Danfung Dennis spent the last decade working as a photo-journalist and filmaker in some of the world's most dangerous places, shooting war footage that appeared in Newsweek and The New York Times and directing an Academy Award nominated documentary about the conflict in Afghanistan. This experience led him to create a new company to help immerse the viewer in the worlds he was reporting on. The result is Condition One, which today is announcing a $500,000 seed round of funding led by billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Condition One is part of the newest class of startups at TechStars NY, a three month boot-camp that helps young companies figure out their business model and connect with investors. Condition One has created software that takes the warped 180 degree footage shot with a fisheye lens and translates it back into the clear, flat image we are used to seeing. Then it allows tablet users to move through that space, creating an immersive video in which the viewer can explore inside the image. You can see how it works in the video below.
Mark Cuban is not well known as a seed stage tech investor, but the funding makes sense when you think about Cuban's next big business move, a rebranding of his HDNET cable network as AXS TV, which plans to focus heavily on broadcasting live entertainment and music events. "Our technology is going to enable some amazing new concert experiences where the user can pan back and forth between the stage and the crowd, between the drummer and guitarist, or between the action onstage and what's going on backstage," said Condition One COO Andrew Chang.
On the tech team, Condition One has brought in a heavy hitter, Julian Gomez, who has three decades of experience in 3D computer graphics. Gómez started his career at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, then worked as a senior engineer and scientist at both Google and Apple, where he was a member of the original QuickDraw 3D development team.
The technology is similar to Kogeto, a New York startup which sells an iPhone attachment that lets users shoot 360 degree video. It's also being done by GoPano, which was used to create a rad music video for Tanlines. Unlike Kogeto and GoPano, Condition One works with footage from any camera and requires no special attachment or editing software.
For now Condition One is aimed at attracting big media companies for clients, but Chang says they are working on bringing it to consumers in the near future. Chang says the company is building an HTML5 app for web viewing and hopes to someday create a way for its video to interact with the Xbox Kinect's gesture control.
We downloaded the app for the iPad and were impressed by a video of a basketball game where we could pan back and forth across the full court to take in whatever action we liked, although all the video samples offered in the app seemed very short. "My work has been an evolution from still images to video and now into immersive experiences," said Dennis. "Yet, I’m still motivated by the same idea: that the future of storytelling will be driven by technology."