Happaning aims to be a ‘Google Street View’ for video

A new startup called Happaning wants to make video a more immersive experience by allowing people to watch the same event from multiple perspectives. Or, as co-founder and CEO Andrew Eniwumide likes to say, it’s “Google Street View, but with video.” The company believes its unique technology offering these multi-vantage point videos could ultimately do more than just introduce a new user experience for video — it could solve other issues with misinformation or deep fakes, for example, as there would be other, verified perspectives of the same scene that could be used to fact check any attempts at misleading others through video edits.

Some of its loftier goals in this area are further down the line, however.

Launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 as the “wildcard” in the Startup Battlefield, Happaning’s early beta version will first introduce its concept of multi-vintage videos, or what it’s trademarked as “ViiVid” technology. This is a system where users create video content using its mobile app which is then combined alongside videos filmed at that same location at the same time.

While the system is not using blockchain technology to verify the videos in any way, there are some similarities with that concept. Happaning borrows from the blockchain’s idea of a decentralized network where many sources are contributing to something like a master ledger. But in Happaning, no single node has all the same information as another — that is, one person’s video is unlike anyone else’s. Together, however, they display a fuller truth about what took place at a given place and time.

The company has patented some concepts related to its technologies involving synchronizing multiple video streams and the user experience of swiping through different video perspectives, locally in the U.K., where the team is based, and with the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The initial use cases for such technology would be recording real-world events like weddings, concerts, sports events, protests or marches, or any others where a larger crowd of people would attend. Once recorded in Happaning, you can then swipe from one video to the next to see the same event from other angles and perspectives by tapping on markers inside the video. Imagine, for example, being able to swipe from a video filmed in the back of the concert looking down on the stage to a video in the front row.

Eniwumide says he came up with the idea for Happaning to solve the issues around how video is being abused to mislead people. He notes that the issue is widespread across social media, pointing to a report that indicates Facebook posts from misinformation sources were getting 6 times more engagement than those from reputable news sites.

“As time has moved on, storytelling media has become more and more sophisticated to the point where now we’ve got 360 videos. But we’re also seeing with videos, is the fact that they’re subject to abuse, they’re subject to careless editing, they’re subject to bias, and even deep fakes,” Eniwumide says. He imagined that an app that could verify video content hadn’t been altered and was really taking place where it claimed to be, could be useful.

“We like to think of it like Google Street View, but with video,” Eniwumide continues. “So you could be recording a video and somebody else is recording in the local area, and we synchronize those video feeds by time, location, and audio and visual cues.”

Then someone watching could swipe in the direction they want to move in, similar to how Google Street View lets you move in different directions to see things from other angles and vantage points.

At launch, the focus is on live-streamed videos, but further down the road, the startup wants to develop its IP into more of a technology standard and offer ways for the videos to be exported and published elsewhere. The debut version of Happaning is very much an MVP and technology demo — the overall user interface and experience doesn’t look or feel fully developed at this point. But the app is free to use, with longer-term plans for subscription tiers, presuming it gains traction.

Eniwumide’s background includes over 12 years of experience as both a software developer and principal consultant at U.K. engineering firms including Detica and BAE Systems. He’s joined by CFO Leslie Sagay, CMO Joanna Steele, CTO Colin Agbabiaka, and AJ Adesanya, who works on infrastructure. Most of the team, however, is not full-time with the startup at this point.

Happaning has raised a total of £219,500 in pre-seed funding at a £3 million pre-money valuation, and is aiming to raise a £500,000 seed at a £4.5 million pre-money valuation.


YouTube VR finally lands on the Oculus Go

Today, Google’s YouTube VR app arrives on the $199 Oculus Go, bringing the largest library of VR content on the web to Facebook’s entry-level VR device.

YouTube brings plenty of content in conventional and more immersive video types. It’s undoubtedly the biggest single hub of 360 content and native formats like VR180, though offering access to the library at large is probably far more important to the Oculus platform.

One of the interesting things about Oculus’s strategy with the Go headset is that gaming turned out to be the minority use case following media consumption. If you find it hard to believe that so many people are out there binging on 360 videos it’s because they probably aren’t. Users have kind of co-opted the device’s capabilities to make it a conventional movie and TV viewing device, there are apps from Netflix and Hulu while Facebook has also built Oculus TV, a feature that’s still in its infancy but basically offers an Apple TV-like environment for watching a lot of 2D content in a social environment.

