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Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality Developments: The Future of Consumer Wearable Cameras?

Consumer wearable cameras struggled to make an impact when they first became available in 2012. Many brands, including Autographer and Narrative Clip, exited the market, while production of Google Glass for the consumer market was short-lived (between 2014-2015). Despite the consumer wearable camera market reaching almost 1 million units globally in 2014, this category has faced a number of technical and social challenges including image quality, privacy and usability concerns (uncomfortable and socially awkward).

The resurgence of wearable cameras is being fuelled by developments in Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). One of the most prominent examples of the former is Google’s Glass EE (Enterprise Edition), a redesign of the consumer-focused ‘Glass’ for use in the workplace (e.g. factories and warehouses). Volkswagen, DHL and Boeing have all trialled Glass EE and have all claimed to have gained huge increases in productivity and quality when teams have used the device. The potential for wearable glasses in enterprise is significant and many challenges associated with this device for the consumer market (privacy, social awkwardness, etc.) are less applicable to the enterprise market.

Although not yet AR, an interesting development in the consumer market over the past 12 months has been the launch of Snap’s (Snapchat) Spectacles, a product offering easy-to-capture 10-second videos (although no photo capture). Initially, Spectacles were sold via a single ‘Snapbot’ vending machine that would pop up in random cities across California, but in Q1 2017 they were made available to buy online in the USA and in late Q2 2017 across European retailers. 150,000 units of Spectacles were sold between Q4 2016 to Q3 2017, although consumer uptake has been relatively low given the relatively affordable retail price ($130) and Snapchat’s daily active users reaching an impressive 173 million in May 2017.

While consumers have been able to enjoy augmented reality gaming experiences (e.g. Pokémon Go) directly through the smartphone screen/app, there is significant potential to enhance the user experience further by combining smartphone processing with AR wearable glasses. Snap is currently working on a second version of Spectacles that is rumoured to offer built-in AR features.

In addition to AR, one of the most compelling consumer developments in recent years has been the inclusion of artificial intelligence (AI e.g. machine learning and machine vision) in ‘Clips’ (retail $249) – Google’s second attempt at entry into the consumer wearable market. It uses machine learning and machine vision techniques to identify and remember familiar faces, automatically burst capturing (at 15 frames per second) when a subject is smiling and thus capturing more interesting moments on video.

Google strongly appears to be targeting pet owners and parents who would like to capture more photos of their kids but find it challenging - this discreet device offers a solution.

Some consumers are likely to remain sceptical, but by promoting Clips as a private device for use at home where everyone has given their consent, Google appears to have learned from issues that caused Google Glass to fail (i.e. invasion of privacy in public spaces). This also appears to be an attempt by Google to test AI technology in a standalone device before committing to integrate it into other wearables and in-home devices. By including AI on the camera sensor itself, Google is able to gain the benefits of processed data without invading the privacy of individuals.

The market development and forecasts of wearable cameras are included in Futuresource’s new Imaging Devices Landscape report, which shines a spotlight on how consumer photography and visual communication is evolving, as well as its impact on the traditional digital camera and dedicated consumer video markets, to date and looking forward. The dedicated imaging device product mix is shifting towards those devices that offer the most differentiation from smartphones, or can seamlessly add value to the smartphone experience, with growth of wearable cameras, toy/video drone cameras, instant print cameras and 360 consumer cameras forecasted through to 2021.

About the author

Arun Gill

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Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.