Wearable Cameras Proliferate

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 26, 2015

A recent Saturday Night Live skit did a takeoff on the GoPro (News - Alert) wearable camera, promoting the fictional GoProbe as a fun way to capture your colonoscopy. If you saw the SNL sketch and didn’t immediately recognize it as a parody, you probably weren’t alone, as cameras are now invading nearly every aspect of our lives. And the widespread available not only of camera-equipped smartphones but also of a new breed of wearable cameras is making the capture of both far-out adventures and our everyday lives easier than ever.

The rise of social media clearly illustrates our unbridled interest in naval gazing and sharing. And the potential for all of the above is expected to broaden and become even more personal as wearable cameras allow us to capture moments – like a player’s view of her soccer goal, a zipper’s zipline ride, or even a trip to the neighborhood park with the kid – that would otherwise be lost.

Whatever your view of the need for this kind of exercise, or to what extent you think such video will actually be usable or used, wearable cameras already have begun their ascent, and some of these devices are pretty darned cool.

Wearable cameras are a significant and growing part of the wearable computing market. In 2013, 6.64 million wearable cameras shipped worldwide. Last year that number was supposed to increase to 13.61 million. And this year it’s expected to reach 15.81 million.

Those selling wearable cameras including well-established consumer electronics companies like Casio (News - Alert) and Panasonic, well-known specialists like GoPro, and a wide array of newcomers.

Casio, for example, recently introduced the Exilim FR10 wrist-mounted camera. It is designed for use on the wrist, but can also be mounted onto a helmet, backpack or just about any other object. Listing for just under $500, the device features a detachable LCD screen unit and a lens unit that controls all of the camera functions.

The LCD screen and lens system has a combined total weight of only around 175 grams, or just over six ounces – around the same weight as a smartphone, as reported by TMCnet, the online entity of INTERNET TELEPHONY parent company TMC (News - Alert). The lens features a 14-megapixel sensor for displaying recorded images and video on the 2-inch LCD touchscreen display. Not only is the detachable lens equipped with Wi-Fi for connecting to computer and Internet sharing networks, but Bluetooth commands can also be used to control the camera. As an example, a user could place the camera on a tree and program it to take a picture when everyone says “cheese.”

This Casio solution has been described as GoPro for beginners.

GoPro, meanwhile, appears to remain focused on rather bulky wearables that promise high quality video and target the adventurous type. 

The company recently introduced HERO4, which it says is its most advanced solution to date. The $400 and $500 models offer a 4K30 frame rate, 2.7K50 and 1080p120 video, up to 30 fps, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

“Life is either an incredible journey or it’s nothing at all,” the GoPro website tells us as it begins to display a beautiful collection of images from around the world.

Other wearable cameras, meanwhile, are apparently targeting those of us who want to capture what most would consider more mundane pursuits, like a walk in the woods.

That includes Autographer, a $400 small black brick that hangs around the neck on a lanyard. MeCam, meanwhile, is a cute and colorful hands-free video camera that can clip on to a pocket and is useful for fitness training, taping your kids, and travel. The Narrative Clip, which looks like the second-generation iPod shuffle, offers a 5-megapixel camera that takes pictures every two minutes. It starts at $229, stores up to 4,000 pictures, and has a two-day battery life.

One of the most interesting wearable cameras being talked about is in the works at a company called Nixie, which was founded by Christoph Kohstall, a PhD in experimental physics and postdoctoral research at Stanford. Nixie has created a small wearable camera that the user wears on a wristband, but the straps unfold to create a quadcopter that flies, takes photos or video, and comes back to user when it’s done. It then syncs with a mobile device to upload its content. Even unfolded, the Nixie fits in palm of the hand.

Nixie in November won $500,000 as part of the Intel (News - Alert) Make It Wearable Challenge.

Of course, not all of the wearable camera companies have seen success. For example, a company called Looxcie says on its website that it is restructuring and will exit the consumer camera and accessories business and had discontinued support of these products as of end of December 2014. The company says it is shifting focus to enterprise, which it will target under the brand Vidcie.

The opportunity for wearable cameras in business and government environments appears to be rich as well, of course. For example, following the shooting of Michael Brown (News - Alert) in Ferguson, Mo., Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asked the Department of Justice to fund wearable cameras for local police departments.

Police in some cities, including London and Rialto, Calif., already use wearable cameras.

Edited by Maurice Nagle