Mile High Roundup: Occipital Kicks Ass, HD Glasses, and New Energy

Welcome to the Mile High Roundup, a look at some of the interesting things that have happened over the past two weeks in the tech scene in Boulder, Denver, and around Colorado.

In this edition, Occipital clears a Kickstarter milestone, Pivothead joins Colorado’s startup scene, and Colorado State University gets serious about energy.

Occipital’s $1 million idea. The Structure Sensor looked like a cool idea since the day Occipital launched it in September. In a nutshell, it’s an infrared scanner that attaches to an iPad and creates three-dimensional images.

Well, sometime earlier today, the sensor officially became a million-dollar idea, at least according to Kickstarter. According to the site, 2,757 (and counting) backers have contributed to the project, and there are still 13 days to go.

According to a release from Occipital, the company wasn’t sure how Structure Sensor would be received. It was looking for $100,000.

“A month ago, we had no certainty if the project we had started nearly two years ago was going to plummet or soar. We were exceptionally nervous,” co-founder and CEO Jeff Powers said in the release. “Today’s milestone makes us feel both lucky and exceptionally encouraged by the response the Structure Sensor has received.”

If they really were worried, they certainly weren’t worried for long—Occipital met its goal within about three-and-a-half hours, and by the end of Day 2 it had raised $250,000.

The Structure Sensor was a big bet for the former Techstars company. Occipital had success with previous products, but they were software apps. The sensor was its first hardware product, and the company has serious ambitions for it.

“We’ve always wanted to make a huge impact in computer vision, and building this hardware lets us push forward faster and impact the rate at which the incredible technology from computer vision makes its way into everyday applications,” Powers said when the sensor made its debut.

According to Occipital, the Structure Sensor is only the 50th project on Kickstarter to clear $1 million.

New Digs, New POV. Colorado has another cool startup that’s working with advanced digital vision technology, and this technology you can wear.

Pivothead announced this week it is relocating to the Denver area. The company makes eyewear that records video in full high definition and snaps 8 megapixel still photos.

Pivothead’s glasses definitely look cooler—and more importantly, more rugged and comfortable—than Google Glass.

Pivothead launched in July 2012 and was based in New York City. In moving to Colorado, it not only trades skyscrapers for ski slopes, but it becomes one of the many startups that are part of the state’s thriving outdoor apparel and equipment industry.

“Colorado has a highly relevant and abundant talent pool, and that is the oxygen needed for fast-growing companies,” Pivothead founder and president Christopher Cox said in a release. “The state’s collective enthusiasm for startups, combined with the well educated workforce is helping to drive a new economy renaissance that is very attractive for tech companies such as Pivothead.”

According to the release, members of the leadership team already are working out of Colorado, and Pivothead has added employees. The release did not disclose the company’s headcount.

Pivothead’s cool products have received a lot of buzz among the media and gadget fans, but they also are proving valuable to professionals. Check out this recent New York Times multimedia package about jockey Russell Baze. Baze wore Pivothead glasses for in-race recording.

CSU’s new energy. Xconomy Boulder/Denver doesn’t get up to Fort Collins and Colorado State University as much as it should. The energy industry—both “old school” oil and gas and “new school” cleantech—also gets a little overlooked, despite being one of Colorado’s major economic engines.

But big things are happening in the industry and in northern and eastern Colorado, and CSU has been on the ball. This week it announced the creation of its new Energy Institute, a unified program that covers everything from advancements in photovoltaic technology to public policy to consumer behavior.

The Energy Institute is the latest energy research and development center or think tank to open in Colorado. The most famous is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is based in Golden.

While the cleantech industry has lost a little of its luster over the past few years, it remains a player in Colorado. Big players including Vestas, RES Americas, and juwi Wind (and its cousin juwi Solar) have factories, offices, or labs in the state as well.

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