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What will it take to get gen Z to ditch smartphones for wearable cameras?

What will it take to get gen Z to ditch smartphones for wearable cameras?
[Photo: courtesy of Opkix]

Once upon a time, our digital lives were lived in a text-based world, but these days our social personalities are, more often than not, transmitted and mediated by video. This is even truer for the so-called social media influencers and homegrown online content creators, who shoot and stream their every moment on YouTube, Snapchat, or Instagram.

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And yet despite video being the dominant medium for young people, devices aimed at making wearable or fashionable portable cameras have generally flopped. One of the first examples, Google Glass, instantly got a bad rap for being a creepy tech product. There’s GoPro, whose business has been flailing over the last year, and Snap’s Spectacles, a product that attempted to be a fashionable, wearable camera but lost momentum after some early praise. The take-home from all of this may be that the kids simply like their phones or rudimentary webcams.

Now another device is about to enter the fray courtesy of a newish company called Opkix, which raised a $5.4 million in series A funding last year. The company just completed another $5.7 million round of series B funding, which it says gives it a valuation of $200 million. Opkix’s first product–Opkix One–is a small, wearable camera–precisely for the kinds of social content creators who live and die by video.

According to its CEO, C. Lawrence Greaves, this new camera is an attempt at being both useful and “fashion forward.” It’s a rectangular, small piece of hardware that looks very much like a portable cell-phone charger. You can hold the camera or attach it to objects like glasses or extension poles. The camera, says Greaves, “gives you the option to capture content without having to have your smartphone out.”

The market Opkix is going for is precisely the younger people on social media. “Content creators are absolutely changing the universe,” Greaves tells me. Kids these days “want to be YouTube celebrities and Instagram influencers.” Essentially, the new stars are people who are recording every aspect of their lives, and Opkix thinks it can provide a device that’s not a smartphone that will aid this pursuit.

[Photo: courtesy of Opkix]
There are, however, some hurdles. For one, though the Opkix One is portable, it can only continuously record something for twelve minutes without recharging. Greaves explains that the company is working on improving this limitation for future devices, but when it comes to social video, “most of the videos will be recorded in short bursts.”

Additionally, the Opkix One will not be able to live-stream video–something that many social media stars do love to do. Greaves explains that the camera, in this current model, couldn’t support that function, given the amount of heat it would produce if it were simultaneously recording and uploading online. He adds, “We certainly have aspirations for a future of live stream.”

Essentially, what the Opkix One provides is a small camera on which users can record short videos. They can then upload the video to the company’s app to edit, which can then post it on to the social media platform of the user’s choosing. The hope is a product that offers better quality–and is perhaps a little more attractive–than a smartphone. He adds that older people should like the product, too, because it lets them record moments in life without having to fumble with their phones. The Opkix One will retail for $350; people can buy a bundle that includes various accessories for $500.

In some ways, it feels like we’ve gone down this road before. Endless features have been written about the future, or lack thereof, of wearables. But Greaves believes this is the first device to be both compact and fashionable, and who knows? Maybe the timing is right. With this latest cash infusion, Opkix hopes to continue building out its products and making them even more usable.

All the same, we’ll have to see if this generation of social movie-makers actually wants to ditch their phone. And, given the state of past products, that’s a big if.

Correction: An earlier version of the article misstated the money raised in this latest Series B round and the amount of time the device can record without needing a charge. The story has been updated. We regret the error. 

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