Selfies soar to new heights with SelfieBot

We’ve been obsessed with selfies for the better part of the last 2 years, but, other than front-facing cameras, few innovative inventions have been made to cater to the disturbing trend. That may be about to change very soon.

A Christchurch-based startup known as SelfieBot, previously called Acorn Robotics, is producing a mini-drone specifically for taking selfies in an effort to feed our apparently continuous need to take pictures of ourselves.

“The SelfieBot is basically a camera you can put anywhere: on a table, on a chair, or even in mid-air,” SelfieBot CEO Owen Flanagan said in an email. “It’s a small camera-equipped quadcopter that stays where you put it.”

The device will wirelessly connect to your phone, allowing you to instantly see the image and take more if needed, say, if your face is at the wrong angle or you forgot to get your duck face on. The SelfieBot will also come with software that will make moving your photos to the cloud effortless.

The SelfieBot concept has been in development for the past six months. The team at Acorn Robotics were initially entertaining the idea of a pet drone, which would be an “awesome little robot that would replace the household pet for use in city apartments,” but they soon realised this idea did not have legs (hehe). They then began developing plans for a business that sold a modular robotics kit, but that too did not go well.

In search of a problem in need of a solution, Owen asked Kyle Wilson, one of SelfieBot’s founders, what he thought people liked to do?

“Selfies,” Kyle said. “People like selfies.”

“So I went away and thought about how you could make a robot for taking selfies,” Owen recalled. “I came back a couple of weeks later, and we worked as a team to refine the ideas down into something truly useful.”

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Following a lean startup approach, SelfieBot’s founders began sampling the market to see if their concept had legs (or wings). They asked prospective consumers what features they would appreciate, and then put together some online surveys to be sent out and published on social media groups.

You may be thinking that you recognise the name and concept from an April Fool’s video dubbed “#SelfieBot by Orbotix.” Owen and the team had already registered their intellectual property and were working on the design of their SelfieBot when the video was released. Incidentally, it coincided with what they were doing almost to the tee.

This served as positive market validation, says Owen, even though it was meant to be a joke. The video went viral and racked up over 190,000 views. Although most viewers were aware that it was a prank, many still indicated that they were interested in purchasing the product.

SelfieBot was being created in secret up until that point, but when the video was released, the concept was forced out from under the cloak. In hindsight, Owen says he’s conflicted over whether or not he made the right choice. “If we were out there, we would have had a huge traffic boost from that, so its probably a loss, but we are now fully committed to the vision and have got ourselves some IP protection.”

Now that the drone’s out of the bag, SelfieBot’s founders are doing as much as they can to raise awareness around their product before they take on investment. They’ve been looking at several funding options, like crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding, but have chosen to go with a VC firm they have a relationship with.

“A lot of people have been talking about equity crowdfunding after the recent law changes,” Owen said, “but we aren’t sure if we feel comfortable taking people’s money in that way. The risk profile of a startup is huge and failure is likely. We can take these risks because the worst case scenario for us is that we built an awesome product that no-one bought and learned the skills to do it better next time.

“When we start tying other people’s financial futures into it, it becomes something much more perilous.”

There is no release date as of yet, but if you’d like to get your hands on a SelfieBot, there are ways for you to help the team release it sooner. You can register your interest by entering your email on SelfieBot’s website, and “Like” and “Follow” their social media accounts. “Liking our posts on Facebook is a big help as well,” Owen said, “as it makes our posts show up on your newsfeed and your friends’.

“We are making a consumer product and we want it to be the best it can be.  That means we want to hear your ideas. As silly as they might seem, some of them might take the experience to the next level.”

Headline support by Dominique Reed. Additional editing by Alana Nisbett.

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