WE ARE LEADERS WITH OPTICAL DESIGN AND INTEGRATION,
REAL-TIME ELECTRONICS AND SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT.
We recognize the true nature of our client’s needs and challenges, so we adapt quickly and are able to provide them with the best possible solution, even in the most demanding budgets and deadlines. Contrast, founded in Albuquerque, NM in 2005, is an optical design and engineering company focused on creating leading-edge, system-level solutions for a variety of partners in commercial, consumer and military markets. We have spent over a decade pioneering and developing custom cameras, optical systems and real-time image processing for clients all over the world.
Our whole-system, integrated approach recognizes all interactive systems and components, including cross-over of mechanical, optical, electrical and control systems, to provide a total working solution. Some of our core capabilities include hardware implementation, optical design and imaging system analysis, image processing research, algorithm development, electronics prototyping for manufacturability and optical system design and integration.
WHO DO WE WORK FOR?
Mike Tocci, Phd
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Nora Tocci is President and co-founder of Contrast. Along with her B.S. in Optical Science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Nora has more than 25 years of experience in optical system design, assembly, and testing; including beam control and pointing systems, alignment of diagnostics, multispectral imaging sensors, optical metrology, medical imaging devices and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy. She is co-author of 27 issued and pending U.S. patents for optical devices and systems. As President, Nora oversees all aspects of technology development at Contrast, managing budgets, marketing strategies and customer relations.
CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER
Dr. Mike Tocci is Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Contrast. He received his B.S. in Optics from the University of Rochester and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He is a Research Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico Electrical & Computer Engineering Department, and holds more than 25 years of experience in optical design, research, teaching, and engineering, including over 15 years working with OpticStudio 16.5 Optical Design software. Mike is author of 38 issued and pending, U.S. and international patents for optical devices.
Chris Kiser, Phd
REAL-TIME SYSTEMS LEAD
Dr. Chris Kiser is Senior Engineer at Contrast. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Las Vegas, where he paid his way through college by performing as a guitarist in a lounge band. Chris received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico for his real-time HDR Video work, and his 20+ years of industry experience includes managing aerospace programs, working with industrial marking lasers, tracking, image processing and designing and developing defense systems. He is author of 27 issued and pending patents for aerospace engineering and optical systems.
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." -Aristotle
Our thoughts exactly. Contrast is made up of truly talented and dedicated people from all walks of life. Our unique team of optical scientists, physicists, and electrical engineers are passionate problem solvers. We’re taking steps to evolve our industry and by association, help other industries advance and thrive as well.
THOUGHTS AND NEWS
The Private Sector’s Responsibility to Educational Outreach and Mentorship
City Alive - Nov. 19, 2019
Nora Tocci of Contrast, Inc. talks about her company’s investment in the future of Albuquerque.
We’ve all heard about the dreaded “brain drain” that haunts Albuquerque: young people tend to get their degrees in-state, then leave for cities with (supposedly) more and better job opportunities. This perception hurts the economy by both convincing young professionals that there’s no work for them here, and by convincing companies and recruiters that all those young professionals are already gone. It’s a vicious cycle.
But Nora Tocci knows that those professionals are here.
Nora and her husband, Mike Tocci, founded the tech company Contrast, Inc. in Albuquerque in 2005. They started the company with their patented high dynamic range (HDR) video camera—the first of its kind—and have since created dozens of custom hardware and software imaging systems for industrial, commercial, military and consumer sectors. This year they were voted one of Albuquerque Business First’s 2019 Fastest Growing Companies, and won their fourth Flying 40 Award, a recognition for tech companies in New Mexico that are contributing to the state’s economy and growing their profits. From the very beginning they’ve kept the company locally based, intentionally small and have focused on hiring only the best talent they can find.
They’ve found that talent in Albuquerque.
In 2012 they hired Chris Kiser, an Albuquerque native who earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico for his real-time HDR video work. Kiser is now the Senior Engineer at Contrast, with 20+ years of industry experience and a couple dozen patents for aerospace engineering and optical designs to his name.
But finding talent like Chris’ in Albuquerque doesn’t happen every day, which is why Nora feels a responsibility to contribute to education and workforce development in Albuquerque in the ways that she can. Contrast helps to grow talent locally by hosting science experiments with young children, offering internships and directly supporting STEM programs in schools. Their outreach efforts demonstrate the profound ability that the private sector has to influence the future of our city.
Contrast regularly hires interns at high school and college levels—they recently had a high school student spend a week in the offices to shadow and learn about the daily operations at the company. “Mentorship is something I think a lot more companies should try to do,” Nora says. “It can be difficult, but I think there are rewards that come back. I hear a lot of complaints from other companies that they can't find people, and there's nobody here in Albuquerque and all these kinds of things… [but they’re] sort of starting at the wrong place. You need somebody who's [working in science and tech] but you haven't actually helped to foster that at a low level here.” She hopes to create a more formal internship program in the coming years.
Mentorship at high school and college levels helps young people learn more about their potential career paths, and whether or not they want to go in a certain direction. Of the students she’s mentored at Contrast, Nora says, “Some of them may go into engineering, and some of them may realize that it’s not for them. And that’s ok. I mentored a young guy at Boeing who wanted to be a mechanical engineer… and when he was done and he was like, ‘Yeah, I don't like this at all.’ It wasn’t anything personal; the work just wasn’t for him.” But that student then went on to get his master's as a certified public accountant and then work for a Fortune 500 company. “He just moved back to Albuquerque,” Nora says.
