INTERVIEW: Han Jin, CEO, LucidVR
After two years, several rounds of funding and thousands of hours of work, LucidCam, the world’s first 180-degree stereoscopic video camera, hit the US market in July. Han Jin, co-founder of LucidVR, the creator of LucidCam, tells VR Film Pro about the development of the product and his hopes for making it a mass market product.
VR Film Pro: The LucidCam became commercially available in the US in July. How has feedback been?
HJ: It was actually great. We shipped out over 500 units, and all the units are being used very well. We talked to a lot of people and they are surprised how useful 180-degree VR is. We’ve had lots of good feedback and people are very excited about it. We are improving the product every single day. For example, we upgraded the LucidCam to 4K video during the testing phase, which means every LucidCam out there now records 4K video.
VR Film Pro: How can users view the footage they’ve made?
You can view it on a smartphone or most VR headsets. In Oculus Rift or HTC Vive the quality is better; the depth and the experience is better so I do recommend people use those headsets and they will be surprised how it looks.
With 180-degree you have a lot of advantages and so that’s what we want to focus on.
VR Film Pro: What difference do people feel when they see stereoscopic footage?
HJ: With stereoscopic, if you are filming people or objects, it makes a huge difference. The depth gives you a lot of emotional connection to the person you are filming. It’s kind of funny because a lot of our backers and LucidCam owners they are filming their own kids and then sending us the footage and saying, “Check this out, this is my baby!” This is what we dreamed about two and half years ago when we started the company.
I do think that stereoscopic and 3D VR will be an essential part of the industry and the market. That is going to be very value-driving for the entire industry.
VR Film Pro: How are you distributing the product?
HJ: We signed a couple of distributors. We are in Amazon already and B&A. We are seeing a lot of sales go through those stores which is very good for us because we know where all the people are going to get the camera. I am very excited to bring this to Best Buy because then we can get ‘hands on’ and give people the opportunity to test it. All the distributors are giving us a very good picture of how to drive this product into the market.
VR Film Pro: What were the main challenges getting this product off the ground?
HJ: There were a lot of challenges especially building hardware. Everybody who decides to do a hardware startup should think through what risks they are taking on. Hardware brings way more challenges than any other start-up I have seen so far. What we started off with was a prototype and bringing that all the way to production is a long road, from getting the capital, and raising a lot of money versus just a little bit. It’s more difficult than a software start-up which can change its mistakes and innovate more easily as they go along. That’s something that is not as easy with hardware. If you build something it’s fixed and so you have to deal with it. Also you have to be extremely detail oriented in terms of making sure every single component, every part of your product is actually as you expected it to be. I didn’t know about this before I started. I started without an understanding of how a hardware works. The more we got into it the more we decided we had to keep pushing and keep solving the problems we encountered. So far we are doing fine, but it’s not something I would recommend anyone to do!
VR Film Pro: It must be quite satisfying to see the product commercially available then?
HJ: I’m satisfied that I’ve got something I can hold in my hands for sure. Satisfaction really comes from interacting with my customers who are proving the product according to what feedback we are receiving. That’s the most important part. If you are already in the market and you have customers then you can make those customers even happier than before.
VR Film Pro: Are any professional VR filmmakers interested in LucidCam?
HJ: Yes, we have a spectrum from professionals and semi professionals and consumers who are buying the camera. There are different applications people are buying the camera for, from pre-production applications to filming day-to-day experiences, to creating 3D renderings and 3D spaces and using them for development purposes. Professionals are definitely into this but I think what we really want is to get more towards the consumer side and that’s what we are focusing on. The consumer market is very exciting. It’s very risky but very rewarding.
VR Film Pro: Are you looking at international markets?
HJ: There are a lot of challenges. Right now we are supporting North America and Europe and definitely looking at other markets which have a lot of VR demand. The Asian market is a big example of where VR is taking off way stronger than other regions and we are looking into.
VR Film Pro: How many people worked on the design of LucidCam?
HJ: We had a lot of people working on this because hardware needs a lot of people. We started off with five and then scaled up to 10 and we had more support on the manufacturing side. Then we went up to 50 for a while. There were a lot of people all around the world working on this.
VR Film Pro: How many work for LucidCam now?
Eight at the moment. That will increase over the next few days. We are wrapping into channels and customer support is very important and then how to drive great marketing and great branding. That is the main focus we have now.