Getting the Big Picture with Podo

Podo_Group2-1 There are few images as ubiquitous on the internet as the selfie. And while selfies vary as much as the people taking them, one common denominator is the picture taker’s arm being visible in the shot. An intrepid trio of graduates from UC Berkeley is out to change that.

Eddie Lee, Jae Hoon Choi, and Sam Pullman all share a love of snapping shots on the go, most often using their phones. To their dismay, though, was the realization that they were often either getting left out of their own shots, or their frames were limited by the length of their arms. Lee says, “We figured a cool way to take photos would be with a wireless, phone-controlled device … then we figured out what would make such a device fun and easy to use.”

Live Preview The three originally started working together on an unrelated software product, but while they were participating in the Plug and Play Startup Camp, they came up with the concept for what is now Podo. In a nutshell, Podo is a tiny (read: adorable) app-controlled camera that sticks almost anywhere using a unique micro-suction technology that doesn’t wear out. Their focus shifted from strictly software to hardware, and they were accepted in Highway1’s hardware incubator program, where they spent the next year developing and fine-tuning Podo.

At the Highway1 prototyping labs, the Podo team was introduced to the Othermill. It’s no secret that the ability to rapidly prototype iterations of design is essential to success in the hardware development arena. Podo’s lead engineer, John Fitzpatrick, says, “The Othermill has really sped up our development process. Instead of designing PCBs one day and waiting a week for the finished PCBs to arrive, we can design the PCBs and make them in a day. Then, if we want to iterate on a design, we can go back and mill an updated PCB that afternoon.”

Benson, Sam, Jae, Eddie Pictured right to left: Lee, Choi, Pullman, and designer Benson Chou

When developing a product like Podo, one of the challenges is deciding which components to use from the sea of choices available. Fitzpatrick notes, “The Othermill has allowed us to quickly and easily test different components and potential ideas. For instance, when we were selecting LEDs to use in Podo’s light ring, we had to choose from half a dozen different components. Each of these components had different dimensions and footprints. The Othermill allowed us to make a specific light ring PCB to test out each LED. Without the Othermill, we would’ve had to make six separate PCB orders and wait a week for them to arrive.“

"Additionally,” Fitzpatrick continues, “the Othermill proved very useful when we were considering whether to add a touch sensor, allowing us to test out a variety of different touch shapes and sizes. We were easily able to test over 20 different one-off touch sensor PCBs.” He also mentions that in the future, he’d like to try and mill a hardwood version of the Podo casing on the Othermill.

The team’s hard work has clearly paid off, and their finished product looks very promising. Offered in a couple of bright, cheerful colors, Podo is merely 2 inches square, weighs in at only 1.8 ounces, and will retail for $99. They’ve recently launched their Kickstarter campaign and expect to ship their first batch of Podos to customers by August 2015. Before long, the selfie-taking world could have what Lee describes as “a hassle-free, stranger-free way to take any shot, from any point of view. What you capture is up to your imagination, not limited to the length of your arm.”