Technologies That Support RICOH360 Described by Engineers

Vol. 4 — “Try First,” a Positive Mindset to Keep Taking Challenges

 This series will introduce technologies supporting RICOH360 through interviews with engineers involved in developing them in different fields over four articles.

 The final issue is about the development of the 360-degree camera RICOH THETA*1. Mr. Ando joined Ricoh as an engineer in 2020 after working for a software company. He says that he learned the fun of manufacturing while applying himself to the development of THETA. We asked him about its appeal as well as his personal history and experiences.

*1 “RICOH THETA” is the name of a series of world first*2 spherical digital camera developed by Ricoh.

*2 For consumer use as of 2013

What He Learned from the Field

 “In my former job, I was involved in voice processing engines, video phone control, etc. Then, I was involved in the development of Windows PC apps for reagent evaluation, lighting control for buildings, etc. for approximately five years. After that, I participated in the development of THETA S that the company was entrusted with and had an opportunity to visit a factory in Shenzhen, China a month later.”

 It was an unexpected business trip abroad and the experience there made him feel more strongly about development.

Isao Ando


Joined Ricoh in 2020 after being involved with the development of voice processing engines for cell phones, development of PC native apps, CMOS sensor evaluation, etc.

Currently involved in the development of software for RICOH THETA.

His hobby is driving. On his days off, he enjoys day trips with his family.

 “When I visited the factory for the first time, I was inspired in many ways while I ate with people working there and listened to them talking frankly. In development processes, electrical, mechanical, and software engineers create products with a sense of responsibility and pride. When I saw them repeating trial and error when making a final push for higher image quality and lens adjustment day after day to create finer details, I felt that ‘I want to work in this environment too.’

 I continued to work for the development of THETA until 2019. Then, I became involved in evaluation of CMOS sensors for a different company. However, I could not forget about the experience with THETA and took an opportunity to join Ricoh in the following year.”

 Thinking back when he saw THETA for the first time, he says that his first impression of THETA was only “it looks interesting.” However, while he looked at the processes of assembling cameras, making adjustments using software, and finishing products in the manufacturing site, he felt the “fun of manufacturing.” His desire to “work for a manufacturer that produces its own products” started to grow around this time.

Expanding Potential

 Ever since he joined Ricoh, he has only been involved in the development of THETA. Mr. Ando says a benefit of 360-degree images is that “the entire view is captured even when the photographer is not aware of that.”

 “When using an ordinary camera, you decide what to capture and determine the angle of view. A wonderful feature that THETA has is that the view expands from it and views you are not even aware of are also captured. It can comprehensively record images as information. I would like to expand this potential.”

 Strong points of THETA are high quality still images as well as abundant APIs*3 and plug-ins. THETA V THETA Z1, and THETA X use Android OS and are equipped with a system to add or expand functions with plug-ins at a later date. Furthermore, as both the APIs and SDK*4 are open to the public, engineers can freely develop functions. Anyone can easily install them from the website for developers.

*3 Application Programming Interface: Specification of the interface used when software components interact and exchange information with each other

*4 Software Development Kit: Development kit used to implement functions in app development

 “I have tried to create a plug-in by myself. I thought it would be convenient if I can release the shutter using my voice without operating a smartphone. Unfortunately, I could not complete it as I became busier with my work...”

 The APIs and SDK seem to be well-received by people who feel potential and try something like Mr. Ando. On the other hand, their benefits are hard to spread among people who use THETA simply for their job. Mr. Ando is now thinking about strengthening the development of functions that can be easily used according to the purpose of use.

 He also says that a strong effort must be made on videos and live streaming in addition to the strength in still images. He is willing to adopt a new perspective without being satisfied with the current state, aiming to create a product that is easier to use.

 Although he currently finds customers’ voices from SNSs, he used to listen to customers’ requests in person with sales personnel at his former workplace. He used to create simplified prototypes reflecting what he had heard, have discussions, and make improvements continuously.

 He says that the processes of app development and product development are different. App development is an agile type process where improvements are made continuously. Processes are light-footed and corrections can be made even after release. On the other hand, product development is a waterfall type process where specifications are firmly determined at the beginning and then processes follow.

“There is a feeling of tension as it is difficult to make small changes and quality must be assured at a time. Even in this situation, we proactively update the firmware of THETA to improve the products. The team is highly motivated and I feel that we are doing our best.”

Work on Unknown Things Positively

 Mr. Ando mentioned the word “challenge” to describe how he tackles development. He says that he always tries to maintain the attitude to jump into anything.

“I believe that there are many unknown things when we start something. Even in such situations, I tell myself to ‘try first and see.’ Even when I am requested to do something difficult, I try to take it positively, thinking that the person is placing their expectation in me. Once I start, something interesting may occur. I provide some results first. And if something hits them in their mind, I proceed using the point as a breakthrough.

 Basically, I cannot say no personality-wise and I want to accept requests as much as possible. I believe that I will regret after a while if I narrow my own world. Therefore, I would rather try first, and if I fail, apologize saying ‘Sorry for causing trouble.’”

 We cannot learn anything without doing something by ourselves and succeeding or failing repeatedly after all. Therefore, we should take action first. Mr. Ando says that his goal is to build his own values firmly so that he will be able to lead the development process in the future.

“I would like to become someone who is named to do a job in several years. I believe that I will be able to proceed to the next step after such trusting relationships are built. To achieve this, I will complete each individual piece of work steadily while also extending what I do for things that interest me.

 The ‘person’ is also important in software development. Although skills can be learned later if you work hard, changing someone’s mind is difficult once it is set. Though, there are no people who are hard to deal with at Ricoh (laugh). Everyone is, how shall I say, good natured and respectable as humans. I appreciate such human relationships in the company and I would like to engage with a wider range of people.”

 His powerful message is backed by the experiences he has obtained so far. He has a strong wish that THETA will become something familiar to more people in the future. THETA will be present as a camera that is so natural that people are not even conscious about it in a good way. To achieve this dream, he will not only expand the possibilities of THETA but also improve its operability and usability even further to search pathways to “stay close to customers in better ways.”