I’ve been a fan of CoolIris’s work since they started over two years ago. I ran across them because their first product was the eponymous browser extension that let you view live, in-context previews of web pages by hovering over the links on certain pages. This was in the same area as my GoogleHotKeys and SearchMash projects, where I was trying to find a better interface to search results than the standard text listing.
Since then they’ve kept innovating and experimenting with new approaches to interacting with web content, and PicLens has been a break-out success. It’s also a browser extension, but gives you a full-screen interface to a lot of popular image-based sites like Flickr, YouTube. The images or movies are shown in an infinite 3D wall that you use a gesture-like interface to fly up and down, and zoom into. Initially what draws you in is the gorgeous rendering, with subtle but classy effects like the reflections, and smooth animation and transitions. What keeps you using it is the interface, it’s like the next generation of channel surfing. After using it for a while, going back to the traditional model of a static page with embedded 2D images or movies feels very awkward and slow.
This week I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours with the CoolIris team, who I’d never met before. They were a lovely bunch of people, and had an inspiring story. The initial team spent two years self-funding all of their work, running up big credit card bills and working without a salary. Recently they closed a Series A together with Kleiner Perkins and now they’re running full steam ahead on some very interesting developments that I could tell you about, but then I’d have to kill you.
They’re on the lookout for good engineers, particularly people with experience of writing 3D engines for games or similar graphics applications, and anyone who’s been thinking about really innovative interfaces. Contact kathy at cooliris dot com if you’re interested in talking to them about this.