PCR talks to Tom Lawton about how the BubbleScope went from a sunset-inspired idea to a retail ready product.
How did you come up with the idea for BubbleScope?
I came up with it in the spring of 2001 while I was sitting in the open carriage doorway of a train, and looking out at the most amazing panoramic sunset. I’d been travelling non-stop for 56 hours through India. This was before we had camera phones, Google streetview and even before the iPod was launched. It wasn’t so much a flash of inspiration but a gradual awakening to the idea of designing a compact and affordable, easy-to-use 360 bubble camera.
Going from idea to production hasn’t been an easy journey...
When I started the project I knew nothing about cameras or optical systems, let alone how to potentially build the brain of the system into the software on a mobile handset.
Thankfully, as the project has developed so too have the technological building blocks behind it. Like all good projects, I started off with months of research to discover everything I could about the field of omni-directional imaging.
Then came the concept drawings, reams of them, followed by ray-traced optical simulations. Even these were years before I started the expensive job of diamond turning mirrors and building lens systems. There have been many technological and personal breakthroughs to get the point I am at now, with a retail ready product and internal distribution in place. All I can say is that if you want to succeed then never give up.
How did you decide where to go for manufacturing?
I’ve always wanted to manufacture closer to the UK. The idea of creating jobs is appealing, but so is the idea of working in close proximity to your manufacturing base so that the whole process is much more fluid.
For the first incarnation of the project, I had a licensing deal with a large Far Eastern digital camera manufacturer but market forces disrupted their business and so I was forced to abandon the project despite the fact we had contracts signed.
This led me to re-design the product, rebuild teams and explore manufacturing in the UK. But once again, market forces played their hand as getting the right retail price point, the right price model, with healthy margins for all is essential to the future success of a product. However, as the sophistication of the product offering grew to include not just hardware but an App and online community I entered a world that was far more than just selling a physical product.
Now, everything clever is developed in the UK and we have a small but very capable team, but the job of manufacturing happens in our factory in southern China.
BubbleScope is launching very soon from Kondor.
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