Smartphone selfies come in a very limited variety of flavors: the arms-length shots that make your head look distended and blurry mirror pics. There are several self-timer apps out there, but it’s still difficult to snap natural-looking self-portraits or spontaneous group photos, especially if you are also trying to wrangle small children and pets. Now on Kickstarter, Shuttr is a tiny Bluetooth remote shutter release for iOS and Android devices created by Hong Kong-based Muku Labs to give smartphone photographers more control. It’s already met its funding goal, but the remote control, which starts shipping in fall, is still available for pledges starting from $29.
Shuttr was created by Hong Kong engineer Kevin Leung. When Leung was a small child, his family couldn’t afford a camera and as a result he has no family photos taken before he was a toddler. Leung’s mother died when he was a teenager, which makes him even more determined to capture as many snapshots of his wife and young daughter as possible.
Leung was frustrated when he couldn’t find a smartphone remote shutter release that he liked. Talking to his friends made him realize that there were plenty of other people who want to take better group shots and selfies.
“I quit my job to build the remote shutter that I believed was missing in the market,” Leung told me by email. The Oxford MBA graduate teamed up with electronic engineer Sea Zheng, industrial designer Boge Chen, production engineer Tom Zhao and logistic expert Scott Moore, and spent a year developing Muku Shuttr.
At 6-mm thickness, Shuttr is small enough to hide in your hand while posing for photos and can be stored on a keychain. The remote’s range is around 30 feet and no line of sight is needed, which means you can use Shuttr while it’s in your pocket.
Shuttr differentiates itself from competing products by manufacturers such as Belkin and Satechi in several ways. It’s smaller, less expensive and usually doesn’t need an app to pair with smartphones (though a Shuttr app is available for older versions of iOS or certain Android devices such as the new HTC One). The remote control is compatible with all iOS devices, Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, Note 2 and Tab 10.1, LG Nexus 4 and many other Android 4.1+ devices with Bluetooth 3.0+. It also works with iOS apps Camera+ and 645 Pro so you can bypass the iPhone’s built-in camera.
“We did a lot of trial and error in testing almost all Bluetooth chipsets available to find the most compatible one, and fine-tune those firmware to maximize the compatibility and stability,” says Leung. “Shuttr is so rigorously tested in our approved modes we are confident that we can launch.”
Shuttr is the first product developed by Muku Labs, which Leung says will continue to create items that enhance the process of taking smartphone photos. The team is currently planning a line of snap-on lenses.
“We know that there are already lots of them in the market,” says Leung. “But we know that we can beat them by quality.”