Q & A with Founder Zak Niazi

Apr 28, 2023 | Company News | 0 comments

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What inspired you to start Circle Optics?

The origin story came from my curiosity about the question: If Google has cameras around the world mapping the streets to the planet, why can’t you strap on a headset and roam around the streets of Italy or walk around the Great Pyramid of Giza in full 360-degree video, and not just static photos? I was fortunate enough to have a mentor in college who was the former director of engineering for the company that sold Google their first 360-degree cameras. He explained that the fundamental problem all 360-degree cameras have is something called stitching, where you basically get these artifacts and distortions in the imagery because every camera has a different perspective in the way they see the world. When you fuse together multiple cameras perspectives, you get these artifacts with distortions. Streetview can take single photos, however when you move from images to video, the quality is not acceptable. 

At Circle Optics, we have finally solved the stitching problem, eliminating thousands of dollars per minute of cost for 360-degree video content. We have high quality lenses without distortion. All the users need to do is simply press the button and the stitch-free video is available instantaneously.  

How do you see Circle Optics’ technology evolving in the next 5-10 years? 

The dream when we started Circle Optics was to enable anyone anywhere to travel the planet virtually, exploring the Pyramids of Egypt and Roman Coliseum from their living room couch, and learning about our world. This year, our technology will be able to enable these experiences for the first time, enabling anyone to “circle the world” so to speak. We believe our technology will transform immersive experiences and education in profound ways.  

Another capability we see expanding is how 360-degree imaging will impact aerospace safety. NASA asked us how our technology will impact autonomous vehicles. They explained that one core problem is called “detect and avoid.” How these systems can sense and respond to one another in order to not have a collision is called “situational consciousness.”  We are working to enable higher levels of autonomy and panoramic vision for uncrewed autonomous vehicles and autonomous robots.  

Can you discuss Circle Optics’ current financial performance? 

We started looking at government contracts back in 2019 and found some traction. To date we have won approximately $6 million in federal contracts. We booked about $1.7 million in revenue last year through these contracts. We are in a position to end the year with $3 million in revenue. 

How does Circle Optics plan to allocate the funds raised through the Wefunder?  

Many thanks to our 89 Wefunder investors! These funds are going to be used to grow and scale the team to hire additional engineers.  Our community round raised almost $250,000 which enables us to unlock an additional $500,000 matching fund from the National Science Foundation. This accelerates our commercialization strategy.

How does Circle Optics approach R&D and innovation? 

Our team is experienced and dynamic and we have built a culture based on expertise, synergy and innovation.  We will continue to solve imaging problems that have not yet been solved. Currently we have been able to create a defense moat to protect our innovation. We have 12 patents that are awarded and pending in the United States, Europe, and several countries worldwide.

Who has invested in Circle Optics to date and who are some of your advisors? 

The people who have invested to date include a lot of people around the optics ecosystem who have imaging expertise. Many are CEOs who have built their own imaging companies.  Ted Schilowitz Paramount’s residential futurist who was instrumental in the launch and success of Red Digital Camera – that revolutionized the digitization of the Hollywood industry. Another investor is Luc Vincent, who founded and bootstrapped Google Streetview. 

Thank you for being part of the Circle Optics community and bringing us one day closer to enabling anyone to circle the world. 

Zak Niazi  

 

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