iPhone App Developed by ECE Alums Takes Off


September 22, 2009

Snapture, a new iPhone app that went on sale September 21 at Apple's AppStore, is designed to change the way people take pictures on their iPhone -- and it was developed by three recent ECE graduates.

Snapture Labs, founded by ECE alums Bowei Gai, Samir Shah, and Ajay Panagariya, and Occipital, a TechStars-funded startup that develops state-of-the-art computer vision in mobile applications, brought the technology to market after a nearly two-year effort.

Within the first 48 hours, according to the team, they made it as high as number 16 in sales. The Apple store has a total of about 85,000 apps.

Snapture's patent-pending Picture-in-Picture technology allows users to view, delete and email photos directly from the viewfinder -- without ever having to enter camera roll. "It doesn't make sense that you should have to enter the camera roll just to view and remove recent pictures," said Jeff Powers, Co-Founder of Occipital, "Snapture's Picture-in-Picture system displays recent pictures as thumbnails directly on the viewfinder, and allows you to view, save, delete or email with a swipe of a finger."

Snapture's patent-pending zoom is an industry first that utilizes Pinch&Pan multi-touch technology, and allows users to zoom up to 5X for that perfect framed shot.

Snapture aggregates all of the other camera features that are currently present in various other camera apps, including: High-Speed Multi-Shot (x3), tap anywhere to take a picture, multiple image sizes, Level Aid, and a fully comprehensive help system. The app is also available in 12 languages.

"We have been developing and improving on Snapture's technology for about a year," commented Snapture Labs CEO Bowei Gai. "We truly believe that Snapture will become the default camera application for our users going forward."

Created at CMU when the inventors were still students, the first version of Snapture was released in April 2008 as a free application. The iPhone at the time had a minimalist photo app. Within one month, Snapture had approximately 300,000 downloads from users in 143 countries.

The team then decided to commercialize the application and created Snapture Premium which was released on Cydia in August 2008 at a price of $7.99. Eight version releases later, Snapture has had 3.4 million downloads.

Originally, the Snapture Labs team could not release their application for the AppStore because the camera interfaces provided by Apple did not allow for customization of the camera. In time, those obstacles were removed and in Summer 2009 the Snapture team paired up with Occipital and began working on completely redeveloping the app.

"We saw a sustainable path to a future in the AppStore domain," said Ajay Panagariya. "Partnering with Occipital made sense because of their expertise in mobile visual search." Occipital, which was funded by seed-stage incubator TechStars in 2008, is known for developing RedLaser, the first realtime mobile barcode scanner that does not require autofocus.

The 'new' Snapture was submitted to Apple on September 9, taking only 9 days to receive approval. It's available at the AppStore for only $1.99.

(From L to R) Bowei Gai, Samir Shah, and Ajay Panagariya