SME Tech

Watch camera with surround view

Spacemap director Rick Wong (left), with Moveon chief executive Chee Teck Lee (right) and A*Star research engineer Randy Hipona. The Beoncam is a product of Spacemap, which is a spin-off from local optics solution provider Moveon. The Beoncam goes on
Spacemap director Rick Wong (left), with Moveon chief executive Chee Teck Lee (right) and A*Star research engineer Randy Hipona. The Beoncam is a product of Spacemap, which is a spin-off from local optics solution provider Moveon. ST PHOTO: LESTER HIO
Spacemap director Rick Wong (left), with Moveon chief executive Chee Teck Lee (right) and A*Star research engineer Randy Hipona. The Beoncam is a product of Spacemap, which is a spin-off from local optics solution provider Moveon. The Beoncam goes on
The Beoncam goes on sale in the United States next month. Spacemap is working with a third-party distributor to sell the Beoncam in Singapore by the third quarter of this year.ST PHOTO: LESTER HIO

An app stitches together photos taken with two Beoncam units for 360-degree shots

Thrill-seekers don't have many places to mount a camera if they want to remain hands-free but still capture most of their surroundings and themselves in their footage.

Head-mounted cameras, such as GoPros, will not be able to capture the user's face and expression. So why not use the wrist, which gives flexibility of use and allows the user to control the action as well?

This is what local start-up Spacemap is aiming to do with its first product, the Beoncam, an always-on camera that doubles as a watch and is worn on the wrist.

While it is marketed as a 360-degree camera, the Beoncam actually has an effective field of view of only 190 degrees, given that the bottom hemisphere of its circular design will be blocked by the wearer's wrist.

However, users of the camera will be able to take 360-degree panoramic shots with two Beoncam units, as its corresponding smartphone app will be able to stitch together separate shots.

"It's not just for sports people - as a watch, it's also more casual and a lifestyle option," said Spacemap's director, Mr Rick Wong.

The Beoncam is a rotund, slightly chunky hemisphere, weighing 55g, that houses a 5-megapixel image sensor capable of taking photos up to 2,980 x 1,680 pixels.

Video quality, meanwhile, is capped at 1,200 x 1,200 resolution at 25 frames per second. Footage is stored within the Beoncam's 8GB of internal memory, with no option for external storage.

That's good enough for about 5,000 photos or 4hr of video footage, according to Mr Wong.

Its battery can provide power for up to 3hr of continuous video footage before it needs a recharge.

Users can record footage from the unit itself, or connect it to a smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi which lets them preview shots and choose different shooting modes such as panorama, time lapse or burst mode.

The Beoncam goes on sale next month, first in the United States at US$199 (S$275). Spacemap is working with a third-party distributor to sell the Beoncam in Singapore by the third quarter of this year.

All units will come with a watch strap which the Beoncam can lock onto. It can also be popped off the watch strap and outfitted onto other accessories that are shipped along with it, such as a tripod adapter mount or a bicycle handlebar ring.

Spacemap is a spin-off from local optics solution provider Moveon, which is best known for producing lenses and optics for major brands. It counts global brands such as Apple, BMW and Samsung among its clients.

The idea for the Beoncam arose from Moveon wanting to take risks and expand into other fields besides merely manufacturing parts for other companies, said its chief executive Chee Teck Lee.

"It's always in our philosophy to take a measured amount of risk. So, 1½ years ago, we decided we needed to step out of our comfort zone, take some risks, and go into product development," he said.

Development work on the Beoncam started in August 2015, with its first prototype developed last July.

A demo was shown at the CES tech trade show in Las Vegas this January. A month later, Spacemap launched a fundraising campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where the Beoncam hit twice its original US$30,000 funding target within two months.

Moveon poured in about $700,000 for the Beoncam's research and development.

And, while Mr Chee expects the company to break even from the Beoncam's sales, profit was not the main reason to expand their scope.

"The main purpose was to grow a team of people whom we can count on to develop future products," said Mr Chee. "We wanted to see what our limitations are in terms of getting into the product development space.

"All the learning experiences we had - with CES, with Indiegogo, with managing our branding company - these are really invaluable for our future products."

Spacemap also worked with A*Star under the agency's Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading scheme, where research scientists and engineers are seconded to local firms to build their in-house R&D or technical capabilities.

Under this scheme, A*Star research engineer Randy Hipona worked with Spacemap for six months on Beoncam's electronics.

"For the Beoncam, Spacemap had the expertise in optics, so my role was to work on the camera's electronic parts, the baseline hardware, and how to put the two together," said Mr Hipona.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Watch camera with surround view'. Print Edition | Subscribe