No, Apple has not built an Apple Watch camera. But, whether you want to be Dick Tracy or you want to just not take your phone on a hike but still be able to take pictures … there is now finally a solution: Wristcam. It’s the only camera available globally for Apple Watch, and I got a sample to test.
I also spent some time with the CEO and CMO of Wristcam chatting about what it does, how it works, what quality people can expect, and whether it’s a boat anchor on your wrist. You can take pictures, video, and yes … even video chat live with Wristcam, as we check out in the latest episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier.
Scroll down for full video, audio, and a transcript, and to subscribe to TechFirst.
And, here’s the story and review at Forbes …
Watch: Dick Tracy’s got nothin’ on this camera for Apple Watch
(Subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’ll get notified when I go live with future guests, or see the videos later.)
Subscribe: a camera for Apple Watch? Sure …
Full transcript: checking out the only camera you can pair with Apple Watch
(This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
John Koetsier: Ari, welcome to the show.
Ari Roisman: Good to be here, John. Thanks for having us.
John Koetsier: So, I heard about Wristcam, sheesh, it’s gotta be … what, half a year ago … it’s been a while. But now you actually have functional, operational prototypes. You want to show me one. Tell us a little bit first about Wristcam, and maybe show us a little bit in the camera.
Ari Roisman: Sure, Wristcam is the camera for your Apple Watch. So if you’ve ever wanted to go without your camera or ever been looking for a camera that’s quicker on the draw … now you can have a Wristcam.
And what Wristcam really does is it morphs your Apple Watch into a dual HD camera. You’ve got a self-facing camera for quick, candid selfies and for live video chat. And then you’ve got a world-facing camera that captures 4K photo, 1080p video, and … it’s pretty cool.
John Koetsier: It is cool. I mean, when I first wrote about it way back when, one of the things I said is that often I want to just go. I’m taking a hike. I’m taking a walk. I don’t want to carry my phone around me, have it bounce around in my pocket or other things like that. And that’s one of the reasons why I got the cellular-capable Apple Watch.
But, you always have that time where, oh, a deer comes, or you just see a cool something and you want to capture it, and so then you end up taking your phone along. Can this really replace having your phone along for some of those occasions?
Ari Roisman: It does. It does for thousands of users already.
So you mentioned prototypes. So Wristcam is a real thing. It’s a long time coming. Science fiction has been awaiting this, seems like for the better part of the last century, but that Dick Tracy, live video, Wristcam experience has finally arrived.
And like for myself, I’m pretty casual, and I’m not so discriminating when it comes to the quality of the photo. I’m more interested in just being able to capture and then stay present and really enjoy the moment. I hate getting caught behind a screen or being that guy at like a special event that’s caught behind the phone. I just want to be there and enjoy the moment, but still be able to capture it and then relive it later.
We’re not trying to compete with top-shelf iPhone camera quality. I mean, the iPhone has really become a DSLR equivalent. But we have been able to pack a lot of camera quality and capability into a really small form factor that I think is quite practical, and our users are pleased with. And it captures HD video out of both cameras, and I’m able to just capture things I would otherwise miss.
So, the hands-free control is really cool. We support Siri commands, so you can start and stop a video with Siri. You can summon the app with Siri just with your voice, and then the coolest bit that we’re most excited about is the ability to actually have live video communication. So I can tap and talk, live video message, send and receive video.
So, those are the types of use cases and then there’s all sorts of stuff just on the go — when I’m scooting around the neighborhood on my board it’s fun to capture videos of the kids. If I go on a hike on the weekends it’s great. If I’m just sitting around the house on the weekend and the kids are doing cute stuff. You know, I actually missed my son’s first steps ’cause we were at the park and I couldn’t get to the phone quite in time. And so, if I’d had my Wristcam that probably wouldn’t have happened.
John Koetsier: Maybe, maybe. That’s very cool. ‘Hey, Siri, take a picture.’ That sounds pretty cool. Can you give us a look? Let’s take a look at it.
Ari Roisman: Sure. Alright. So let’s see if we can flip the camera here…
John Koetsier: Captured on Wristcam? Probably not.
Ari Roisman: Shot with Wristcam.
Matt Frischer: Shot with Wristcam.
Ari Roisman: Alright. So, I’ve got here, if you can see that. I’ve just got — this is an old iPhone, it’s my iPhone 7, and then this is set up with — we actually have two apps. We have a Wristcam app that’s got all these exciting photos from demos. It’s got some content here, and then my gallery, and then basic settings for the device. And then we’ve also got a messenger.
