Last week, we announced a pretty major update: BlinkX is now compatible with HERO7 and HERO6 cameras (in addition to HERO5). Now you can capture long term time lapse videos with the newest GoPro cameras.
Cue a quick happy dance. We’re doing one too.
In all seriousness, this was a major milestone for the CamDo Solutions team, as this has been a complicated compatibility update that has been in the pipeline for many months. I sat down with CamDo CEO, Todd McCann, to discuss this exciting update. Read below for an overview of our conversation.
So… what took so long?
Put simply, we took our time on this because the HERO5 camera has the same 12MP sensor as the HERO6 and HERO7. This meant that we didn't compromise on image quality for our customers and it bought us some time to do other things. As most of our subscribers will know, the HERO4 to HERO5 was the biggest camera change that GoPro has ever made, so compared to that, this one wasn't quite so difficult for us, however, it still had its challenges.
The complexity was a combination of reasons. Firstly, GoPro just wasn't providing as much direct support to us because they made some internal changes to their team (layoffs to keep the shareholders happy)... no more drone, no more multi-camera (360) development… and the big one: no more Developers Program! The HERO5 and Developers Program came out about the same time and the intent was to document interfacing to their cameras much like API’s in the SaaS world. However, when the Developers program stopped, the hardware requirements needed for the interface remained, but the information froze in time and the support disappeared. I recall speaking with then COO, CJ Prober, about their desires to get back to the basics of building a great sports action camera. To their credit, the HERO7 is just that. Of course, we take their cameras and use them in a quasi-industrial way such as construction cameras which is the next reason, how we allocation our development resources.
We're honestly very fortunate to have a world-class team of engineers but with that level of skill, comes a lot of opportunities (distractions). We're always dabbling in many innovative arenas which will benefit our customers, so taking our time on the HERO7 was a luxury.
In the end, the reality is, it came down to the world wide HERO5 supply shortage which forced us to get this completed.
When did the team start working on this update? What were some of the challenges?
In 2017 we started developing a product that eventually morphed into UpBlink, and for most of that time UpBlink took precedence. Whilst we did some high-level development on BlinkX HERO7 compatibility in 2018, we really didn't begin until January 2019.
There are many challenges with development, including feature requests, scope creep, prototyping, and testing. I'd say testing is always the unknown because it's difficult to predict the timing, when testing raises new issues. It's very difficult to test under all conditions, especially when our customer base deploys so many different use cases. We aim to be hardware agnostic, so testing on all smartphones operating systems or browsers, for example, is intense.
What about other CamDo products? Are they compatible with HERO7 and HERO6 too?
Anything with a physical shape and not an electrical interface, is compatible with the HERO7. Our other controllers are not. Currently, UpBlink is only compatible with HERO5, and of course there’s our legacy controllerBlink which is compatible with HERO4.
We have HERO7 working on UpBlink in our office, but it's not ready yet. In fact, there are some anomalies that may never be overcome, but we hope to know by the end of summer 2019. We have some alternative camera compatibility also under development that our customers will find very interesting!
What if I already have BlinkX? Do I need to do anything to ensure compatibility?
If you already have a BlinkX unit, not to worry! You just need to update your firmware in order to get this compatibility update. (This firmware update can be accessed here.)
Was there anything to note about the entire process?
There is some carryover of complexity in our product and collateral, maybe not to the extent of our competitors, but more than we'd like. Our vision is to seamlessly bring the viewer closer to the source... think about how simple Instagram is to capture then share, well that's our intent for B2B applications. We know we have a long way to go and we're thankful that we're still growing rapidly as we aim for this vision.
Anything else of importance that should be mentioned?
Of course GoPro is likely to release a HERO8 in September. As I mentioned, the HERO7 was a big step up, but mostly from a consumer level as opposed to features that directly benefit our customers over previous models. So the big questions are: 1) Will we be able to interface with the HERO8? and 2) Will there be an improved sensor over the 12MP? In any case, we're excited, and we have more cameras ready to launch soon too!