Pros: Innovative design and concept; Easy to edit and send clips using Android app; Cool viewfinder function on phone app
Cons: Earpiece camera keeps slipping off; Poor video quality; Always-recording function will make some uncomfortable
Verdict: This device's 'always on' concept takes video cameras to a new level, but is it ready for primetime?
Although it looks like an oversized Bluetooth headset, Artiman Ventures' Looxcie is a unique wearable camcorder designed for those who never want to miss a thing. What makes the $199 Looxcie device different from other small camcorders is that when it's turned on, it's constantly recording. Used in conjunction with a smart phone and a free Android app, it allows users to capture short clips and immediately share them on the web. While this device is certainly innovative, it looks and feels like a first-generation product. Read on to find out how well the Looxcie works in the real world.
Except for its obvious white boom extending forward, the Looxcie could be mistaken for a large Bluetooth headset. Still, it has a sleek spy-tech aura, like something you might see in Mission: Impossible. A few people gave us quizzical looks while wearing the Looxcie around New York City, but most people seemed oblivious to the camera. Perhaps the body of the Looxcie should have been black to camouflage it more, but doing so might ascribe to it more sinister intentions than capturing your kid scoring the winning goal.
Overall, the Looxcie was comfortable to wear, but we had trouble keeping it in place. The earbud can be rotated 180 degrees, so you can use it on either side of your head. While a rubber-coated wire lets you adjust the Looxcie to fit your ear, the device slipped off too easily when we walked around. Also, it's difficult to wear if you're sporting a pair of glasses. The camera boom can be rotated a few degrees to the right or left to help get a level image, but we found it easier to use the viewfinder on our smart phone (more on that later).
A red light just below the lens indicates the device is recording; a green power light is on the underside by the earbud. The opposite side of the earbud has a power/call button; a microUSB port is on the bottom of the section that loops behind your ear. Further up is a volume button, and on the top is a Record button (used for capturing long clips). On the underside of the camera boom is the Instant Clip button; you press this button to save the last 30 seconds of video. If you press and hold the button, the Looxcie will also automatically send the clip to a pre-set recipient, provided you're in range of your smart phone with the Looxcie app.
While large, the Record button on the top of the Looxcie is flush with the rest of the device, making it hard to locate by feel; in an attempt to find the button, the headset would often fall off. Fortunately, you can use the smart phone app to stop and start recording, too.
How it Works
While the Looxcie is constantly recording, it won't permanently save a clip unless you either press the Record or Instant Clip button on the device (or use the Android app). When a moment you want to capture occurs, a press of the instant clip button on the top of the device captures the last 30 seconds of video and stores it as a permanent clip.
As a nice bonus, the camera is also a Bluetooth headset and allows you to answer calls and keep recording video at the same time. When you answer calls while capturing video, Looxcie automatically mutes the audio on the video to keep your calls private.
The accompanying Looxcie Android app (we installed it on a Samsung Vibrant) turns your phone into a viewfinder, remote control, and editing tool for creating clips up to 30 minutes in length. The application is simple and user-friendly: The viewfinder is particularly helpful because you can also use it to turn the recorder on and off without having to fiddle with the record button on the device, and it can be used to adjust the headset to make sure it's level. However, we wish that the viewfinder stayed on even when we weren't actively recording a clip. The app also has a handy icon showing how much battery life is left on the camera.
Selecting Video in the app brings up all the video stored on the Looxcie as one long, continuous clip. Using the editing tool, it was easy to select a block of video and save it as an individual clip. As with most things, life is one percent exciting and 99 percent boring; just going through the hours of video from our day to find something meaningful was tedious. That's why you'll want to use that record button judiciously.
Sending clips was not exactly the instantaneous process we had hoped for. Clips typically took between five to ten minutes to upload and e-mail from our smart phone. You can instantly share your clips to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. However, you can't e-mail clips that are larger than 4MB in size (about 40 seconds worth of video); you'll get an error message saying the clip was too big to be sent. Fortunately, you can also transfer videos from the camera to a computer with the included USB cable.
For the most part, sharing instant clips was easy to do. However, occasionally the app crashed while saving the clip and was never sent. Looxcie told us that these were beta issues that would be resolved. Since our initial tests, the app has been updated, and the app no longer crashes.
The Looxcie captures HVGA (480 x 320 resolution) video at 15 frames per second; most smart phones capture better quality footage, so you're trading anytime, anywhere convenience for less pixels. The camera's 4GB of memory can record up to five hours of footage, or hundreds of 30-second clips (up to 3 hours).
The camera works best in bright, well-lit areas. When we captured some waterfront foliage in Battery Park in New York City, colors were accurate and vibrant. In dimly lit areas, such as a restaurant, the camera had trouble adjusting, and video was murky.
It helps to be stationary while filming; we found that if we recorded while walking around, video was somewhat choppy and shaky. Also, while wearing the camera, we got a false sense that we were recording exactly what our eyes saw; when we looked back at the footage, objects we thought were in frame were off to one side or another.
Battery Life and Warranty
We were surprised by how long the Looxcie's battery lasted; we were able to get a good four to five hours depending on how often we used the device. If you are constantly sending clips while capturing video, the battery will run out more quickly. The viewfinder in the app also has a battery icon so you can keep track of how much battery time is left on the camera. Looxcie is backed with a one-year warranty.
As with most new technologies, no one's going to get it right the first time, and the $199 Looxcie is no exception. While it's an innovative idea, and fairly well executed at that--we especially like the Android app--only the most hardcore of bloggers or early adopters will put up with its inconveniences. Moreover, the idea of recording everyone all the time seems Orwellian. The camera felt invasive, especially when we were trying to have a serious conversation with someone. Yes, security cameras are mounted just about everywhere, but the Looxcie is literally in your face. Ironically, though, we found very little of interest when sifting through hours of footage--moments worth saving are truly far and few between. Those who can get past its loose fit, low quality video, and social implications will find the Looxcie to be a most intriguing video camera.