Kogeto Brings Panoramic Video to iPhones With Its Dot iCONIC Lenses

12/1/11Follow @jpruth

User-generated videos are getting a new perspective, thanks to Kogeto’s Dot, a lens attachment that lets the iPhone 4 family of smartphones shoot panoramic footage. Jeff Glasse, founder and CEO of New York-based Kogeto has been busy in his offices in the Soho neighborhood developing what he calls an “ecosystem” for users to share videos taken with his company’s device.

Kogeto’s Dot iCONIC lenses, which went on sale in late October, fit over the camera lenses of iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S smartphones, and let users shoot videos with 360-degree perspectives. They can hold their phones or lay them down and let Dot capture the surrounding area for them. The lens is paired with Kogeto’s free Looker app. Viewers can pan around the video, changing the vantage point of the footage. Glasse demoed the device at the NY Tech Meetup on Nov. 29, a monthly showcase for startups that typically brings out some 700 techies and investors.

Dot users can share their videos on Facebook, Twitter, and Kogeto’s website. It’s sold through select Apple Stores, Amazon.com, and other retailers and is priced at about $80 depending on the seller. Dot is the second product from the company; the first is a larger desktop-mounted panoramic video camera called Lucy, which Glasse says has been used backstage at the Ellen Degeneres Show.

Glasse is a veteran of startups and the video production industry. In the 1990s, he founded a company called DIGIT New Media, which produced videos used in museums. Teachscape, one of Glasse’s clients, acquired DIGIT. Glasse remained with the company, and while developing video capture equipment for observing classrooms, he says he saw an opportunity to pursue the consumer market.

Founded in June 2010, Kogeto raised $120,000 this summer through New York’s Kickstarter, a funding platform for inventors, artists, and filmmakers. Though he already has some commitments from private investors toraise $3 million in a Series A round, Glasse says he want to keep his company lean in terms of outside funding. “It builds discipline you can’t get any other way.” he says. “When you take $30 million and you don’t have a plan, you end up thrashing around.”

Currently Dot is only built to work with the iPhone 4 family of smartphones, though Glasse says work is underway to rollout versions for certain Android phones by the first quarter 2012. He says he will target Android smartphones with at least 1080p video resolution, such as the Samsung Galaxy S line rather than attempt to outfit all the models on the market. Though the iPhones shoot video at 720p resolution, Glasse says the sensors in those smartphones deliver the necessary quality for panoramic videos.

Kogeto manufactures its products in Rochester, NY, a decision Glasse says lets his company better manage quality than it could if it used overseas resources. Kogeto has a staff of 14 supplemented by consultants and contract engineers, Glasse says. Kogeto is looking to fill two additional positions.

While Glasse says his company can be more responsive by manufacturing stateside, there are still some challenges he wants to tackle. “I wish we were producing more units a day,” he says. “We also want to get the price of our materials down.”

Glasse is not overly territorial, however, when it comes to bringing Dot to the masses. Kogeto is open to working with third party manufacturers, he says, who would build their own products using Dot’s lens attachment.

More features are in development, Glasse says, including technology that would let users see when other Dot-equipped smartphones nearby are recording the same event. For example, users attending the same football game could capture and share the same play but from different perspectives in the stadium. That, Glasse says, would allow them to create a combined image shared on the Web and viewed from multiple angles, much like a special effects shot from the movie The Matrix. That sharing feature is expected to be ready by the first half of 2012.

Glasse says he hopes to develop the technology to the point where viewers feel as if they are sitting alongside the users shooting the videos. And he’s hopeful that by starting with the iPhone 4 line, Kogeto will quickly reach a large enough audience to give Dot a big head start in the market. “With one device,” he says, “we can target 100 million users.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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