At Circle Optics, we provide aerospace, autonomous systems and entertainment verticals with the most accurate imaging to support situational awareness and immersive experiences. Our corporate culture is built on know-how, synergy and innovation. It our pleasure to add new talent on our team. Steve Feller has joined our team as Senior Computer Engineer
In the dynamic realm of high-resolution imaging technology, Steve Feller stands out as a visionary and a seasoned expert. Recently joining Circle Optics as a Senior Computer Engineer, Feller brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success. His journey has been marked by significant accomplishments, including leading the commercialization efforts at Geometric Data Analytics, Inc., steering operations as Director at Aqueti, and playing a pivotal role in the development of advanced camera systems ranging from 2 to 10 gigapixels under the auspices of a $25 million DARPA AWARE imaging program grant at Duke University. Feller is not just an addition to the team but a strategic move to enhance the company’s prowess in aerospace, autonomous systems, and entertainment verticals, promising new horizons in situational awareness and immersive experiences.
Chief Research Officer Andy Kurtz comments,”Circle Optics has needed a firmware engineer to lead the development of the data paths, relative to both hardware and system software, the provide complex functionality for applications needing the outputs of more than calibrated, high quality composited panoramic images. Circle Optics ongoing development of camera systems that can help enable drones and eVTOLs to avoid collisions is such an example. Steve Feller, with both his broad experience in developing camera data paths, and his specific experiences supporting the development of the Duke University AWARE gigapixel multi-camera systems, brings a wealth of relevant engineering and project management experience to Circle Optics. I am very much pleased to have him coming on-board.“
Can you tell us about your journey from Geometric Data Analytics to Circle Optics and how your experiences at GDA have shaped your approach in your current role as a Senior Computer Engineer?
At Geometric Data Analytics, Inc. (GDA), I was primarily tasked with developing a commercialization pipeline for the transition of R&D prototypes and algorithms into commercially viable products. This process was developed to maintain momentum after the initial development phase of government funded research programs and to identify the costs, effort, and ecosystem partners required to successfully transition to a commercial product. This effort was successful in identifying the opportunity and risks of commercialization for GDA technologies and provided critical guidance to the management team on which opportunities to pursue. While achieving its objectives, this information was one of many considerations when GDA decided to return to their roots doing direct government contract research and no longer pursue product development. With this change I my position was no longer needed and I left after 9 months.
My technical foundation was really built at Aqueti, a gigapixel camera company that spun off from Duke University. At Aqueti, and previously at Duke where I served as the project manager on a DARPA AWARE gigapixel camera grant, I was deeply involved in all technical aspects of camera array systems from when the light hit the front lens surface until it was rendered for user consumption. While I don’t specialize in algorithms, image processing, or GPUs, I have a comprehensive understanding of how these elements need to integrate in camera array imaging systems and how to effectively optimize performance across a wide range of resources to achieve specific objectives.
Technically, I built my first camera array system in 1999 at the University of Illinois, so I’ve been in this field for quite some time. My tenure at Aqueti, in particular, honed my technical skills and allowed me to develop a strong intuition and understanding of the capabilities and limitations of camera array imaging systems. These experiences were crucial in preparing me for my current role at Circle Optics, where I can apply this blend of technical expertise and commercial insight to push the boundaries of imaging technology.
During your time at GDA, what were some of the most significant challenges you faced in commercializing their novel mathematical capabilities, and how did you support their commercialization efforts?
As an analytics company, Geometric Data Analytics (GDA) had a different culture than the engineering focused companies where I had previous experience. An initial challenge was to learn the domain specific vocabulary and language of mathematicians where the same term may have an equally deep and specific, but different meaning to engineers. While this wasn’t a difficult challenge to overcome, it is something that is often not well appreciated when working with different groups and cultures.
One significant challenge at GDA was to help the research team to think about the commercial viability of their solutions in equal terms as the technical challenges. This shift in thinking was necessary to ensure that the solutions that are developed both achieve technical objectives and align with customer needs and expectations. In support of this effort, I would often provide insights from market research and direct customer engagement to clarify the opportunity and need or lack thereof for a particular capability and work with the team to identify ways to improve this potential.
As a Senior Computer Engineer at Circle Optics, what are your primary responsibilities?
At Circle Optics, my primary role revolves around managing the data flow to enable in-flight collision avoidance for drones and eVTOLs. This involves the selection and implementation of hardware components such as focal planes, sensor boards, carrier boards, and communication components. In the context of these projects this will likely include edge processing and visualization/rendering components as well. I look forward to using my expertise to evaluate modules, understanding system constraints and to optimize performance. My role at Circle Optics is to oversee and streamline the integration process, from the initial hardware setup to the final software implementation. This involves architectural problem-solving, coordinating the various components of our camera systems , and organizing efforts so that each team member can concentrate on their specific tasks, ultimately leading to a coherent and efficient technological system.
Based on your extensive experience in the tech industry, what emerging technologies or trends do you believe will significantly impact the field?
One area I find particularly interesting is the concept of 360 immersive experiences
. I can imagine this technology being used for human focused applications such as job training, remote robotic control, and remotely shared experiences. The cameras we are developing at Circle Optics could have a significant impact in scenarios requiring low latency viewing of remote spaces. This advantage over other camera array systems, particularly in terms of low latency and bandwidth, opens substantial opportunities, especially in drone applications. However, I am cautious about the regulatory environment in this space, as it could potentially slow down deployment and widespread adoption.
Another area I find promising is 3D imaging. The technology we’re working on at Circle Optics could be transformative in environments with varying depths of field, providing detailed 3D images in situations where current technology falls short. I see potential applications in autonomous vehicles, like cars and boats, where such technology could be crucial for navigation and safety.
On a more personal note, I’m intrigued by the social aspects of this technology. The idea of being able to remotely experience an event or location in real-time is fascinating. While there are many technical and logistical challenges to overcome, the potential for such an experience is exciting and could open up new ways for people to connect and interact with the world around them.
What advice would you give to young professionals or students aspiring to build a career in specialized fields like geometric data analysis and optics?
For young professionals or students aspiring to build a career in specialized fields like geometric data analysis and optics, my advice would be to focus on what you want to do, not just on what you want to be. Often, people make the mistake of saying, “I want to be an engineer,” but that’s is not really meaningful. It’s more important to think about the problems you want to solve and the topics that genuinely interest you. That approach is far more fulfilling and will guide you more effectively in your career.
Passion for what you are doing is key. Without it, even the most exciting job can quickly turn into mundane work. Stay curious, open to learning across disciplines, and focused on the problems you’re passionate about solving. This approach will not only make your work more enjoyable but also more meaningful and impactful in the long run.
cONNECT With Steve Feller
You can learn more about Steve Feller’s approach to data flow and technical development by following him on LinkedIn.