VideoRay of Pottstown acquires Blue Ring Imaging’s AI capabilities

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POTTSTOWN — VideoRay, the producer of the Mission Specialist Defender underwater robot, has acquired Blue Ring Imaging, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based innovator in 3D visualization, multi-view perception, and simulation for unmanned systems.

This is the first acquisition by VideoRay, which is based in Pottstown. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The acquisition was completed on Sept. 30, and VideoRay has begun to integrate Blue Ring technology hardware/software into its vehicles. The first new product will be a smart camera which the company will use as the main camera on its Mission Specialist underwater robot products, according to Chris Gibson, CEO of VideoRay.

“These technologies align perfectly with VideoRay’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of underwater operations with man-portable robots and fostering effective collaboration between humans and machines,” Gibson said. “VideoRay will use Blue Ring’s technology and expertise to transform the way operators interact with and control their unmanned vehicles.”

Blue Ring Imaging is known for its OctoView mixed reality software and OctoCAM multi-view, 360-degree camera. Integrating the technology is expected to improve situational awareness and object detection capabilities of VideoRay’s Defender.

The purchase of Blue Ring Imaging will drive the expansion of VideoRay’s capabilities, according to the company.

VideoRay will incorporate Blue Ring’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), 3D visualization and reconstruction, simulation, and man-machine teaming, allowing vehicles to conduct missions more autonomously and effectively. The advanced technology is expected to, in many cases, eliminate the need for experienced operators, while saving time and money, the company said.

VideoRay’s Mission Specialist robots are used around the world in demanding underwater missions to support national security, first responders, object search and recovery, infrastructure examination and science and research.

VideoRay’s Mission Specialist Defender robot was recently selected by the U.S. Navy for underwater mine detection and disposal.

VideoRay has delivered more than 4,000 vehicles worldwide, gaining “unmatched experience in the design and manufacture of subsea robots,” according to a press release.

In an emailed response to questions, Gibson said VideoRay operators currently work by looking at a display and controlling the robot over a low latency, high bandwidth connection.

“As our technology advances and the compute platform is put on the submersible it reduces the need for the low latency, high bandwidth connection. Additionally, we envision operators experiencing what the robot senses as if they were the robot,” he said.

He added that the future of man-machine teaming involves moving from PCs and tablet displays to headsets, which allow an operator to keep their head up and maintain situational awareness while keeping a smaller footprint of hardware and gear on the boat/ship. Headsets also provide 3D information that isn’t available on PCs/tablets/phones, giving operators a “feeling of embodiment where they can see exactly what the robot is seeing and how they are seeing it.”

Gibson added that while Blue Ring and VideoRay have several similar customers, he expects the acquisition of Blue Ring Imaging to open new markets for VideoRay.

Some of Blue Ring Imaging’s staff of five employees and several consultants will relocate to Pottstown while others will stay in St. Petersburg, according to Gibson. They are working out of VideoRay’s new office at the Defense and Innovation Hub, which opened in January 2022. Blue Ring Imaging has had an office there since the Innovation Hub opened.

“Under VideoRay, we not only have the chance to provide a best-in-class operator experience for VideoRay’s existing ocean robotics customers, but we can also expand our offerings to benefit other unmanned systems,” Casey Sapp, former Blue Ring CEO and now VideoRay’s vice president, strategy and emerging technology, said in a statement.

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