At Contrast, partnering with Escuela del Sol and Harwood Art Center is another part of their continuous workforce development efforts. Each year, Nora, Mike and several employees from Contrast volunteer to create a science project for the junior high students at Escuela. One year they helped the students build a room-sized pinhole camera. Another year they lead a workshop series all about drones. “When kids are learning, if you can't give them something tangible that they can touch or give them a great reason why making triangles is useful, then they're not going to want to learn it,” says Nora. By working on scientific projects from start to finish, kids learn that science and tech aren’t as daunting or unapproachable as they might seem.
Nora and Mike also recognize that the education offered at Escuela del Sol—which is a private Montessori school—isn’t accessible to everyone. Which is why they contribute to Escuela’s tuition assistance program. This is a practice that Nora encourages other companies to think about, as well. “There’s a lot of people here who want [STEM] education but can’t pay for it. So maybe make certain outreach programs that sponsor a scholarship for that. And the winner of that scholarship gets an internship with you. You know, these are not new ideas.”
Of course, working with Escuela isn’t a totally selfless act—Nora and Mike’s daughter Francesca is in elementary school there. But it does go to show that investing in the community now helps to ensure a better future for Albuquerque (and, by extension, for Francesca).
Nora sees Contrast’s combination of mentorship and education outreach to encourage talent development in Albuquerque as a part of her responsibility to her adopted home. This shouldn’t be thought of charitable giving but as paying it forward—by investing in their community, companies are investing in their own futures, too. Education outreach is an easy, immediate way for companies to get involved, Nora says. “Other leaders of other companies, they all have employees and their employees have kids, and their kids go to school somewhere. They already have a connection to the community. So foster it somehow.”
Click here to view the City Alive article.
Here are New Mexico's Fastest Growing Companies of 2019
Albuquerque Business First - Juliana Vadnais - Sept. 12, 2019
The numbers have been crunched and the winners are in. This year's Fastest Growing Companies all grew by double digits and the winner broke the four-digit barrier.
From health care companies to construction companies to breweries, these fastest growing companies represent a diverse group of industries in the state.
This year we are honoring 35 companies that are defying the odds. For the first time, we recognize honorees this year in three categories based on revenue size: a small, medium and large. See Albuquerque Business First's 2019 Fastest Growing Companies winners, grouped by category, in the accompanying slideshow.
To qualify, applicants must have a large percentage annual revenue growth over a three-year period, 2016-2018. They must also be privately held, for-profit companies (including wholly owned subsidiaries) and be locally owned and based in New Mexico. Nominated companies were contacted by ABF's Fastest Growing Companies accounting partner, REDW, to verify financial information and provide accurate calculations of each company's overall growth.
The Top 100 private companies in New Mexico had $7.9 billion in 2018 revenue, according to Albuquerque Business First's Private Companies List.
Fastest Growing Companies is sponsored by REDW, Enterprise Bank & Trust and the city of Albuquerque. Event partners are Heritage Audio Visual, Bryan's Photography LLC and The Recognition Place.
Click here to view the 2019 Fastest Growing Companies winners.
Contrast, Inc. Receives its Fourth Flying 40 Award
June 19, 2019
The Land of Enchantment has a unique and diverse business landscape that is less well known for its high tech, innovative companies. The Flying 40 Awards began in 1998 to help change this perception, recognizing the achievements of New Mexico’s top-performing technology companies while also celebrating their contributions to the state’s economy. Contrast, Inc. is proud to be named one of New Mexico’s leading technology firms by the Flying 40 program for the fourth time.
While positioned third in the Top 10 Revenue for Companies $1 Million to $10 Million, Contrast has been consistently raking in high profits with a small but impressive team. Flying 40 recipients are selected based on a broad study of metrics, such as revenue, team growth and overall financial performance. Even with their high profit margin in 2014, Contrast’s revenue increased by a notable 166 percent in 2018. And with only eight full-time employees, Contrast is the smallest company to climb the ranks in this category.
Who is Contrast and what scientific and technical knowledge do they possess to evolve the tech industry? In short, Contrast is an optical design and engineering company focused on creating leading-edge, system-level solutions for a variety of partners in commercial, consumer and military markets. Founded in 2005, they have spent over a decade pioneering and developing custom cameras, optical systems and real-time image processing for clients all over the world.
“Many people are unaware of the technological advances that are being developed right here in New Mexico,” says Nora Tocci, Contrast’s president and CEO. She continues, “Our varied expertise allows us to work on a wide scope of projects; from real-time High Dynamic Range (HDR) camera systems, complex image processing, to innovative lens designs and much more.”
Beyond design and engineering services, Contrast is in the process of launching their 4K smart camera line, adding a manufacturing notch to their growing tool belt.
“Our VIA 1-sensor camera fits in the palm of your hand and is a powerful FPGA–based development platform. The VIA eliminates the need for frame grabbers and external hardware, and allows users to tailor the system to suit their image processing needs. We’re currently in production so the VIA model will be in stock and available to the public very soon,” explains Tocci.
On the heels of the VIA is Contrast’s patented 2-sensor camera system, the ARC, which provides real-time HDR video that expands contrast ratios and deepens color palettes. Capturing up to 13 stops of dynamic range, the ARC will stream live, HDR video that can be used to enhance all imaging applications. A three-sensor version, called the LUX, will be equipped with the same patented HDR technology as the ARC but will capture nearly 18 stops of dynamic range on demand. You can learn more about Contrast’s cameras and pre-orders at their website.
“We’re honored to be a part of the Flying 40 program and be among others in our industry that share a common vision for New Mexico’s future,” concludes Tocci.