The Point-and-Shoot RebornIssue 04-10-17 |
When Rajiv Laroia and Dave Grannan cofounded Light, the first product they came up with was the L16, a standalone camera compact enough to carry around. Their next challenge was to identify an example of a traditional product that was completely revolutionized and apply that to their design concept. That's where Fred Bould came in. His work on the Nest thermostat, the groundbreaking energy-saving smart home device, won raves from designers and users alike, as well as an award from the Industrial Designers Society of America.
Bould earned a master's degree in product engineering from Stanford, but his true interest was in applying that knowledge to the design world. His 10-person Silicon Valley company has become a go-to for entrepreneurs who dream of reinventing entire product categories. When the Light team approached him in 2014, Bould recalls, they "more or less came to us with a box of parts." The only mandate: The device had to be pocket-size. "Today there are 1.5 billion people who have smartphones, and every one of them considers him- or herself a photographer," Grannan says. But a phone camera's technical limitations make it unsatisfying for a serious photographer. Laroia and Grannan hoped to fill the void with the L16.
As with any boundary-breaking product, the L16 went through a number of design iterations. Trying to find someone to manufacture it was the next hurdle, as many top factories only take orders in the millions of units from established giants. Chinese megafactory Foxconn Technology Co. eventually agreed to handle final assembly, part of an arrangement that included a small investment in Light and an agreement to license a subset of the L16's technology for use in smartphones. The preordered L16s will finally start shipping this month. But the camera's design is still a work in progress—Bould will have to see what works and keep tinkering from there.