So the Wristcam actually supports live video chat, not just watch-to-watch but also watch-to-phone.
So I can do stuff like, ‘Hey, Siri, open Wristcam,’ and then once I’m dropped into the app I can go ahead and the viewfinder comes up. I’ve got photo capture. I can capture a selfie here. I can swipe over and capture. I can adjust my aspect ratio if I want. And depending upon where I’m going to put that piece of content, I can double tap to flip the camera, and then I’m seeing out of this outward-facing camera.
And then the fun part here is I’ve also got the ability to send live videos. So, I’m actually sending a live video, as soon as this counts down. And then if you can see around the perimeter of the watch, there’s a little … see that little progression?
John Koetsier: Outline? Yes.
Ari Roisman: Yeah. So I’m actually sending a live video from my Apple Watch and I’m already watching it over here on this lock screen on a phone.
John Koetsier: Wow.
Ari Roisman: Yeah. So, and now if I want to respond to that — so you see we have this countdown timer set about 20 seconds and as soon as it’s done the video just stops. But as you can see, it’s sending it live while I’m still recording. And then if I want to reply, then I can just go here into the app and start sending a video here … and then within a moment that live video is playing right here. Testing one, two, three.
John Koetsier: Very cool. It’s just a short delay there for transmission. That is the real Dick Tracy moment there.
Ari Roisman: Yeah.
Matt Frischer: It is the real Dick Tracy moment.
Ari Roisman: Who says childhood dreams don’t come true?
John Koetsier: Very, very, very cool. So tell me a little bit about the feel of using it. My Apple Watch is pretty inobtrusive. I do what I do. I do my workouts, everything. How do you find when adding the Wristcam to it — how much weight, how much bulk is it?
Matt Frischer: Our users have shared that once you put it on, it’s barely noticeable. The core itself — and Ari’s going to take it off and show the core — it’s less than 22 grams.
John Koetsier: Okay.
Matt Frischer: So it’s super lightweight. So when you actually attach it to the Apple Watch, off wrist it doesn’t look like any other band in the market.
But there’s a ton of amazingness packed under the hood of this device: self-contained battery, outward-facing sensor, self-facing sensor, two mics, LEDs that actually will light up as you’re capturing ’cause we are very mindful as people are out in the world with body-worn cameras that we don’t introduce any uncomfort for other folks.
So there’s a bright LED that will come up and pulse as you take a photo or it remains active as you’re recording. But our users are using it for board sports, water sports, heavy activities. It’s sweat resistant and it’s water resistant as well. So it becomes for a lot of folks that daily driver throughout any activity.
John Koetsier: Nice! I love that, if you’re going surfing or something like that and you’ve got the camera on board with you, that’s so useful because you’re not going to take your phone.
You can take the action camera I guess, if you want, but mounting it somewhere is always a bit of a challenge: are you wearing a helmet? Can you attach it to the front somewhere? That is pretty cool, and can you record with both cameras simultaneously?
Matt Frischer: Not something currently what we’re doing. We actually will allow for cameras to be flipped while recording.
John Koetsier: Okay.
Matt Frischer: But to turn on almost like a front/back experience…
John Koetsier: Yeah.
Matt Frischer: We’ve taken that feedback from users, because it’s not the first time it’s come up, and it’s something that we’re thinking about. We’re squarely focused on making it super accessible for our users to capture things as they see it. Number one.
John Koetsier: Nice.
Matt Frischer: Capture it, and then that high quality asset is downloaded when they get home and they’re charging their device and they don’t have to worry about it if they want to share it immediately, or get instantaneous access to a live messenger to communicate. That’s our core focus right now as we’re looking at the market.
John Koetsier: I love it. I love it. It’s very, very cool. I can’t wait to try it out and to swap between cameras — that was the quick double tap gesture, correct?
Ari Roisman: Yeah. So you just double tap on the screen … I could show you again, or there’s actually a physical button too. So you don’t even have to launch the app, you can just tap here. One tap is a capture, and then double tap flips the camera. And then I can long press, and then that’s actually what initiates the video and then you see that bright LED is up.
You know, it takes a really deliberate action to actually capture and then you’ve got this bright LED. So, this is really designed to be very transparent and fun and a bit whimsical, but also, it’s hyper accessible.
John Koetsier: I really like the fact that you have a physical button. I think that’s super useful. I love electronics and I love being able to speak things into being and to making them happen. But, when you’re busy and maybe it’s noisy, you’re on the motorbike or whatever you’re doing, just to be able to press a hard button and actually be able to feel where that button is … super useful.