At the company’s Oculus Connect conference this past year CTO John Carmack remarked how about 70 percent of time spent by users on the Go has been watching videos with about 30 percent of user time has gone to gaming. Oculus has positioned itself as a gaming company in a lot of ways via its investments so it will be interesting to see how it grows its mobile platform to make the video aspect of its VR business more attractive.

With YouTube, the company has pretty easy access to effortlessly bringing a bunch of content onboard, this would have been a great partner for Oculus TV, but a dedicated app brings a lot to users. It wasn’t super clear whether Google was going to play hardball with the YouTube app and keep standalone access confined to its Daydream platform, as the company’s homegrown VR ambitions seem to have grown more subdued, it looks like they’ve had some time to focus on external platforms.

You can download the YouTube VR app here.

Rylo’s shoot first, frame later camera is ideal for casual adventure-seekers

Action cameras are a gadget that mostly cater to a person’s wish to see themselves in a certain way: Most people aren’t skiing off mountains or cliff diving most of the time, but they aspire to. The issue with most action cameras, though, is that even when you actually do something cool, you still have to shoot the right angle to capture the moment, which is itself a skill. That’s the beauty of Rylo, a tiny 360 camera that minimizes the skill required and makes it easy to get the shots you want.

Rylo is compact enough to have roughly the footprint of a GoPro, but with dual lenses for 4K, 360-degree video capture. It has a removable battery pack good for an hour of continuous video recording, and a micro USB port for charging. In the box, you’ll get either a micro USB to Lightning, or micro USB to micro USB and USB C cables, depending on whether you pick up the Android or the iOS version, and you handle all editing on the mobile device you already have with you always.

The device itself feels solid, and has stood up to a lot of travel and various conditions over the course of my usage. The anodized aluminum exterior can take some lumps, and the OLED screen on the device provides just enough info when you’re shooting, without overwhelming. There’s no viewfinder, but the point of the Rylo is that you don’t need one – it’s capturing a full 360-degree image all the time, and you position your shot after the fact in editing.

Rylo includes a 16GB microSD card in the box, too, but you can use up to 256GB versions for more storage. A single button on top controls both power functions and recording, and the simplicity is nice when you’re in the moment and just want to start shooting without worrying about settings.

The basic functionality of Rylo is more than most people will need out of a device like this: Using the app, you can select out an HD, flat frame of video to export, and easily trim the length plus make adjustments to picture, including basic edits like highlights, color and contrast. Rylo’s built-in stabilization keeps things surprisingly smooth, even when you’re driving very fast along a bumpy road with what amounts to nearly race-tuned tires and suspension.

Then, if you want to get really fancy, you can do things like add motion to your clips, including being able to make dead-simple smooth pans from one focus point to another. The end result looks like you’re using a gimbal or other stabilized film camera, but all the equipment you need is the Rylo itself, plus any mount, including the handle/tripod mount that comes in the box, or anything that works with a GoPro.

You can even set a specific follow point, allowing you to track a specific object or person throughout the clip. This works well, though sometimes it’ll lose track of the person or thing if there’s low light or the thing it’s following gets blocked. The app will let you know it’s lost its target, however, and in practice it works well enough to create good-looking videos for things like bicycling and riding ATVs, for instance.

Other companies are trying to do similar things with their own hardware, including GoPro with the Fusion and Insta360 with its Insta360 One. But Rylo’s solution has the advantage of being dead simple to use, with easily portable hardware that’s durable and compatible with existing GoPro mount accessories. The included micro USB to Lightning cable isn’t easily replaced, except for from Rylo itself, and it’s also small and easy to lose, so that’s my main complaint when it comes to the system as a whole.

In the end, the Rylo does what it’s designed to do: Takes the sting out of creating cool action clips and compelling short movies for people working mostly from their mobile devices. It’s not as flexible for pros looking for a way to integrate more interesting camera angles into their desktop workflow because of how tied content captured on the Rylo is to the Rylo app itself, but it seems clearly designed for a consumer enthusiast market anyway.

At $499, the Rylo isn’t all that much more expensive than the GoPro Hero 6. It’s still a significant investment, and the image quality isn’t up to the 4K video output by the GoPro, but for users who just want to make cool videos to share among friends using social tools, Rylo’s ease of use and incredibly low bar in terms of filming expertise required is hard to beat.