Kyoto Startup Digest 2018 – AtmophKyoto Startup Digest 2018 – Atmoph
Kyoto Startup Digest 2018 is documenting the Kyoto startup scene through a series of articles and videos by the following members of the KYOTO Design Lab and interns from the University of Texas.
The View of the World Through a Digital Window
You can easily redesign the interior of any space, but to change the view is nearly impossible. Or is it? Kyoto startup Atmoph is taking on this challenge head on and producing an impressive digital solution that changes the view from your window, literally. The idea of a digital window stems back to 2004 when co-founder and CEO, Kyohi Kang was sitting in his apartment room in Los Angeles. The limited view from his window caused by the building next door was creating a lot of stress. He tried to solve this problem by escaping into TV and VR, but he was still left with the same feeling of being trapped inside his room. Ten years later, along with partner and co-founder Kyohei Nakano, the two Nintendo software engineers founded Atmoph to create the world’s first smart digital window.
The Atmoph Window allows one to experience beautiful scenery and sound from around the world, as if you were actually there. Windows can deliver experiences that other digital devices simply can’t create. Rooms can be transported to exotic location as the window opens into stunning views that feel too real to be digital.
The Atmoph Window is a 27-inch, 32GB device with full HD display that comes in five frame color options. The screen is setback inside the frame providing a sense of depth, and the ivory woven fabric power cord seamlessly blends in, whether hanging on a wall or sitting atop a desk. Designed to imitate the natural feel of a window, the video and audio content is recorded in 4K with strict specifications for angle, composition, and horizon. Atmoph captures its own content as well as collaborating with videographers around the world. The decoration feature displays virtual window decorations inside the frame to enhance the feel of a window, and the panorama feature connects two or three windows to create an even bigger view. Retail price for the Atmoph Window is 699 USD with free shipping to the US and Canada.
Atmoph user interface is simple and easy to use. The dashboard displays all functions where one can select a view as well as display or hide the calendar, clock, and weather. The smart scheduling option automatically switches views based on the time of day so that users don’t have to fuss with manually changing views. On the window, hand gestures are used to control the dashboard which is enabled by the proximity sensor embedded inside the upper frame. Atmoph also sells a control button called Flic, which users can program to create shortcut actions (e.g. engaging sleep mode, changing the view, displaying the calendar, etc.). In addition, the free companion iOS/Android app can be used to access the dashboard and display options.
Atmoph Window is also compatible with IFTTT, a service that connects apps and devices to have them working together. This enables interactions such as automatically changing the view according to the current weather. Users can also use Amazon Alexa or Google Home to control the window.
Out of the box, the window comes ready to use with ten basic views. However, more than 500 views are available for purchase on the Atmoph view store at 5.99 USD each, providing scenes from the far corners of the world.
The small but hopeful company completed two successful crowdfunding campaigns in 2015, raising roughly 161,000 USD on Kickstarter and 6.8 million yen (~62,000 USD) on the Japanese platform Makuake. In July of 2016, Atmoph closed a series A round totalling 1 million USD from Energy & Environment Investment, a VC in Japan.
Today, 80% of the company’s users are from Japan, but as they continue marketing abroad, Atmoph aspires to become a more global company, both expanding its customer base and establishing collaborations with other industries. Whether to reminisce fond memories or excitedly plan future travels, Atmoph hopes their views can be enjoyed worldwide.
We spoke with CEO Kyohi Kang who gave us a demonstration of the device and shared the company’s future plans to grow.
What was the initial idea when you started the company?
Kyohi: The seed idea started more than 10 years ago when I was studying in the U.S. I was doing research and I was really stressed. One day, I noticed that the view from my window was very limited, all I could see was the building next door. I thought that could be one cause for my stress. I tried iPhone, tablet, a projector, and VR to see beaches etc., but none of them worked. It took time, years and years, but I planned a concept: if I could make the window itself, then maybe that could be a solution.
Is Atmoph collaborating with other industries?
Kyohi: One we are working with is the tourism industry like hotels, airline companies, and travel agencies. If you’re seeing the Eiffel Tower, maybe you would like to visit it someday. You’ll want to find a hotel with a good view of the tower so if we can provide travel information of a hotel with a nice, view then these can be related: window, travel, and hotel.
Are there any challenges you’ve faced?
Kyohi: We are categorized in hardware startups so manufacturing is always tough. Tough means making a great product itself is very difficult, especially because we didn’t have the background in manufacturing. Because we needed to do injection molding for production, the initial costs were high and we needed to raise funding from VCs or banks. These two things are tough: making a good product itself and raising funds.
How do you hope Atmoph will scale up?
Kyohi: Right now we are making a great product, trying to make production smoother, and increase the number of units sold. At the same time we are focusing on making a great platform and providing great services so that someday in the near future, when people think about landscape or window, we want them to think about Atmoph. To do that, we are trying to make a platform so that photographers, videographers, or tourists connect together and can sell their landscapes. Along with these products, we’re making those platforms so that we can grow as a company.
Kyohi: I was born and grew up in Tokyo but moved to Kyoto 5 years ago to work at Nintendo and met my co-founder there. When we were creating the company, we asked ourselves why not just start in Kyoto? Kyoto has beautiful places which are good for our filming. The Kansai area has a background in manufacturing so it’s easier to make a product and hardware. There’s a good hardware ecosystem here, so we decided to stay.
Check out Atmoph here