Ari Roisman: Yeah, that’s why it’s there.
John Koetsier: Excellent. Very good. So, you’ve had the device for a while. You’ve had it in the hands of literally thousands of people, you’ve mentioned. What’s the new news right now? What are you releasing right now?
Ari Roisman: Live video is finally here. So you can tap and talk and send live video from your Apple Watch. You can receive live video from your Apple Watch. You can have a live video exchange totally hands-free, carrying nothing, communicating seamlessly with other Apple Watches and other iPhones.
John Koetsier: Very cool. Excellent. What’s next? I mean, obviously you’re releasing this right now. It’s a cool product. Where do you think this will go if you project out, I don’t know, three to five years … what does Wristcam look like?
Ari Roisman: So we’re really excited about Apple Watch and what the future of personal computing and the unbundling of the iPhone, if you will, looks like. And what it means to have computer vision that’s persistent and lives in the world, as opposed to a camera that is really designed to live in my pocket or not be persistent in the world.
And so, we’re in the early stages of this. The App Store native to Apple Watch, like the App Store actually on the Apple watch is a new thing. There’s still a limited number of pixels on the Apple Watch, although there are more pixels on the latest generation Apple Watch than there were on the original iPhone.
I think it’s only a matter of time until developers really embrace and appreciate how valuable this emerging wearable screen is, because it’s the most accessible, and I think with time will emerge to be the highest touch point for consumers engaging with software.
John Koetsier: Mm-hmm.
Ari Roisman: So, AirPods and Apple Watch as a wearables category are really driving mobile growth for Apple, and that’s been the case for the last half decade. And I think it’s just the beginning.
There’s rumors around Apple Glasses. We’re excited about that as a platform that we’ll be able to build for in the future.
Having a heads-up display here makes this even more useful in some ways that it decouples how you can capture and the perspective that you can see. But you still have a self-facing camera, so you’ll be able to communicate seamlessly.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Ari Roisman: As voice becomes more and more prevalent, there’s rumors around Siri getting a major update, possibly at this year’s Developer Conference. I think we’ll see more voice commands accessible and more that Siri can do.
So, to me it’s just, when I think down the line, what’s the ultimate embodiment of the personal camera which has become so critical to how we interact with each other and more so even the world around us. If I’m buying a new piece of furniture, I can actually, through augmented reality, see how it’s going to look in the room. Or if I want to buy something, I can just snap it and then… so I just think that, you know, that’s what we’re really trying to do here. This is, obviously we’re excited about Wristcam as the first and only Apple-approved smart band for Watch and being able to give consumers that experience.
But we’re just as, if not even more, excited about being able to work with other developers that want to take their camera power dreams or the experiences they already have on the phone, bring that to Watch; bring that into a new, more personal, lighter weight experience. And so we’ve deliberately architected all of the beefy tech stack that took many years to create, we’ve architected as an SDK, and so we have very simple API calls that we’re planning to surface to developers later this year.
This is not just about us.
We recognize there’s a bit of responsibility even for the developer community, for the Apple developer community and for Apple Watch, the future of Apple Watch apps and those especially that are camera-powered being in this position to have the one and only camera for the Watch. And so we’re really excited to be able to push the boundaries of these sort of next-gen mobile experiences that are camera-powered.
So that gives you a little bit of a taste.
John Koetsier: That is a great sneak peak, because there’s a massive future out there. There are so many camera/photography/videography apps and all of them probably want to work most of the time, whenever available, and that’s a big opportunity. It’s also really interesting because we are just early on in the cusp, really, still — in spite of Apple Watch being out for some time and other products being out for some time — of wearable computing.
And what that grows into and the capabilities that that adds over the years will be super interesting, including in, as you mentioned, augmented reality. Ari, Matt, I want to thank you for taking a little bit of time … it’s been fun, it’s been fascinating. I look forward to seeing a unit in person and playing with it and checking it out.
Ari Roisman: Thank you, John.
Matt Frischer: Thank you, John.
It’s official. If you make it down here, you have to subscribe
Made it all the way down here? Who are you?!? 🙂
The TechFirst with John Koetsier podcast is about tech that is changing the world, and innovators who are shaping the future. Guests include former Apple CEO John Scully. The head of Facebook gaming. Amazon’s head of robotics. GitHub’s CTO. Twitter’s chief information security officer, and much more. Scientists inventing smart contact lenses. Startup entrepreneurs. Google executives. Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. And much, much more.
Subscribe on your podcast platform of choice: