Google impressed a lot of people when it debuted its Grand Canyon Street View imagery in October. The Trekker backpack used to capture that imagery, which is essentially a backpack-mounted version of the same all-seeing eye that sits atop the Google Street View car.
The roughly 40-pound backpack is not all that uncomfortable to wear, I found out when I slipped the Trekker on. It’s a little top-heavy, and I’m not sure I’d want to risk running at a brisk clip if I was using one out in the wild, but it’s really no heavier than a standard backpacker’s kit for a few days’ journey.
Silverman explained how the Trekker works, including how its camera sensor head gathers images and how those are then stored on a hefty solid state hard drive built into the backpack, where they can later be transferred back to Google’s servers to get started with the process of recreating a hike.
I asked Silverman whether we might see the Trekker make its way to the backs of other beings beyond humans, and he said that they are indeed mulling the idea of strapping versions of it to beasts of burden to help them continue to map the world in images. There are also plans in the works to mount it to remotely operated robots and small vehicles to help get imagery that otherwise wouldn’t be easily reachable by a human Trekker.
He said to expect plenty more to come from the Trekker team in terms of Street View imagery of some of the world’s most interesting – and most remote – locales. Combined with Google’s new underwater street view project, that means everyone can probably get a lot more familiar with a lot more of the world in the near future.
A lot of people don’t carry cameras anymore, now that they have smartphones. But that means that you could miss opportunities to capture great moments, especially when you’re missing out on the great optical zoom available on some more expensive or specialized dedicated camera devices. That’s what Snapzoom hopes to fix with its binocular mount for smartphone cameras, and the best part is that it’s completely universal, meaning it fits a wide variety of both phones and binoculars.
The project got started when Hawaii-based co-founders Daniel Fujikake and Mac Nguyen started using their own smartphones to film their surf escapades via a completely DIY, garage-made mounting device that they hacked together. They saw the utility, and other surfers asked them about it every time they went out, so they partnered up with a professional designer to form HI Resolution Enterprises and build a proper prototype using 3D-printed materials.
The duo took to Kickstarter to fund a production run for Snapzoom, and has already blown past its $55,000 goal in just over a week. The funding will help the two turn the 3D printed prototype into a glass-filled nylon injection molded retail product, which the company hopes to manufacture both in the U.S. and overseas.
“It’s going to be extremely tough, since it’s something that’s meant to be used outdoors,” Fujikake told me. “You can put it in your bag, you don’t have to worry about babying it, you can get it wet, you can drop it, it’s very very tough.”
Already, before even closing its Kickstarter funding, Snapzoom has had a lot of interest from well-placed retail partners, including U.S. camera equipment and accessory retailer B&H Photo. Based on funding interest and prospective retail partner enthusiasm, the team seems to have tapped a strong, unaddressed consumer desire, even if it is a bit niche. And it’s not just voyeurs who are interested; this is great for nature photography and action sports, too.
Snapzoom is looking to ship in September, and retail price for the mount is expected to be around $79.99, but currently pre-order backers on Kickstarter can get one for just $70. The team is working on stretch goals now, since it has already earned almost $10,000 more than its original goal.
See the original post here: Snapzoom Gives You A Smartphone Camera Mount That Turns Binoculars Into A Super Zoom Lens
If you aren’t at Disrupt NY or watchin’ the livestream back at home, you just missed something … pretty special.
Our own Josh Constine took the stage with the co-founders of Rap Genius, the text annotation service that recently raised $15M from Andreessen Horowitz, for a conversation that quickly went from talk of metrics and browser extensions to talks of adderall, an impromptu beatboxing session, and a founder’s apology for telling Mark Zuckerberg to fellate him.
Rap Genius started out as a site meant to allow hiphop fans to annotate rap lyrics to explain their meanings. Over time, it’s expanded to other, non-lyrical texts; just this morning, they disclosed plans to break into annotating breaking news.
The company’s three founders — Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory — are nothing if not controversial. Today alone, I’ve heard them referred to as “lunatics”, “bonkers”, and “completely insane”… and yet, their panel seems to be all anyone here is talking about. Say what you will about these guys (they probably won’t care anyway), but they know exactly what they’re doing.
I’ve pulled a few choice quotes out of the interview for the sake of everyone at work — but really, you should probably just watch the video.
