"The Americans are simply faster“

On Monday, Spherie, probably the first drone with an integrated 360-degree camera system, flew through the large ballroom of Hamburg City Hall to take pictures for an image film of the city. Five days later, tomorrow Saturday, Nicolas Chibac will be on stage with the aircraft at around 3.30 pm in Salon D of the Hilton hotel in Downtown Austin, Texas. These are crucial days for Chibac, the photographer and filmmaker from Hamburg, everything is well prepared. The timing is well chosen, he knows what to say, how to emphasize the uniqueness of his development, to convince.

Nicolas Chibac is invited to represent the city of Hamburg at the international creative fair South by Southwest (SXSW) and to present his development, the virtual reality drone Spherie, to investors, the press and industry experts. If he is convinced, there is a second pitch and attention, investments and a funding program for the winner beckon.

To be able to present his business idea at the SXSW, to which 70,000 visitors are expected this year, and to be one of 48 selected start-ups worldwide, is already a success in itself. Where such a performance can lead a young company is shown by the example of the Hamburg start-up Sonormed, which won the pitch last year with the application Tinnitracks, which helps against tinnitus with its own favorite music, and is now on the verge of breaking through on the American market.

Dates at Disney in L. A. and Silicon Valley

This is also the goal of Nicolas Chibac. “We want to be on the market with a series product in 2017,” he says before leaving for the USA. And he believes that the US is his springboard to series production. “The German market is interesting,” he said. “But the Americans are just faster at it.”This can also be expressed in figures: in the US, about $ 58 billion of venture capital was invested in 2015, in the whole of Europe it was only a fraction of it. Especially when it comes to new technologies such as virtual reality, there is skepticism and restraint in Germany, while in the US the euphoria could hardly be greater. That’s why Chibac has planned a trip to California after the trade fair in Austin. He has appointments at Disney in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

“Everything is designed to scale the whole thing up a bit, to find partners to take over production,” he says. Virtual reality will experience a real boom this year, says Chibac, who was also at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. There were pictures around the world where hundreds of people were wearing VR glasses at the same time, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ran through the rows grinning. “Since then, everyone who is interested in virtual reality has seen a massive push into the market.“

According to the statistics portal Statista, sales of virtual reality hardware and software are expected to amount to around $ 4.3 billion in 2016. in 2018, an increase to $ 9.3 billion is forecast. Chibac wants to use that. At least, he believes, he still has a small lead at the moment. The product has been around for a long time, a patent is pending, he founded the company SpiceVR at the beginning of the year. “The South by Southwest is something like our coming out,” he says.

The drone Spherie, forty centimeters in diameter and weighing two kilos, is a development based on years of experience. It arose from Chibac’s daily need to take panoramic pictures, 360 degree pictures. Chibac has been working in the advertising and tourism industry for over ten years, has shot commercials in more than 40 countries – and time and again he felt the limits of photo and film technology.

The rotors are located in the blind spot of the cameras

For example, in order to give a good impression of a hotel, he started taking pictures in a circle at an early age, but always thought: this must somehow be easier. Then came the drones, which are now in active use in the film industry, and the first 360 degree cameras. Chibac has now combined both together with drone builder Jonathan Hesselbarth.

The highlight: the construction is a kind of cube, equipped with a camera on each side and a rotor on each corner. The rotors are each in the blind spot of the cameras and the drone itself can no longer be seen on the shots, which reinforces the impression of the viewer that he himself is at the center of the film.

In addition to filming, the drone camera is also able to scan the environment and provide 3D data. It can therefore also be used as a type of tool in the field of 3D measurement. In addition, it can be useful for real estate agents who want to present their properties, for the tourism industry to present hotels or cruise ships, for disaster recovery, for sports or music events. “You could also fly over and survey the Grand Canyon,” says Chibac.

At the moment there are two prototypes that are constantly being tested and optimized. In addition to his work in Hamburg’s city hall, Nicolas Chibac shot the first 360-degree music video for the highly successful DJ Robin Schulz last year with the help of Spherie, for example. There are many areas of application and thus potential users and buyers, so now it is important for Chibac to find the right investors and make the right decisions. These are crucial days for Nicolas Chibac in the USA.

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