Love taking pictures yet never succeed to get your phone out in time? This could be a game changer
They say that the best camera is the one that you have on you. Mobile phones have significantly altered the way that we take photos, create memories, and tell the world — whether they care or not — what we eat. With cameras in our phones that far surpass the point and shoots, now everyone can have a mid-level movie production studio in their pocket.
Hoping to do one better, the folks at Jerusalem-based startup Glide have set their sights on the smartwatch as the next generation, giving users a faster way to capture photos and video.
Last week they announced CMRA, a new wristband for the Apple Watch that comes with two cameras and a microphone for grabbing those quick shots.
For those not familiar with the company, they have specialized in video chat messaging, allowing users to send each other short video messages, offering a more personal way to chat.
“We believe that when you want to connect with another person, the best way to do that is face to face,” Glide Co-Founder and COO Jonathan Caras tells Geektime, explaining how this new venture is complimentary with their app.
“You’ll be able to video chat and take stills, or show people what you’re up to via FB live, but straight from your wrist,” he says, noting that it takes only a half second to open it up to take the photo and then another half second to share it.
The band is slated to weigh in at 35 grams, not adding too much extra bulk, but Caras says that they are still working out the design and material type, so this could change but not likely by much.
One of the challenges that they worked to solve was not killing battery or bandwidth with their communication. By their estimation, users should get 100 photos or 30 minutes of video per charge, giving them plenty of power to snap freely throughout the day.
Taking into account people’s queasiness about the idea of being filmed without their knowledge, the Glide team made sure to add an LED light to the band that turns on when the camera is in use. Caras adds that the way that the user has to use their second hand to activate and aim the camera should help cut down on covert filming.
The wearables revolution
At first glance, the fact that an app-based startup has thrown itself into the hardware ring stands out as interesting. However, looking around at the startup scene, it would appear that there has been a jump in the number of smaller players getting into hardware. Just scroll through crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to get a sense for how broad the field has become. One of the sectors to benefit from this change is of course wearables.
“The barrier to getting into the wearable industry is as low as it’s ever been. It used to be with software where you would envision something, you could create it out of thin air,” says Caras, noting that, “Just 20 years ago, it would be impossible for a startup to create hardware.”
He explains that the cost of R&D has lowered with rapid prototyping, 3D printing, and companies like Raspberry Pi, allowing companies to design and test out their products on their own, making it far easier research, adding that, “The IoT movement has tried to democratize hardware development.” Caras believes that big corporates like Amazon and Microsoft interestingly enough have played an important role in fostering this new growth, creating tools and hosting conferences for learning new techniques.
“I think that we’re going to see more innovation on hardware as the ability to rapidly prototype becomes more available to the average hobbyist or student,” he tells Geektime, thinking about the future of hardware coming out of startups.
It is worth noting however that this pivot into hardware and on the watch specifically was not without its own growing pains. News came out in May that the company had let go 25% of their employees in order to facilitate their efforts on the smartwatch ecosystem. Caras expressed to Geektime that this was a painful move for them, losing members of their team, but understood that it was a necessary step in bringing them to the next step of their development, based on the resources needed for work on the new platform. “Throughout the history of Glide, we have strived to have the best team for the job at hand.”
Glide is not the only company to explore alternate ways of taking fast photos. In September, Snap Inc (formerly Snapchat) announced that they would be selling sunglasses with cameras for snagging that shot in time. Apparently enough time has passed since the failure of the Google Glass that tech firms are willing to give this another go.
Smartwatches: Are they the future?
As someone who keeps a somewhat consistent eye on trends in tech, this writer has been unsure of what to make of the smartwatch, both as it is now as well as how it will play out in the near future.
To start with, they are exceedingly expensive. The Apple Watch Series 2 42mm retails now for a whopping $400, with the Series 1 coming in at only $100 below that point. For their part, the Android Wear types also hover around the $300 mark, with some exceptions like the $159 Sony Smartwatch 3.
Putting the health tracking features aside, how are these devices supposed to help improve my life as a user?
Caras makes the point, somewhat convincingly to his credit, that these devices can probably replace half the functions of a smartphone, covering basic things like communication: You know, that thing we used to use our phones for.
“I recently just bought for my 8-year-old daughter a smartwatch with a SIM card. This will be her first cell phone,” he says, expressing his optimism that the next generation will rely more on smartwatches than phones.
Understandably, he agrees that the small screen of watches is limiting for certain activities like watching longer videos like full length movies or TV shows. But when it comes to communicating, either by audio or video, the watches win out.
“That type of behavior is superior on a watch that is always available as opposed to a phone that constantly needs to be retrieved and put away. This isn’t a new fantasy that almost 100 years ago comic book authors were dreaming about: Dick Tracy, Inspector Gadget, or even Star Trek, we’ve seen a similar idea.”
For now, smartwatches are still far out from reaching the mainstream, mostly based on their cost and limited functionality. Apple appears to be purposefully making the Watch a premium item with their price point.
Estimates put sales somewhere in the 15 million range, still fairly low in the consumer market.
However, we are seeing some movement. The watchOS 3 has received decent reviews thus far, making the Apple Watch a more tempting option. As the industry continues to improve, nearing a mass market roll out, expect the prices to come down to something more reasonable. Caras thinks that we may reach this point either next year or sometime in 2018.
Glide’s guiding principle can be summed up as “Making authentic communication incredibly accessible.” Starting with their app and now moving on to the Apple Watch, they are pushing for a more natural feeling face-to-face communication through video.
They have completed their internal builds on the band and plan on shipping to the public in the spring of 2017. For those early adopters interested in getting their hands on CMRA first, they can pick one up for an early bird price of $149 on the product’s page. Discounts are available for referrals to friends, with hopes of widening the circle of users, thus adding more value.