Nothing captures sporty vitality better than the new generation of wearable hi def cameras, of which GoPro are currently the market leader. Their YouTube gallery is full of both user created multi camera angle, head rush footage captured from all sorts of transport from expensive race cars to hang gliders to surfboards, along with plenty of sexy lifestyle footage like the footage of bikini model surfers Alana Blanchard and Monyca Byrne-Wickey above.
'Point-of-view action-sport camcorder segment' devices fit perfectly into the 'share everything' ethos of our socially networked era and aside from proof of adrenalin junkie activities and uber jock behavior are used for countless recordings and stills of commutes to work, sports training footage and just about any human activity you can think of…
While GoPro have opened up a big market, helped enormously by Cisco's 'reverse double down pivot' in closing their Flip camera devision, GoPro's aren't the most intuitive devices to use, having a somewhat clunky user interface involving squinting at a small led screen, cycling through various settings, listening for beeps and watching for flashing lights to make sure you're recording. If you're trussed up in a fire suit and crash helmet and about to get tightly strapped into a race car, or paddling out into aggressive surf in bright sunlight it can be difficult to successfully record your heroic feats successfully, especially if your nerves are jangling with anticipatory tension.
A fumbled button click can result in missing the capture of your epic double back flip or perfect lap. I saw a very well thought out new generation of HD 1080p sports video cameras with Wi-Fi connectivity and cloud storage recently which look as though they solve this usability issue. ION AIR PRO Wi-Fi cameras claim a number of significant industry firsts, including very easy to use wifi connectivity and cloud storage.
A single one click press of a button starts or stops your recording, and the camera also usefully vibrates to confirm start and stop. 5 megapixel still image captures of single shot, time lapses and 10-photo burst modes are also possible with a single click. Recording and output can be HD wide-angle in a choice of 1080p, 960p, or 720p resolutions as well as WQVGA with a field of view up to 170 degrees. The ION AIR PRO also features Dual File recording, simultaneously capturing both HD and lower-resolution WQVGA files to allow for easier sharing to social networking sites and faster upload times. IONs were conceived as waterproof and aerodynamic devices where GoPros need waterproof housings.
I took a good look at the devices and was impressed by the demo Hong Kong based CEO Giovanni Tomaselli gave me last month although I've yet to use the device myself. Tomaselli has an impressive track record and is a digital devices native, with extensive experience as an entrepreneur and in senior innovation management at Flextronics, the Asian manufacturing and supply chain powerhouse who make Apple and other branded devices.
A clever 'POD' system of thin, circular disc shaped devices that attach to the back of the basic camera extends capabilities. These interchangeable 'podz' accessory devices extend functionality in various ways; Wi-Fi 'PODZ' and a linked ION app on other devices allow users to control camera functions and settings, view the action as it happens as a live stream (on an iPad for example) and replay or immediately upload footage to Facebook, YouTube, or simply share it via email. Coming soon is a battery 'PODZ' that will enable four hours of recording time without adding size or weight to the camera looks extremely useful in our battery constrained world.
Point of view wearable devices are somewhat immune from the relentless march of all singing and dancing smart phone cameras as they are built to take a licking. Audio quality remains an issue though - it's tough to record at high speed and with the ambient noises that come with water and other sports. There's a high performance Microphone ION PODZTM for professional quality audio arriving later this year which looks promising and very useful. Where HD camcorders (and smartphones) are somewhat sensitive little critters, there's little fear of dropping a GoPro, ION or other 'action-sport' device which arguably gives them a very attractive future market. I've got a whole stable of old Flip cameras I've used to record all sorts of events (and to be fair one survived a boat trip literally under the Iguazu Falls in Argentina a couple of years ago, although it went nuts for about ten days afterwards). My main use is to record discovery interviews and work related information capture, and the large files and storage issues accumulate quickly especially when the material is under tight NDA. ION's cloud services gives you the first eight gigs of storage free and looks to be very efficient from the demo I saw.
I'm finding I'm using my GoPro alongside my Flips more and more depending on use model and have a feeling those devices are going to become ubiquitous. The one drawback of video is the time it takes to review, digest and when needed transcribe it. In meetings my written notes often point to the time at which key moments happen but obviously you can't do this while hang gliding or scuba diving. Although in action sports footage fast forwarding to the bit where you jump off the cliff or crash the car is visually easy, I suspect the more prosaic uses such as a hard hat recording of a building inspection may require more tedious review time to find the key moments. If someone can crack this issue Cisco's digital pipe filling dreams for digital video will become more of a mainstream reality (one of the reasons they bought Flip).
A few days ago GoPro released this terrific 50 camera "
Streets of New York” opus by Skateboarder Ryan Sheckler to demo their new wearable Wi-Fi Remote that can control up to 50 GoPro cameras at a time from a range of 600’ (180m). The production values and camera angles are pretty amazing, capturing both minutae and athletic moves. You have to wonder what these incredible devices will be capable of as the space matures and more and more ingenious accessories and use models emerge.
Good times, whether you're using them and uploading or enjoying shared experiences vicariously over the internet to energize a dull moment...