Last year, Shahin Amirpour was snowboarding with a friend at Southern California’s Mammoth Mountain, when he came across what is, unfortunately, an all-too-common occurrence.
The camera he was using went dead within a few minutes, and his friend’s camera was malfunctioning, so they fell back on their trusty cell phones. As many who have been in this position can attest, filming in the cold with a somewhat finicky device typically ends in disappointment.
“I went back to the truck to make a phone call, and while I was plugging in my headphones, I looked over at my friend and said, ‘Wouldn't it be nice if you could just plug a camera into your phone like you plug in headphones?'” Armirpour recalls.
It was at this moment that the magnitude of the idea sunk in, and Shahin realized it wasn’t that far from reality. Immediately, he called his friend and fellow colleague Ryan Fuller, who he knew was already in the process of working on a camera project.
Hailing from a career that got its start at Oakley in the sports marketing department, Fuller was no stranger to the task at hand: “I thought right away, ‘This is the camera I should be building.’ On the spot, I opened my computer and designed the early version of the Opkix One. The very next day, I went down to Shahin's office, showed him the design and said, ‘Let's do this.'”
Opkix is the company the two have built from the ground up over the past year, and are getting ready to officially launch in April 2018. Fuller and Amirpour have assembled a team of investors and early supporters, fueling the innovation and design process and allowing Opkix to take off without leaning on typical crowd-funding like many startups as of late.
The camera they’ve developed features both wireless and wired options, and is hands-free with multiple mounting capabilities. The social sharing app has geo-functionality and seamlessly integrates with outside social media platforms. To top it off, there’s an augmented reality feature. The camera, which fits in the palm of the hand, is finished with anodized aluminum in rose gold, red, black, space grey and white.
Drawing on their inner circle of experts, Opkix appointed Tamio Stehrenberger to help build the Opkix app, as well as investors Mugs McGuinness and technology trailblazer and entrepreneur Lawrence Greaves. Together the group of five have co-founded what they are touting as the simplest, smallest and most powerful smartphone compatible camera.
While some of the details have yet to be released, such as price point and where they will be sold, the initial product reveal and marketing definitely have us intrigued.
Opkix boasts an impressive roster of ambassadors, including Malia Ward, Daewon Song, Ryan Decenzo, and Mick Fanning. To learn more behind-the-scenes details, we caught up with Chief Design Officer Fuller and President Amirpour.
Tell us a little more about the members behind this team and the role they play.
RF: We knew we would need an app. My friend Tamio and I have built about a dozen apps together, so we asked him to join. Tamio then became the third co-founder. Mugs came in a few days later as our first investor and 4th co-founder. Shortly after that, we met Lawrence. His experience is in finance. He ran his own firm and is a very adept investor with a passion for trailblazing technology. He was our third investor, and he was so passionate that he stepped into the role of C.E.O. and fifth co-founder.
How long did the design and development phase for this product take?
RF: The initial concept and design was hashed out within the first day or two. Originally, we started with a wired camera. Through various meetings with partners we soon recognized the demand for a wireless version. So we began development on the wireless, that's where the egg came in about one year ago. Ever since then, we've been building towards the current two-camera configuration with the charging egg. At the same time, we have wrapped up full prototypes for our original wired camera, which will be released as product number two in late 2018. During this whole time, we've been building out the Opkix app, which will be released in the coming months. Our wireless version Opkix One will be launching early 2018.
What are the co-founders backgrounds that have led you to this moment?
RF: Outside of my pre-Opkix experience of designing an action camera, my background is all video, photography, and design. It's been my life's passion. At the age of 23, I joined Oakley's sports marketing team, and my main focus was video production. When I left Oakley, I took my passion of creating and opened up the award-winning design and development agency JrPixels. It's a really diverse team. Shahin owned 1 Source Productions, which organized and launched events for high-profile brands. Tamio has designed apps for companies like CitiBank. Then, you've got Lawrence who's a brilliant business mind and C.E.O. Mugs co-founded Fuck Cancer and was a professional snowboarder. He's got a really diverse network of his own. Everybody comes from a dynamic background and skillset that has empowered the brand.
