• 08.26.13

Five Reporters React To Kapture, The Always-On Audio Recording Watch

In today’s scrum, the staff discusses wearable tech, secret recordings, and the funniest thing ever, all in 60 seconds or less.

Five Reporters React To Kapture, The Always-On Audio Recording Watch

Today’s News Scrum Discussion: Kapture: The Recording Device That’s Always On

This device should be every reporter’s dream. Fumbling with iOS recording apps is hardly better than fumbling with a USB voice recorder, so having a microphone already on–and already on your arm–seems like it would be an ideal digital solution for off-the-cuff interviews. But it would be just the opposite.


Amidst the hotness of “smart watches” is a problem that few people discuss: that is, that “wearable” devices are the physical version of mobile apps, with all the same shortcomings. A mobile app is a single-purpose, streamlined piece of software meant (usually) to do one thing and do it well. With the exception of iMovie and a few other outliers, apps are not robust in terms of features and workflow. They are one-shot, quick-moving, at-a-glance software programs, not ideal interfaces for heavy-duty things like content production.

Every reporter out there has more “stuff” to edit than ever. As it has become easier to interview and research (hello, Google Hangouts!) we’re left with overwhelming amounts of media for each story. Editing a story down to something worthwhile and quick is the most difficult part of participating in the news cycle today.

This watch is anti-editing: It’s on all the time, meant for one-touch sharing of the last 60 seconds of audio it recorded. But 60 seconds is a long time, and I don’t care what anyone says–no source is riveting for a full minute straight. I’m tabling my enthusiasm for this device until someone can tell me a journalistic use case I can get behind. Anyone? —Chris Dannen

This recording device is a terrible idea, as is. The slightly less terrible idea is pivoting the objective from ambiguous recording device to safety and security focused. Back when Motorola’s Moto X was still a rumor the leaked feature was an “always listening” mode which would allow the phone to perform convenient functions. The bigger implications, just as the Trayvon Martin case was wrapping up, were privacy and security. What if there would have been a phone always listening the jury would have been able to hear? What if someone was wearing a Kapture device, would it have made things clear-cut?

As Chris mentions, the ability to record and capture data is already fairly abundant and accessible, but that’s not the problem that needs to be solved. And a wearable device that’s always recording (audio) seems to only bring up privacy concerns, much like Google Glass has. Kapture is only interesting as a napkin drawing, but once it made it to an actual product focused on “sharing memories” is when it lost any appeal. The better option would have been to concentrate on a specific market like personal security, rather than leaving the user to find a use case. —Tyler Hayes

This is obviously a pretty pointless product that will probably be a total dud, like most gadgets coming out of the wearable technology fad. But in addition, it also raises issues around journalistic ethics and secret or incognito recordings. Though I tend to side on the spectrum of debate that defends secret recordings when used to expose those in power, this device definitely opens up a lot of potential for abuse. Its always-on nature means that it would be possible to capture, after the fact, a comment designated as off the record and then publish that, sans the “off the record” disclaimer.

I think one potential is use case is for that rare moment when someone makes a comment they don’t think will ever see the light of day. But 60 seconds of recording might not be enough to really reveal someone’s misdeeds. Not to mention you’re gonna have to have that thing on your wrist all the time for it to be of any use. I think this is more likely to be used to capture a really funny conversation or joke than anything of import. —Jay Cassano


As Jay and Tyler mentioned, my response to Chris would be that I can’t really think of a good journalism use case for this product, mainly because it’s built for recording memories aka recreational use, not reporting. It might cut down on the media journalists have to sift through for their stories if out of a half hour interview they only have seven one-minute clips to transcribe, but I think if I were relying on Kapture for recording I would just press that 60-second save all the time rather than trying to figure out where a certain quote I wanted to record sat in time. In practice it would end up working like a regular voice recorder, just without producing one continuous audio file.

I totally agree with Chris that wearable tech is usually the physical equivalent of one-off apps. Kapture sort of reminds me of the lifelogging camera Memoto that clips to your clothes and takes two medium-res photos every minute of whatever is happening in front of you. Memoto can generate 1.5 terabytes of photo data per person per year, and the company offers cloud storage packages for wrangling all of those photos. First of all, why are we doing this to ourselves? How is this deluge of disorganized and unprocessed data useful? But also, as Jay says, you really have to wear something like Memoto or Kapture all the time to make it worthwhile. Until this stuff is implanted in us, it can only create a comprehensive body of data if we dedicate ourselves to positioning it for that purpose. Why be slaves to the machine while we still have a choice? Lily Hay Newman

If the above arguments haven’t swayed you from paying $99-$130 for a one-note capture device, I’m not sure what will. Anyone who’s interviewed with an audio recorder knows that the subject needs to forget that the audio recorder is on–which won’t happen if you’ve got a neon-green grilled band that needs to be tapped every 60 seconds to upload audio. Unlike Glass, which is so multipurpose that folks won’t always assume it’s recording, Kapture’s got one purpose: “gotcha” moments, almost guaranteed to make people shell up around the wearer.

Thanks to clumsy activation mechanisms for hitting “record,” surreptitious smartphone surveillance has been awkward at best–at least Kapture sends a clear message that you’re recording the world around you. Why not weaponize it? Acclaimed comic writer Gail Simone’s current series The Movement spotlights an Occupy-esque social movement that uses smartphones to capture and autobroadcast incriminating video to other members; unlike smartphones that need activation to share, Kapture autouploads recordings to a nearby smartphone via Bluetooth. Even if a Kapture is confiscated, the recording is already uploaded to a remote device, and a little tinkering could send that recording straight to the cloud. Could Kapture be the wearable tech that sends a message–“We’re listening, so behave”?

For the price of an iPod Nano or basic Kindle, Kapture gives you a device that nobody’s really asked for yet. A little purpose (or a lower price tag) would go a long way with this thing. —David Lumb

[Image: Flickr user Theilr]