The ACSion Android Camera Controller is a product that was born out of frustration with the current state of digital image capture. Is it just me or have digital cameras gotten WAY too complicated? Today's cameras have a bewildering variety of connectors, interfaces and menu screens. Instead of capturing the moment, we grapple with Compact Flash cards, USB connectors, image compression settings, etc. And if we foolishly decide to work with another camera, we have to re-learn how to capture images all over again! But wait - help is on the way! With the arrival of wireless technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and the maturing state of Android devices, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
The ACSion Android Camera Controller is the first product from Applied Color Science to try to bring some sanity to camera setup and control. It consists of a small camera interface adapter and an Android app that runs on a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or tablet.
With this controller, instead of having to plug your camera into a laptop to adjust settings or navigate through dozens of screen menus, you can access the camera controls quickly and wirelessly. Think of the possibilities of having multiple cameras from different vendors connected by a single intuitive set of controls without wires. This could actually make photography fun again!
Our first product offering has been designed for machine vision cameras and is currently compatible with Imperx brand cameras and soon to be compatible with all cameras with a CameraLink format interface. We believe that the interest already shown by industrial customers in this market segment more than justifies our initial investment.
Technical Specs for the first production run:
Hardware: Camera Interface - RS-232(9600 - 115200 baud) Android Interface - USB(OTG) and Bluetooth( with included Bluetooth dongle) Processor - 16-bit PIC24 Power Supply - Option 1: 9V battery (included) / Option 2 : +12V from camera (may require camera modification) Physical: Controller box - 1"(H) X 2"(W) X 3"(D)
Software: Bluetooth stack: BTstack-based Android app: Support for Android 4.0 devices (smartphones and tablets)
At present we are transitioning our prototype design hardware into a production ready design. Our plan is to manufacture the first run of the controller boxes locally in Southern California and then move to off-shore contract manufacturers to reduce assembly and test costs.
Our technology roadmap includes the expansion of the controller interface from machine vision (RS-232, CameraLink) to digital cinema/prosumer (LANC, Canon/Nikon lens control) and the expansion of the wireless interface to incorporate Wi-Fi, which will enable Android devices to function as both camera controllers and video preview monitors.
The real beauty of this project is in the Android app development. As support for this product grows, the community of Android developers will be invited to produce apps that can extend the power and functionality of these devices beyond what we envision today. As I have said more than once, "We are at the tip of a very large iceberg."
Based on my prior experience in product development, I estimate that ACSi will need ~$25 - 50K to finish the first production run of this controller. These funds will go toward PCB layout, fabrication and assembly, design and tooling for the controller housing and agency certification. The profits from the first product sales will go toward rapidly traversing the technology roadmap described above.
iii.) Assembly w/shipping materials and boxes - March 31
3.) Production Software Development:
A.) Pre-production Android Code development/Test - Feb.28
B.) Publish 1st Rev. Production Code on Google Play - March 21.
Risks and challenges
1.) For the initial Imperx-based controllers, the potential risks are minimal, since we have demonstrated that the controller device and Android software appear to be robust. As we expand the varieties of camera interface standards for which this system will work, there are possibilities that it may not work as universally as we expected. This may limit our penetration into specific market segments, but doesn't invalidate the business model.
2.) Challenge: design the Android app so that it is functional, intuitive to use, and robust.
Our experience over the past several years with professionals in the cinema industry has shown us that every camera operator/ user has their own preferences for functional arrangement of camera controls and indicators. The beauty of the Android platform is that it is an open source development environment with a broad base of support. While ACSi may not design the perfect "one-size-fits-all" app for this controller, I am confident that the Android developer community will rise to the occasion.