Glide already has an asynchronous video-messaging app for phones and smartwatches. But on smartwatches, the user can only send audio messages (or watch incoming video), and it's always been the company's vision to bring to life the Dick Tracy-style video wrist communicator envisioned long ago. I know because I talked to Glide CEO Ari Roisman about it two years ago.
Folks, believe me when I say it will be a long time before the Apple Watch has a camera of its own, so Roisman and former Apple Watch engineer Shawn Grening cleverly hatched the idea of building a couple of cameras into a new Apple Watch band, which they call CMRA. And they didn't skimp on the cameras—both are HD with Sony sensors.
The band also contains Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and packs a battery that allows for a day of usage, or the capture of 30 minutes of live video. The company is bundling in a charging stand that can also hold its own charge away from the wall socket. Glide worked with designers at Ideo to fashion the look of the band and the charging stand.
One 2-megapixel camera faces up toward the user while the other 8-megapixel camera faces outward to the front of the user. And to avoid "Glasshole" syndrome a little light flashes near the outward facing camera when it's recording, so subjects aren't caught off guard. Photos and videos captured with CMRA can be shared instantly on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, Glide says.
"As smartwatches become independent of the phone, wrist cameras will become commonplace for capturing memories and communicating visually ... something science fiction has imagined for over half a century," Roisman says.
Roisman also says wrist-based cameras might be better for capturing spontaneous moments. "Photos happen in the moment—but your phone is in pocket," Roisman told me. It may be quicker to just lift your wrist and start shooting.
Roisman makes the compelling point that when you shoot with your phone you often put the phone up to your face, which puts a barrier between you and the world. So, in a sense, you are stuck looking into this digital interface while real life is happening on the other side. With the wrist-based camera, there's no such barrier, and you can be more present in the moment, Roisman says.
Indeed, that was one of the big ideas behind the Apple Watch and its "Glances" feature in the first place—to help you stare at your phone less and spend more time in real life. It's a beautiful and relevant idea for technology, and Apple should stay true to it, not just give it lip service.
The CMRA band starts preorders today, and will become available in the spring. Why the long wait? As phone makers like NextBit and OnePlus can tell you, it's a way of measuring demand and then ordering parts and planning manufacturing time accordingly. Overshooting is something smaller companies like Glide can't afford.
The bands will come in blue, white, black, and (a limited edition) gray. Buyers who preorder get the CMRA and charger for $150. The regular price later on will be $250.
In the larger picture, what we're seeing may be the start of a thriving ecosystem in Watch bands. Apple Watches sold reasonably well (10 million to 15 million units) in the first year, but I suspect many would-be band developers may have held back to look for signs of mass adoptions. Some, but not all. Glide is very bullish on the future of the Watch, and other more specialized products like AliveCor's Kardia band that monitors electrocardiogram, or EKG.