Hands On

Looxcie: Ear's Looking at You, Kid


There's a certain dorkiness to the Looxcie, a new video camera that you wear as if it were a hands-free cell-phone headset. It makes you feel like you're on the way to the nearest Star Trek convention dressed as a member of the Borg. As the latest offering in the ever-growing geekonomy, that's part of the appeal. It incorporates some cool ideas, even if they aren't yet fully developed.

At five inches long, the Looxcie (pronounced "look-see") is larger than a phone headset, though it weighs only about an ounce. It consists of a thick hook that fits over your ear and a slender cylinder that houses the lens, microphone, and indicator lights. The Looxcie is designed to be always on, capturing everything you see as you see it. It'd be great to use to record your niece's soccer game without having to squint or keep your arm up for hours.

To use the Looxcie, which costs $199, you first sync it via Bluetooth to your smartphone and download a free app that turns the phone into a viewfinder, remote control, and video monitor. The camera runs for up to four hours between charges and stores five hours of content in its internal memory, overwriting old stuff with new except for what you choose to save or share. The press of a button will automatically create and e-mail a video clip of the last 30 seconds to a predetermined recipient. You can also use your phone to review everything you've shot, create a clip manually, and send it to friends or to YouTube (GOOG), Facebook, or Twitter. There's also a USB cable for downloading the camera's contents onto a personal computer.

Looxcie is harder to operate than it should be, though. It takes a lot of trial and error to get it comfortable, stable, and properly aimed. The controls are fussy and indicator lights are tiny and hard to see in sunlight. The video isn't bad—it turns out your head makes a pretty decent tripod if you stand reasonably still, and the camera does a good job of automatically adapting to different lighting conditions. However, at 15 frames a second and 480x320 resolution, it ain't Avatar—or even an iPhone 4 (AAPL). That brings up a greater drawback: At the moment, the camera works only with phones running a recent edition of Google's Android operating system. The company says iPhone and BlackBerry (RIM) versions are in the works.

Some people will probably find the prospect of always-recording video capture exciting; others might regard it as kind of creepy. Like it or not, it's here. As the Borg would say, resistance is futile.

Jaroslovsky is a technology columnist and reviewer for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek.

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