Ambarella isn't exactly a household name, but the 10-year-old company's silicon has long found its way into GoPro cams and other hardware thanks to its video-compression chops and low-power tech prowess. Word broke last month that Google commissioned the outfit to produce a reference design for a wearable camera that would stream to its Helpouts service, which lets folks ask experts for help over video. Here at CES, the manufacturer's brought along a few samples of the device, and we've just put our paws all over one.
Inside a plastic housing the size of a chunky matchbox, Ambarella's placed a custom chip (an A7LW, if you're curious) that endows the package with the ability to stream 1080p video at 30fps for a minimum of one hour. The housing also comes with a micro-USB port, microphone, 500mAh battery, 8GB of flash storage, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, along with power and "connect" buttons up top.
Google Helpouts wearable streaming camera reference design
Not only can the setup stream 1080p footage with just 1 Mbps of bandwidth -- albeit with a varying bit rate to adjust quality -- but it also pipes the video directly to Google's servers over WiFi, removing the need to tether to another device. After a user joins a Helpouts session, the camera will become available as a video source. What's more, the hardware can either be used by one of the pros on Mountain View's service, or the Average Joe looking for a hand.
The camera held its own when it came to video quality, which looks like what we've come to expect from Google Hangouts. Although it piped footage to the cloud and down to the tablet on display, there was only about a second's worth of lag, likely thanks to Google's software.
When it comes to the wearable aspect of the cam, some of the models on hand sported a clip on the rear or a metal loop up top for a necklace. Having said that, form factor and features will be up to device manufacturers who buy the innards from Ambarella -- that is, if Google goes forward with the idea of shooters that natively support Hangouts.
Ultimately, the draft hardware not only shows that Hangouts may score capable, tailored streaming hardware, but also that those cams might not be too far off. Details regarding pricing, release dates and manufacturers are still too early to pin down, but something tells us we can expect to hear more from Google this year.