OMG Life Autographer review
Pocket-lint first got a glimpse of Autographer when was in its beta test phase back at the end of 2012 and the idea and concept fascinated us. Now it's ready for launch, so as part of a larger test we spent a few hours in London Zoo wearing one and we have to say that, bar initial weirdness, it rapidly became an addictive pastime.
Autographer is a wearable camera, one of the first that will be available to the public. You clip it to a bag, your shirt or wear in around your neck on an included lanyard, switch it on and away you go. It will chronicle your life in picture form and it doesn't take long for you to forget you're even wearing it. While it is on, it will take pictures of anything the in-built computer deems is noteworthy and it will continue to do so until you either switch it off or you fill the memory.
Loads of storage
It has 8GB of internal storage so can take up to 28,000 images, and comes with three sensitivity settings: low, medium and high. These allow you to assign it to take more or less photos throughout the day depending on its in-built sensors. Manufacturer OMG quotes that an average day would result in around 2,000 images being taken, so you could, technically, leave it running for two weeks without transferring images to a computer, which is handy if you're on holiday, for example.
Naturally, that depends on the battery which will need to be regularly charged (via micro USB), but is quoted as lasting an entire day on one charge so you need only do that at night while you're asleep.
There are five sensors inside that combine to choose and take the best shots. A colour sensor perceives light and brightness, temperature is taken by the in-built thermometer, there is a magnetometer to determine which way the camera's facing, a motion detector uses infrared light to sense moving objects, and an accelerometer determines the movement of the Autographer itself. These are all used by the camera's brain to help it decide when to take a picture or not.
You don't want to get home and find thousands of duff shots of essentially the same 15 minute period, you want the best pictures immediately available, so the Autographer decides for you.
As previously mentioned, the sensitivity controls allow you to adjust how often it takes a shot and there is a Sequence mode that will force the camera to take a number of shots at the press of a button. If you're in a particular circumstance you want to capture more of, you don't just have to rely on the Autographer itself.
The lens is custom designed and built. An average smartphone lens has only a 60-degree wide angle, we were told by OMG, whereas the Autographer uses a glass hybrid wide-angle lens with a 136-degree field of view. This is important as when you wear it on a lapel you essentially want it to capture as much as is in front of you as possible, including above and below.
This makes the end results look like they were taken with a fish-eye lens and gives them a distinctive aesthetic. It has a fixed focus, so the best shots will depend on how close an object is to you. It is not a compact camera replacement however, it is a documenter, so you shouldn't expect to take family snaps on it. Trial and error will give you the type of shots and memories you want.
There is a 5-megapixel sensor in the camera, with pictures being captured at a blanket 2596 x 1936 and are around half-a-meg in file size. Obviously, better light will give you better results, but we were impressed enough with shots taken indoors - yes, they are grainy, but there's plenty of detail and you can see what's going on. Again, the point here is that this is not a device designed to take the best pictures of your mates. It is to chronicle memories so that when you look back at the day or days past, the images trigger emotional responses.
The device is remarkably light - just 58g - which is important if you're going to wander about with one clipped to you all day, and measures 90 x 37.4 x 22.9mm. Considering the asking price, it does feel a tad plasticky, but we suspect that's down to ensuring it is made from lightweight materials rather than cost cutting. We'll give OMG the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Using the images
To get the photos off the Photographer free PC or Mac software is included, which you install the first time you hook the device to your computer through USB. It gives you a number of ways to scroll through photos and care and attention has been made on ensuring you can find good shots among all those taken. Remember, the Autographer takes, on average, 2,000 photos so there's a lot to wade through, especially if you only check in every two or three days.
There are several options to view thumbnails, therefore. You can see them all as one stream, look at them in cinema mode - which shows each frame individually and can be played as a slideshow - or, if you have multiple days lined up, in a calendar.
One great additional way to find the shots you most cherish is that the Autographer comes with GPS built-in, and when each picture is shown on the desktop application, it shows you a Bing map location in a separate box.
OMG says that this is because people are more likely to remember where they were when a particular event happened rather than the day, when looking back after some time. We agree and it’s a nice additional feature.
The software also offers options for what you want to do with your photos. You can post them to the obligatory social networks - Facebook and Twitter - or to the Autographer network itself. Plus, you can make sequences of shots into animated GIF files or videos (up to Full HD 1080p). The latter can be posted directly on to YouTube.
This doesn’t work in some cases - if pictures were taken too far apart from each other, for example - but are a good way of creating little moving memories if you’ve set your Autographer to take a high frequency of photos.
An iPhone application is also available, which hooks up to the camera through Bluetooth. It offers many of the same features as the desktop app, including GIF and video generation, but instead of downloading and archiving pictures, it acts as a viewer only, the shots remain on the Autographer. This way, you needn’t worry about filling your phone with thousands of storage-hungry files.
Wearable computing is going to take off in a big way in the next few years, of that we are sure. But while Google Glass is intriguing, it may struggle to find a market outside of the techisphere due to its form factor. Smartwatches will undoubtedly become popular but more in partnership with smartphones.
There are, therefore, numerous opportunities for innovation in the sector and Autographer is a great step in the right direction. We already chronicle our lives in written form on a daily basis, thanks to Twitter, Facebook and the like, and we love to post photos online to show what we've been up to. Why not have a device that helps that process? It makes sense to us.
It also succeeds in providing the memories we don't want the world to see, because they are special only to us – such as our children's birthdays or visits to the park. So Autographer is far more than just a social networking camera, it is a visual biographer.
The end results can often suffer from too high contrast, picture grain, or motion blur, but they spark an emotional response in you and those around you. How many times have you been at a special event and forgotten to take pics or not managed to get your smartphone out of your pocket in time? The Autographer will grab those moments.
And because of its light form factor, you'll even forget it is doing so until you get home or take a look through the iPhone app.
We have to say, we're more enamoured with the device that we thought we would be. There are intrusion issues, perhaps, and the price of £400 means that it will be early adopters, tech evangelists that jump on board at this time, but OMG has shown us a glimpse of what we can expect in the future. And it's all in POV.