A small Nelson company which developed a high-tech camera has had a major breakthrough, with the technology being trialled by the fishing industry.
The company founder and chief executive Chris Rodley and his brother, chief technical officer, Andrew Rodley, are now eyeing bigger fish with their world-first 360-degree camera SnapItHD, including Facebook, in the hope their technology can be applied to the social media giant's next leap.
SnapItHD is a world-first technique of capturing live images of a 360-degree panorama, and then displaying them in real time. It was designed and developed in Nelson by the Rodleys' firm, Snap Information Technologies, and is being trialled by the industry fishing body governing the New Zealand snapper fleet as an on-board electronic monitoring programme.
Chris Rodley said the catch management and monitoring programme was now in its second trial, prompted by an approach from the chief executive of Auckland-based Sanford Fisheries, who knew about the Nelson firm.
Rodley said the camera essentially captured what was happening on board in 360 degree and targeted format, and so far the trial had been going well.
"We have equipment running in the field and it's extremely challenging, but it's also a lot of fun."
Rodley told the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency economic summit in Nelson yesterday that there were exciting things on the horizon that potentially involved use of the "full immersion virtual reality solution" offered by Oculus Rift, a virtual reality head-mounted display developed by American company Oculus VR. Snap Information Technologies had owned a prototype unit for some time, and it had "birthed many new ideas".
Facebook recently bought Oculus VR for $US2 billion and is talking about using it for social purposes, such as installing a camera at a tennis match, taking that seat and selling it to people wearing the virtual reality headset. "What they don't have is the camera, and we are working on it."
Rodley said it had unlimited potential, including "being able to go to movies with your friend in Seattle".
"We are also talking with Team New Zealand about putting a camera on board to give the experience of what it's like to ride on the boat," Rodley told yesterday's symposium.
He told the Nelson Mail that he had been in talks with the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology about using film and media students to shoot a short film using the technology to promote its potential to a global audience.
Rodley said the EDA was right behind the firm's plans, and was assisting with a programme to re-develop the SnapIt hardware.
EDA chief executive Bill Findlater said the Rodleys had something that was "pretty special".
"They have their feet on the ground. They're not rushing into anything and they're doing their homework.
"The company has tremendous potential and we've been helping them with general advice, with how to successfully get funding grants and with access to research and development programmes."
Findlater said the EDA had been able to help steer them in the right direction with the latest hardware development plan.
"I have a lot of faith in them because of their approach," he said.
The family-owned company, which has been in business for seven years, has cameras installed around New Zealand.
Its technology is used by outfits ranging from the NZ MetService to Trade Me Travel, Jason's, and regional tourism organisations around the country.
There are 10 SnapItHD cameras in the Nelson region, including six in the Tasman district.
Rodley, a former English and social studies teacher at Nelson College, said Nelson had huge potential as a tech hub, but he was guarded in saying whether the company would remain here.
Rodley said Nelson was a "dark, quiet place for growing ideas", and a lot went unnoticed until major shoots began to sprout.
- The Nelson Mail