Camera innovation: 10 products that are changing how we take photos and videos

Innovative technology is rapidly changing the way we use a camera. In the future, we will do much more than just record, share, and stream photos and videos.

The GoPro Hero3 boasts features such as 4K video and the ability to take up to 30 frames per second.
Image: GoPro
 More than 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook each day. Instagram reports 40 million photos are posted per day. Snapchat says users share 400 million photos and videos a day. The numbers don’t lie: as a society, we are pretty obsessed with photography and videography. The technology of cameras is progressing rapidly, from wearables to drones to software that alters the way we utilize personal and professional photography equipment. Here are 10 products and services that are changing the landscape:

1. Intel RealSense 3D camera

It’s not quite ready for launch yet, but Intel’s newest laptop camera, which has been called the Kinect for computers, should be out in mid-2014. Theoretically, it should recognize gestures and facial expressions. At CES, the camera was used to scroll through websites, play computer games, and edit photos. Intel has also partnered with 3D Systems, which manufactures 3D printers, to develop software so the camera can scan and print. We’ll see how soon that happens.

2. Polaroid C3

Fashion--even camera fashion--really does come full circle. Polaroid announced the launch of this tiny, cute little cube-shaped camera at CES. It’s high-definition, waterproof down to 6.5 feet, and mountable with its magnetic skin. The wide-angle lens offers a 120 degree view and is wifi enabled. The gadget is $99, which isn’t too bad of a price for vintage, right?

Polaroid C3
The Polaroid C3 is lightweight, waterproof, and has a magnetic skin to attach easily.
Image: Joshua Goldman/CNET

3. GoPro

GoPro remains the camera most commonly used to make us feel like regular action stars. It’s rugged and small, which makes it perfect for skydiving, mountain biking, and trampoline-flipping videos. But there are some other uses for the cameras. The burst feature allows a user to take 30 photos in a single shot, and the slow-motion video can capture up to 120 frames per second. You can buy a drone and mount the GoPro for high-altitude video or take time-lapse photography and edit it on GoPro’s free software.

4. meMINI

MeMINI’s tagline is “the gift of hindsight.” It records, loops, and deletes continuous video footage of your daily life, until you press a button when something interesting happens. Then it will save and play back the most recently recorded loop. The footage can last from five seconds to five minutes. The heavy little camera is designed to attach to your clothing. We aren’t sure if we want to record and see things that we didn’t originally want to record (confused yet?), but the device was fully funded on Kickstarter earlier this month.

5. Looxcie 3

This video camera has been around for a few years, but the new Looxcie 3 is even smaller and faster than the company’s previous models. The 1.3 ounce device can record 30 frames per second at 720p and livestream the video at 15 frames per second directly to Facebook through wifi. You can mount it, attach it to your clothes, or put it in its waterproof case and submerge it.

The Looxcie 3 is compact and fast. The device can livestream HD video.
Image: Looxcie

6. Video cameras for Google Helpouts

Ambarella recently partnered with Google to produce a camera for streaming Google Helpouts, which connects people to experts in various fields such as art, music, education, fashion, fitness through a one-on-one Google Hangout session. Ambarella, which produces low-power HD video compression software, will make a small, light camera that the experts can remotely control during the help sessions.

7. Facial recognition software

Imagine a networking event where you meet 15 new people. Instead of gathering business cards, your smartwatch or smartglasses use facial recognition software to immediately look up and store their contact information, without even pressing a button. That’s the direction camera innovation is headed, according to Drew Davidson, vice president of design for AKTA. “A lot of work with eyetracking and more personal facial recognition is being done,” he added. “Some of this already exists but it isn’t fast or powerful enough yet.” For instance, Eyelock uses iris-based authentication technology that can hook up to a laptop, and some Android devices already have face unlock software.

8. Candid cameras

Narrative Clip (formerly called Memoto and funded via Kickstarter) silently snaps photos every 30 seconds while it is clipped on your clothes or accessories. Sensors make sure the photos are straight without individual adjustments to the camera. Autographer is much larger, with more sensors that decide when to take photos, a fisheye lens, and the ability to share the photos immediately. They can both capture photos you may never think to take otherwise, though you may want to disclose the fact you’re wearing a secret camera for fear of being creepy.  

9. Panasonic HX-A100

Marketed as a "point-of-view" camera for your lifestyle, this 4K camera straps to the side of your face and records vibrant video four times the standard HD quality. The camera connects to a control device you can strap to your arm or put in your pocket. Panasonic revealed the prototype at CES, so this first-person camera should be available to consumers sometime soon.

10. Google Glass

Come on, you didn’t think we could list camera innovations without mentioning Google Glass, did you? The device’s camera opens up many conversations about privacy, and it will continue to do so. Part of Glass’ (as well as other hands-free cameras) draw is not having to lift up a smartphone to take photos while you’re at the beach, on a hike, on a tour, at a show. But it can record while we are unaware--or at least make it seem so, which is already causing some issues in movie theaters, bars, strip clubs, and casinos.

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