This article was published on 26 July 2012
A small Nelson company has developed a product that has the potential to be the best time-lapse camera in the world.
The snapitHD³ immersive camera captures live images of a 360° panorama, which can be displayed on websites and distribution channels online. Because there are no moving parts to the actual camera, multiple users can log in at the same time and view the footage from all different directions, using their mouse to pan, zoom and tilt. Normally, this would take several individually fixed cameras in different locations.
Like many Kiwi creations, the immersive solar-powered camera, which was developed with the help of Callaghan Innovation-administered funding, began its life in the garage.
Chris and Andrew Rodley, the two Nelson brothers who developed the camera, come from a web application and hardware design background and have been making high-resolution web cameras for about five years.
They were prompted to begin making their own cameras because of the poor quality pictures from the imported webcam their father had installed to keep an eye on his Hanmer Springs holiday home. Chris says his father wanted to see live shots of what the weather was like before he visited. The brothers built a camera capable of capturing the entire field of view and once the pictures were on the internet, they started getting a lot of enquiries.
Snap Information Technologies obtained government funding in 2011 through a Regional Business Partner at the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency (EDA) to help develop its latest 360° live network camera. The R&D funding was the springboard to gaining exposure in the US, most notably at the world Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“The Las Vegas gig just opened so many doors, all these big names from Apple, NASA and Boeing coming up to us, it was huge. We got talking to some guys from US rock band Linkin Park, who want to use our camera to shoot a 360 video documentary as a mobile application,” says Chris.
“We would not be where we are today without the help from the Grants team and EDA. It wasn’t just the financial support, but also the wealth of knowledge and connections that were offered to us. The whole process of working with MBIE really forced us to sharpen our thinking.”
The snapitHD³ camera can be used in a number of applications, including security, tourism and on commercial construction sites. Several ski fields in the US are already interested in the product and SnapitHD are trialling it at Rainbow Ski Field in the Southern Alps this year.
The Rodley brothers eventually want to see their cameras used everywhere from the ski fields of Lake Tahoe to downtown New York.
“Primarily we want to target the tourism sector. The market is worth $1.6 trillion and the US market is obviously a lot bigger than New Zealand’s,” says Chris.
Although Snap Information Technologies has a decidedly international focus, the Rodleys are staunch Nelson loyalists and are committed to developing the region as a technology hub.
Chris says local and regional councils, as well as local industry, are very receptive to the idea.
“Stage one is Nelson seeing itself as a tech hub. We can do worldwide business and succeed from right here, we just need an ideal case study and we aim to be that case study."