIRCLE OPTICS FAIL?
Our success boils down to one word: execution. We need to really understand or niche markets and create a deliberate growth plan. Understanding manufacturing requirements in small batches is crucial for us to be able to be enable ordering high volumes. Errors in manufacturing at scale can cost millions of dollars. We know our solution is unique, have the right IP in place to protect our technology, and know it works. Lack of execution is our main risk.
We look forward to including our community at large as we begin testing Hydra II and make progress on our technology roadmap.
We appreciate your investment, support and amplification,
Zak Niazi, Founder & CEO
Ian Gauger, COO
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OUR TEAM IS GROWING
We have a team built on know-how / synergy / innovation.
Embarking on a career path that aligns with one’s passions can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. In the case of Grace Annese, her journey from astrophysics and film studies to imaging science highlights the power of following one’s interests and making meaningful contributions in the field. Circle Optics welcomes Grace Annese, our most recent hire as Imaging Software Engineer.
Annese began her academic journey at the University of Pittsburgh, initially pursuing astrophysics and film studies. However, due to personal reasons and a desire to be closer to home, she made the decision to return to Rochester, New York. It was here that she discovered the Motion Picture Science program at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a unique blend of engineering and filmmaking. Interestingly, she found herself more drawn to the engineering and imaging science aspects of the program, ultimately shaping her career trajectory.
Benjamin Margulies’ journey from Knoxville, Tennessee, to the University of Rochester and his internship at Circle Optics exemplifies the power of pursuing one’s passions. With a strong foundation in optics and a love for the great outdoors, Margulies brings a unique perspective to the company. His enthusiasm for innovation, appreciation for simplicity, and commitment to optimizing experiences make him a valuable addition to the Circle Optics’ team.
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At Circle Optics, we get the opportunity to work with experts in the fields contributing to automation, robotics, and optics. This past week, we welcomed Professor Kevin Lu from Stevens Institute of Technology on site to work with our team.
We hope you are enjoying the Circle Optics Podcast 360 Pulse: Immersive Technology & Innovation. Listen anywhere you get your podcasts.
Here are a few of our favorite programs:
Vuzix Founder Paul Travers discusses building marketing leadership. Paul Travers has been an innovator and driver in virtual reality space and has unsurpassed experience in the AR/VR and virtual display fields. Travers’ vision has been a driving force behind the development of Vuzix products and positioning in the marketplace. Rochester, New York, has a history of global companies that touch the world – Vuzix helps continue Rochester’s technology legacy.
NUAIR’s President & CEO Ken Stewart discusses the future of work, future of governance and future of safety in the emerging UAS market. NUAIR manages the operations of the FAA-designated New York UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport, Rome, NY on behalf of Oneida County, and is responsible for the advancement of New York’s 50-mile UAS Corridor between Rome and Syracuse, NY.
Mark Tolbert, President and CEO of Toptica Photonics Inc., talks about hardware, market research and building products in emergent markets.
We are open to your suggestions on guests who are building hardware and deep tech solutions.