On Why Rap Genius Works:
“Rap Genius is not just crowdsourced. It started with us and like, six of our homies. It was homiesourced. We opened it up to the masses so it became crowd sourced. Then we decided we wanted it to ‘ballersourced’, [so we got a bunch of these huge stars verified on the site]“
“The secret ingredient of Rap Genius is love. We often tell people that Rap Genius was built on Love on Rails”
On Working With Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, who funded their entire $15M Series A:
“We said we wanted such and such millions of dollars. [Marc] asked what we’d do with it; I said something really stupid, like we’d buy a bunch of companies. He just totally lost it, tapping his leg all over the place. I thought we’d totally tanked the meeting, but that’s just his way of showing love.”
“Ben is a real rap fan. He’s like the rap genius god father. We consider him a bro… What people don’t know is that he’s a marketing genius. He came up with the idea to call users ‘Scholars’, and ‘TopScholars’. He came up with NewsGenius. Ben, we love you dawg.”
On Rumors That The Team Used Drugs To Focus:
“Yeah, we would do naked adderall. This was before Y-Combinator. We’d do naked adderall [when we needed to turn out something] because that way we couldn’t leave the house [and would work on the site all day].”
On The Time When Co-Founder Mahbod Moghadam told The New York Times Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg Could “Suck [His] Dick”:
“I’ll say it: to the Oracle of Omaha [Warren Buffet], to the Oracle of… wherever Mark Zuckerberg is from — I’m Sorry Zuck, I love you dawg.”
On What Factors In Life Lead To Them “Not Giving A Fuck”:
“Er, the series A? I dunno. We could sell this shit, we could go be alcoholics on some island. [But we're building something here.]“
On Their Notorious Personalities:
“I just met up with my old boss at Google. I wanted to convince him to come work at Rap Genius, and he was like ‘If I went to Rap Genius, the first thing I’d do is get rid of that Jean-Ralphio lookin’ guy.’ I was like: ‘uhh, which one? We’ve got two!’”
“A lot of people think we need to change. I… dont think that’s going to happen.”
“Yeah. If you want to ball major, you gotta drink the kool-aid. You gotta be more loose, but you gotta live the life 24/7. I don’t feel free. I gotta be the Rap Genius guy.”
Here is the original post: Rap Genius’ Co-Founder Apologizes To Zuck (Then Says They’ll Be Bigger Than Facebook)
Some of the creators of TechCrunch Disrupt NY hackathon project Espace are still learning to code, and this was the perfect event at which to hone their skills. The six-person team designed a site this weekend to connect meetup groups with venues offering space where events can be hosted. Organizers and venue owners use the site to sign up and list their needs or what they have to offer, respectively. Espace then helps to put them in touch to broker the deal.
The idea resonated with two of the group’s members in particular: husband and wife team Jamal and Felicia O’Garro. Both started learning Ruby recently, and today host a meetup group of their own. This group, started in January, is focused on helping others who are also learning to code, by offering training classes and coffee-and-coding sessions. The group meets Sundays at New York-based co-working space, Alley NYC, and despite its young age, it has already grown to around 550 members, with 30 or so showing up at each weekly session.
Others working on the Espace team this weekend include David Lau, Adam Waxman, Cavaughn Noel and Linda Peng. The site uses the Twilio API, which gives both the vendor owner and meetup organizer a virtual number that they can use to connect to discuss the details of the group’s meeting space needs. Asked if meeting organizers were really all that concerned about sharing their real phone numbers with venue owners, Jamal admitted that he was mainly interested in playing around with the Twilio API.
Jamal may be a newer coder, but he’s already building software for another area startup, CommonBond a recently seed-funded company that connects student borrowers with alumni to crowdsource funding of student loans. Whether or not Espace continues after this weekend is unknown: Jamal is turning into a hackathon junkie, it seems – this is his third in just a few months’ time, he says.
An indie band relying on crowd-sourcing is nothing new; many a tour bus has been paid for by way of things like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. But a band asking for your mouse cursor, instead of your money? Thats a new one.
Dutch rock band lightlight has tapped the power of the crowd along with a rather impressive hack to make what might be the cleverest* music video the world has ever seen.
You can check out the video for yourself right here. (NSFW Heads Up: There’s a fair amount of bare skin in the video, though it’s (usually) covered up by a few thousand mouse cursors. If cursor bikinis are grounds for a firin’ where you work, save this one for later.)
[* "Cleverest" here not necessarily meaning "best". Everyone knows that Jamiroquai's Virtual Insanity is the best video of all time.]