Capturing the majesty and awe of the night sky has always been something of a litmus test to separate the truly talented photographers from the amateur hobbyists.
Now, three former National University of Singapore (NUS) students and their company, named TinyMOS, are building a product called Tiny1 they hope can close that gap; and in doing so open up photographic astronomy to the masses.
Fittingly, the Tiny1 made waves overnight when it surpassed its IndieGoGo fundraising goal of US$100,000 in just four hours — having raised US$135,586 from 526 backers as of publication.
As a result, the company wrote on IndieGoGo the following ‘Thank You’ message:
What we just witnessed is something we had never dreamt of. We hit our goal of $100,000and sold out 250 super early bird units in less than 4 hours with over 400 backers.
Our Indiegogo page has been shared on Facebook/ Twitter more 600 times.
All of this was possible because of you. We are deeply humbled and grateful for your support.
This is not TinyMOS’ first infusion of funds. According to Co-founder and CTO Lih Wei Chia in an interview with NUS, the company has raised approximately S$200,000 (US$148,000) from angel investors and S$250,000 (US$185,000) from the government agency SPRING as part of the TECS Proof-Of-Concept grant.
Like many entrepreneurs, the idea for the company came from a moment of frustration. Grey Tan, the Co-founder and CEO of TinyMOS, says he was on a professional photography trip trying to capture the Milky Way. He had a Nikon D4 DLSR and, despite years of background, could not capture on camera what he was seeing in person.
“We looked at what was in the market and realized that existing astronomy equipment is expensive, bulky and complicated. The user interface of existing equipment was reminiscent of Windows 95,” said Tan.
“With current technology, the bulk of the complications could be removed with automation, presets and just better user interface”.
Obviously the most important feature of camera will be its internal chipset technology so the camera can capture the night sky better than any competitor operating in the same price range.
And yet, the camera also has bells and whistles that make it pretty cool beyond its ability to photograph the Moon.
First, despite its point-and-shoot design, users can purchase a variety of lenses depending on personal needs. The lens adaptor also allows the camera to be used with telescopes and lenses built by other companies.
The camera also connects with major social media so, assuming access to the Internet, photos can be uploaded instantly.
However, the feature that stood out to e27 was the star map. Using augmented reality, the interface displays to the photographer a real-time map of the sky. As someone who is particularly outdoorsy, but cannot seem to remember a single constellation, the education feature is great because it gives allows an amateur photographer to shoot with specific intention.
Rather than snapping the sky at random, an avid photographer, but amateur astronomer, could seek out particular features and build a neat portfolio.
Founded in April 2014, the company hit a roadblock in September and October of last year when TinyMOS initially planned to launch the product surrounding the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
Fellow Co-founder and COO Ashprit Singh Arora explains that just weeks before the trip to San Francisco, the camera could not support manual capture control. According to Arrora, this would erase the unique selling point and render the camera no better than a smartphone.
“It was a testing time for all three of us, one that had [the] majority of the arguments and disagreements. We were desperately looking for a quick way out of the mess, whether with new funds or an alternate development plan. But there was none,” Arora says.
“Finally, we swallowed the bitter pill, re-started the development with the new chipset and delayed the launch by more than six months.”
But it was a silver-lining as Arora says the company has developed a chipset at a lower cost and used the learnings to pass the savings to backers.
Company is expecting to pay back its backers in February with the IndieGoGo campaign roadmap below:
- Finalise hardware iteration in May and June. Including finalising agreements with manufacturers and placing orders for components.
- Tooling build-out in July.
- August through September will be focussed on pilot production runs and validation.
- October is planned for finalising the electronics and outer shell of camera
- December is for quality assurance and and fulfillment of early backer rewards.
- January 2017 is the target date for mass production
- February is when backers can expect to receive their reward.
The camera itself can shoot videos, .raw, non-astronomy settings and ‘day mode’. But, the lens coming with the intro kit will feature coma (an optical trade-off required for large aperture lenses that often makes stars appear to have a trail).
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If the plan works out, those epic pictures of the night sky we often see passing around the Internet may soon be a feature of your Instagram.
Photos courtesy of TinyMOS.