Startup: The Bublcam

By John Honovich, Published Oct 09, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Multi-imager fisheye cameras are not new, but a startup is releasing a camera that can see in any direction all at once. Bubl is more than a 360 fisheye camera, because it has lenses built into a sphere with images all stiched together in a single continuous image.

What's more, after preselling more than $300k, the company has set its sights on the video surveillance market. Are they ready? In this note we look at BublCam [link no longer available].

Product Overview

Buble differs from most camera designs because it arranges its lenses is a sphere and stitches the images together in a large continuous scene. The developer's video below provides a good example of what it does:

Key Details

Dissecting the camera's design reveals these key attributes:

  • 4 Wide-angle lenses: Bubl uses separate 190° lenses that each point different directions. The FoV coverage is shown in this image:

  • HD Images: Each of Bubllcam's cameras are rated up to1080p Resolutions @ 15 FPS.
  • Accelerometer: The camera includes a dynamic accelerometer that assists electronic image stabilization.
  • Battery Only: Bubl has revised PCB design on the first production units so they include power through the USB port.
  • Standard Mount: Bubl includes a standard 1/4"x20 threaded boss for mounting to tripods or other typical camera mounts. 
  • Wireless Connected: The camera uses onboard wireless to stream video live to viewer apps via the unit's USB connection to desktop storage.

Pricing

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Bublcam is retailing for $699 after release, with volume discounts for multiples. However, the company has extended pre-production $579 each [link no longer available] pricing until initial units ship.

Cameras are sold direct by Bubl, who will continue to see direct to public and are not pursuing distribution or retail agreements at this phase.

External Dewarping

The video Bubl streams is stitched together outside the camera and in the companion viewing app. Raw uncorrected images look like this:

The viewing app is a free download, and will be available in desktop, Android, and iOS versions once released.  The company also has plans to provide access to its API for fee, but claims "the stitching part would still be handled by touching our free software" in each instance.

Limited Security Impact

Bubl sees potential video surveillance applications for its camera, describing it useful to potentially enhance existing security deployments. The developer commented:

"An example would be in a casino. Rather than up on the ceiling, the Bublcam could be in the pit on a post. Security can then observe the pit boss, dealers as well as a more face level view of the players and people surrounding the tables".

Regardless, the company has major obstacles before becoming a factor in surveillance namely:

  • No VMS Support: Bubl is not working with major VMS players to incorporate dewarping into viewers or video recording in external software.
  • OEM Play Only: With the developer retaining control of the viewer, any surveillance application would be arranged under license from Bubl

Security Alternatives

Other products have a headstart on Bubl, like ICRealtime's 720 degree camera that sandwiches together two 360 panoramic cameras in a similar ball mount.  However, unlike Bubl, ICReatime supports the camera in a currently available VMS (their own).

Are You Interested?

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