Be Here or be square

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Age: 48.
Title: Founder, chairman and chief technology officer, Be Here.
Founded: 1996.
Located in: Cupertino, Calif.
Employees: 32.
Investors: Intel, Phillips, Kodak, Enterprise Partners, Wasserstein Adelson Ventures.
Ted Driscoll has had big ideas all his life, but he says Be Here, the 360-degree imaging company he founded in 1996, is his biggest yet.
Be Here’s bowl-shaped lenses, designed for full-motion video capture, record 360 degrees of image around the camera and up to a 45-degree angle up or down from the instrument’s horizontal line of sight. Because the camera captures almost all possible sight lines at the same time, Be Here’s system can allow multiple Internet users to choose different views of the same panoramic footage simultaneously.
Said Mr. Driscoll, practically breathless with enthusiasm: “Our cameras see everything. They’ll let you be where you want to be and see whatever you want to see. If you’d like to be in a front-row seat at Mick Jagger’s next concert or right next to the space shuttle when it takes off, we can put our capture devices in any of those places, and you can virtually pop your head up from a hole like a magic periscope and look around in every direction and see everything.” Since its inception, Be Here has cut deals with a number of big names in the television industry, ranging from Fox Sports Networks to comedian Ellen DeGeneres. “There are so many applications that we can’t keep the list short enough. It is impossible to focus,” said Mr. Driscoll. The company is putting cameras on NASCAR race cars and on the NHL’s center ice. “I’m not a big TV watcher,” Mr. Driscoll said, “but I’ve been watching a lot lately, so I can see where they’ve put our cameras.”
Mr. Driscoll has spent his whole career working with images. As an undergraduate, he studied architecture at Harvard University-not because he wanted to be an architect but because in the early 1970s Harvard was the only school where he could study computer graphics; it was a time when computers were so big they filled whole rooms.
In 1978, he started his first company, a venture that used satellite imaging to find oil. The first satellite had only been up a year, but Mr. Driscoll, who was the company’s software guru, saw the possibilities. Ultimately, he sold out to a semiconductor company and went to study computer engineering at Stanford University, where he earned a Ph.D.
The second company Mr. Driscoll founded, Identix Corp., does fingerprint imaging. It’s primarily a security firm, and Mr. Driscoll got out of that business when the company went public. He found it boring. “Security isn’t a technology leader; it’s a follower,” he said.
After that he became the chief technology officer of a health care company, Diosonics, which developed tools for magnetic resonance imaging. Ultimately, he ran the division that did noninvasive, image-guided surgery.
But even that ultimately left him feeling unchallenged. So in the mid-1990s, he quit and went to work in his garage, developing the idea he had for Be Here.
At 48, Mr. Driscoll is married and has a son who is studying computer science at Stanford University and a daughter who’s in high school.
Mr. Driscoll remains chairman and chief technology officer of Be Here, but he has turned over the title of CEO to Andrew Thau.
That gives him more time to be involved in local government in Portola Valley, Calif., where he’s a city council member and a former mayor. He also has more time to do the kind of technology work he loves.
If you’re a “Star Trek” fan, you’ll know what Mr. Driscoll means when he says he believes his Be Here imaging system offers something like the imaginary experience found on the holodeck (a recreational area of the fictional star ship where players can create simulated worlds that look and feel just like the real thing.)
“Someday, we will live in virtual reality,” he said. “This is a step in that direction.”