It's been a long time coming, close to a year, but OMG Life's clippable, er, lanyard-able life-logging camera will be available to buy tomorrow. The Autographer launches in the UK (where the company's based) and most major European countries on July 30th, priced at a rather prohibitive £400 (we're still confirming a US dollar price, but a later launch has been promised) and pitching itself as "the world's first intelligent wearable camera." We'd position it as an addition to your smartphone and/or standalone camera, like Lytro or the incoming Memoto, for those that have the cash.
There's a curious appeal to it, helped by an attractive design that's predominantly plastic. We spent over three days wandering around, sometimes with it on a leather lanyard (included) around our neck, sometimes clipped to our belt or shirt pocket. For better or worse, it's a truly hands-off camera: there's really no way to frame or even time your captures. The Autographer itself chooses when to take a shot using its five sensors (monitoring changes in color, temperature, magnetometer, motion and acceleration), which means there's a hefty dose of luck involved in how your photos turn out. See whether Lady Luck was shining down on us (the sun certainly wasn't) and check out our sample images below and first impressions after the break.
Autographer sample shots
Aside from those five sensors and GPS functionality through your smartphone -- iPhone only at the moment, but an Android app is being finished off -- the camera itself can take 5-megapixel shots, with a dedicated glass hybrid wide-angle lens which captures a fixed-focus 136-degree view. Other technical specs include 8GB of storage, which will hold up to 28,000 images (which works out at over 12 days of capture on the highest frequency setting). There's also a medium and low frequency option, which you can switch between using the two-button setup on the right edge of the device. This is also how you enable Bluetooth syncing with your iPhone, which will spring up a notification window on the smartphone, propelling you into the dedicated app. The device charges through micro-USB but we had no issues with it running for severals days before the battery indicator dipped below half capacity.
From there, you'll find your photos will be split into dedicated chapters based on (from what we can tell) time and location. Tap on what appears to be the appropriate thumb image and you'll jump into a stream of photos. Select one, and it'll expand to fill half the screen, with a map accompanying it on the lower half of the screen. That's not all the data that gets paired with each 5-megapixel snap, however. Another touch on the photo and it'll flip around and list all the sensor readouts, covering acceleration, orientation, GPS coordinates and color. There's also desktop software to browse and curate those hundreds of photos. There will be hundreds.
But what about the camera itself? Well, it's unfortunately not great. Plenty of middleweight smartphones do a better job and they're not dedicated cameras. There's an awful lot of noise, washed-out skies and if we weren't standing still (or have the wearable rigidly attached) there was a high chance that photos would arrive blurry. Fortunately, that custom wide-angle lens increases your chances of capturing a decent still, but we found the automated capture (even with three speed options) wasn't picking up on the most notable events. While testing out the Autographer at London Zoo, an alpha male gorilla swung into view of our wearable camera, grunted a bit, smashed on the glass screen right in front of us, then disappeared. If we'd been using a camera, we would've never captured the event, but unfortunately, when we browsed through our shots on the iOS app later, nor did the Autographer.
It's the price that's paid for automated capture and regardless of what the built-in sensors are telling the Autographer, your sense for a good photo is pretty powerless here. The sheer number of photos taken also offers you an insight of your day that might surprise you -- this editor was embarrassed by how many photos caught him pawing away at his smartphone. Again and again. There's scope for plenty of interesting uses: you could throw it into waterproof housing, attach the module to drones, or use it to add an low-maintenance automated cameraman to family events. We just wish the camera sensor was a little more accomplished.
There's some privacy concerns here too, and while the camera (worn around the neck or clipped) broadcasts its existence with a yellow paint job, visible lens (which can be covered when not in use) and notification blink light when photos are taken, OMG Life told us that a certain degree of individual responsibility was expected. We certainly felt a little uncomfortable in a room filled with people carrying around the same camera, photographing... everything. Coupled with that testing £400 price tag, and the unique device is likely to capture the imagination of some, but perhaps not many.
Autographer: The world's first intelligent wearable camera launches
Custom built and high-tech, the Autographer paves the way for photographic wearable technology
London, UK – 30 July 2013: OMG Life has today launched general sales of Autographer, the world's first intelligent, wearable camera. Autographer automatically captures images hands-free, allowing people to live in the moment rather than behind a lens, changing the way photographs are taken.
Research from OMG Life reveals that nearly half (45 per cent) of the UK adult population expects to own wearable technology in the next five years. With one in three people wanting to capture still images of their life, Autographer provides the means to do so hands-free, ensuring that the moment is both experienced and captured.
Autographer is an intelligent automatic camera that can capture thousands of photographs a day through a custom wide-angle lens, enabling users to enjoy experiences without having to pause for photos. Autographer chooses the perfect time to take a picture, using its five on-board sensors to detect changes in light, motion, direction, colour and temperature:
• Colour sensor: Autographer's 'eye', perceiving light and brightness and adjusting the image accordingly
• Temperature: in built thermometer, measuring ambient temperature
• Magnetometer: determines which direction the camera is facing
• PIR: motion detector that uses infrared light to sense moving objects
• Accelerometer: measures how quickly or slowly the Autographer is accelerating
GPS functionality also pinpoints Autographer's location, so users can see exactly where their photographs were taken.
Autographer comes with easy-to-use desktop software and a smartphone app, allowing people to view and edit photos, helping to construct a digital story of their day. The software and app also allows users to create quick and easy stop-frame videos and GIFs.
With its 136-degree wide-angle lens, Autographer can take an average of up to 2,000 images per day depending on user defined sensitivity settings. It can store up to 28,000 images; meaning up to 12 days of images could be captured before the 8GB storage limit was reached.
Simon Randall, Head of OMG Life, says, "There is growing interest to capture and share precious moments in our everyday lives. Our recent research found that the majority of Brits want to use wearable technologies to create a library of their life (30 per cent) or to aid memory (28 per cent) and Autographer was created with these purposes in mind.
"For the past six months we have undertaken extensive beta testing and sought feedback to ensure that Autographer delivers all it was originally intended to and more. We've made valuable improvements to Autographer, including greater control of image capture frequency, improved functionality, the option to take pictures manually and an indicator displaying when images are captured.
"Autographer provides people with a new method of photography, Autography. Autography generates greater memories by capturing images of 'real life' – rather than 'posed life'. People can completely enjoy and experience the moment without having to pause to take photos. This is perfect for live music events, more sentimental moments such as childrens' first steps and much more. Autographer ensures that the best moments which may have otherwise been missed are completely captured. Over time, these moments gain sentimental value and with Autographer you can ensure you have both the memory and image to hold onto."
Autographer will be available from July 30 through the Autographer website at http://www.autographer.com for £399.99 for UK and selected European* residents. A wider global release will soon follow. The Autographer app is also available now on iTunes and will soon be available for Android.
• Glass hybrid wide-angle precision optics; 136o field of view
• OLED display
• 8GB internal memory
• 5 Megapixels
• Fixed focus
• Weight 58g
• Width 37.4mm (with side buttons); length 90mm (95.5mm with lanyard ring); thickness 22.9mm (with clip and lens)