One startup, one story: what if photographs broke free from their frames?

How a smartphone camera records the entire experience of a photograph, and lets you navigate inside it. Let’s meet Giroptic.

Looking at a particularly exquisite painting can feel immersive. People sometimes feel like they could dive in – but they rarely say the same about photographs. Why? Giroptic Founder Richard Ollier decided to rethink the art of photography. By framing photos – usually in rectangular formats that conform to the same dimensions as our phones, computers and TV screens (4/3 or 16/9) – had we put form before function? By transposing the frames of one art form (painting) on another, had we put artificial limits on photographs?

Richard reasoned that when you take a photo, you’re capturing a moment. For many people, it’s a memory rather than something they want to put on a wall. For all these people, the frame is a prison. Forcing your experiences into a rectangular box means choices have to be made about what to leave out.

Richard and his team re-imagined the photograph as a sphere that allows you to capture an entire scene, and afterwards navigate inside it. He envisioned being able to relive the moment in 360°, or experience it in a different way, by changing the angle or direction of vision.

Of course, capturing 360° isn’t easy – requiring several captors and optical lens, as well as the connections between them. And once you’ve started down this road, everything changes – from the method of taking a photo to its storage and distribution.

Giroptic’s story began with a 360° panoramic street view – well before Google Street View existed. It was a success, but their B2B model meant the expensive hardware had a limited market.

A successful Kickstarter campaign changed all that. Marketing the world’s first full HD 360° camera directly to consumers proved a massive success (US$1,419,068 raised from 3,916 backers).

Designed to see the world “Up, Down and All Around,” the 360 Cam records videos, takes still photos, and streams realtime video over Wi-Fi from every angle. It was designed to offer the industry’s largest field of view, delivered via three synchronized 185° fish-eye lenses that can stitch images together in real time inside the camera. With a waterproof rating of IPX8 and a proprietary underwater lens cup accessory, users can also enjoy crisp and distortion-free images underwater.

The latest invention, the Giroptic iO, is an attachment for the iPhone or iPad, offering users a fully immersive 360° experience without having to buy a dedicated camera. You can share your experiences live via social media.

Giroptic’s team of 45 is spread across sites in Lille (Giroptic’s headquarters), San Francisco and China. France supplies talented optical, software and electrical engineers, while the United States is the main market, and China harbors the most long-term potential.

If you’d like to know more about startups in France, click here to read the new Business France book about 35 success stories.

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