When did you first start identifying a hole in the market of this product?
SA: It was that day on the mountain. It truly came from experiencing a lack of quality and poor use, not to mention the method of upload. Opkix came from that ah-ha moment. We are not following anyone, but instead re-inventing what a camera is and how people use them. We wanted to package the Opkix camera with an equally easy-to-use app. The app enables users to upload content to any preferred social channel quickly. You don’t have to send it to a professional editor to convert files. The app does everything for you. Editing is also extremely easy. It was important for the interface of the app to be as seamless and self-explanatory as the product. We felt like we were creating a new experience in terms of the physical camera and the digital component.
Explain how the “world’s smallest, simplest camera” works? What did it take to develop both the camera itself and the accompanying software – sounds like it does a lot.
RF: The hardest part is pretty much taking what fits into a phone or a larger camera and shrinking it down to an eighth of the original size. It was about miniaturizing everything while drawing very little power. It was a long and challenging process, but what we have created in a piece of the future of what a camera can be. We've worked with industry leaders to simplify the connection to a smartphone. That's the hardware side. The software side is understanding the market and how users create and capture content—whether it be through Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat—and building in augmented reality (AR) capabilities that have the future in-mind. That's led us down the path of learning how to become AR experts. We wanted to bring all of those things together into a seamless product that's fun to use.
Can you use this camera independent of your smartphone device, or does it have to be synced?
RF: When you want to transfer the footage from the camera to your smartphone it has to be synced to your smartphone. You could technically leave your phone at home, capture footage all day on the camera, go home at the end of the day, it will then auto connect when its near your phone, and transfer the footage. You don't have to have your phone in your pocket or near you when you're recording on the camera. On the app side, you can use the Opkix app independently without owning the camera to create content, edit, and share.
How does the augmented reality function work?
RF: We created AR lenses that cover your whole body front and back. There's an example of an astronaut suit we created on our Opkix Instagram account. With the full body, you can have more engagement, content creation, and flexibility with the characters you can use. We're working to create assets that match the full body motion in real-time. We're getting really close to it. By the time we launch that feature, we should be first-to-market with full body AR. For functionality, you simply swipe up in our app, and now you're in our augmented reality playhouse. It's everything from facial effects, full body, and individual assets to interact with. We've also included a solar system builder, so you can create a solar system of your own. You can walk around it, and it stays there in real-time. We're trying to take everything one step further.
How do you see this product changing the way consumers interface with POV filming and creating their own content?
RF: We do have our own sunglasses, so our camera can magnetically attach to them, but there will also be a slew of other mounts. It doesn't just have to live on your head. It can live within your necklace, a ring, a tripod, selfie-stick, or flat plate mount that can be mounted anywhere. With two cameras, you can give one to a friend and one to yourself. This way you can utilize your point-of-view and that of your friend to play around with different perspectives. All of that streams back to the app, so you can create an edit with multiple points-of-view. We're giving you two cameras. This allows users to be super creative. As far as our editor goes, no other third-party camera editing software allows you to utilize all of the AR capabilities with traditional editing.
SA: You can implement this in everyday situations. When you're at your kid's soccer game or recital and you see all of the parents holding a screen in front of their faces missing live moments, you can watch it as it happens. The use cases were obviously for activities, but also for all types of content creators and life's moments.
Talk about some of the ambassadors and early adopters of the product, and how they came on board?
SA: We have a very diverse team with extensive relationships. Once our team, including myself, went out with our initial concept and prototypes we aligned with key investors and ambassadors. Bob McKnight was one of our early advisors and key supporter of Opkix. Among those other influencers and investors include Daewon Song, Dakota Roche, Ryan Decenzo, Mick Fanning, Ross Clarke-Jones, Jared Watson of Dirty Heads, Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold, just to name a few.
Anything else I’ve forgot to mention or ask? Fire away!
RF: Opkix and its technology are going to change how users capture and create content, and we're very excited about its implications. We have a lot of great stuff on the horizon, and we can't wait to share it.
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