In the beginning…I captured my first panorama with the iPhone 3 using an App called AutoStitch.  It was impressive but at the same time when I zoomed in, the detail was disappointing.  I quickly realized the problem was parallax caused as I rotated my phone to capture the scene which changed perspective between captures. I went into my woodworking shop and hacked a case and some wood scraps to create a “panoramic head” and recaptured the pictures.  This allowed me to rotate the iPhone around the optical center of its camera to eliminate parallax and I was hooked.

I contacted an old friend, Hub Yonkers, who is a great product designer, and we created a simple accessory and released it for the iPhone 4 in an iPhone photography market that took years to emerge.

At the time we were developing the Youbiq Gymbl, I also realized that while it could capture a simple panorama, creating a 360° panorama was too tedious and wouldn’t be practical with a smartphone until it was automated.  We then created the first concept for a motorized Youbiw Gymbl. 

That said, it was clear to me that a motorized Gymbl would do the trick. It would allow a smartphone to “self orient” around the optical center of its camera to capture a scene could be made inexpensively by leveraging the phone’s sensors and wireless communication to upload and process the panoramas in the cloud.  Based on this we filed for a patent and continued to work out the details of the motorized Gymbl.

The first step was a proof of concept of the mechanical platform using hobby servo motors, an Arduino controller, some breakout boards, and a battery.  

We then enclosed it and added a simple dongle that mimicked the shutter by putting a relay controlled by the Arduino across the volume control switch of the headphones – it worked, and we captured our first panorama.  In this approach, we simply used the iPhone as a camera and it had no app as the orientation was programmed into the Arduino. And so the idea of an app was born. 

So, now to the fun part, making it real. Stay tuned for the rest of the story shortly. Sorry in advance for the cliffhanger.