Lightbox Wants To Be Your Phone’s Other Lens

Say hey to a new wearable camera contending for your cash. The Ca7ch Lightbox boasts of being the smallest live-streaming wearable camera — at just 1.5 inches x 0.49 inches, and weighing in at a dainty 30 grams.

It also has an 8MP lens, with f2.4 aperture; records 1080p video; and has a burst mode than be used to create your own animated GIFs. Or it will do if it makes it to market.

The Lightbox is currently a prototype while its creators raise crowdfunding on Kickstarter to take the device into production.

At the time of writing they’re a little under three-quarters of the way to meeting their target of $80,000, with more than $56,000 pledged so far and a full month of their campaign to run. If they get funded they’re aiming to ship to backers in October.

Wearable cameras are already on the market, of course, but it’s still pretty early days for this sort of tech — certainly for a mainstream user. Sure, there’s action camera GoPro for extreme sports fiends. And if you hang around folk in the tech scene you may well have found yourself staring into a Memento/Narrative lens clipped to an expensive lapel at a social gathering. (Or Google Glass if you’re hanging with Scoble.)

But most mainstream tech users are still sticking with their cameraphone lenses, rather than augmenting their clothing with a clip-on eye. And that’s the opportunity New York startup Catch Motion reckons it has spied: build a wearable camera that appeals to mainstream phone users.

So, as well as being small, waterproof, and having a magnetic clip to easily fix to your clothing, the Lightbox is specifically designed as a smartphone extension, with a corresponding feature-packed app. Captured images are also stored in the cloud, after being ferried to the phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. (The device does also have 8GB of internal Flash storage so you can still record stuff when there’s no connectivity.)

The corresponding Lightbox app lets you play around with framing and composition by allowing you to see what the lens — or lenses, if you have multiple Lightboxes on the go — can see. It also takes the social strain by making it easy to post content to Facebook, Twitter et al. Other consumer-friendly features in the app include the ability to edit photos by adding filters, frames, stickers or superimposing text.

The app also acts as a platform for live-streaming from Lightbox by offering users the ability to create an ‘Event’ — whereby they can stream their content to the public or a private group, and have viewers post comments and share their own multimedia content.

One scenario for a Lightbox live-streaming event might be a group of friends at a gig each contributing a different video stream from their own device, while leaving their phone free for texting and chatting. The end result is a rich multimedia, multiple angle record of your night out for posterity — or that’s the promise.

Initially the live-streaming feature will support viewing within the Ca7ch app on iOS and Android devices only. But the team says it’s looking at scheduling a PC client as well to enable watching live-streams on a laptop.

Plus they are offering an API to encourage other developers to extend the Lightbox platform with additional apps.

As well as offering in-app functions to control the camera, the Lightbox device itself has a customizable hardware 3-function button that can be programmed to take a picture, video, live-stream or record audio depending on how many times you click it.

The early bird Kickstarter price for Lightbox is $119, rising to a $189 RRP. At either price Lightbox is undercutting Narrative’s lifelogging camera and GoPro’s rugged kit. Albeit you have to wait til fall to get your hands on it.

It’s worth noting that another wearable camera maker, Looxcie, announced it would be exiting the consumer space earlier this year to focus on live video streaming for the enterprise. Which means more room for consumer-focused alternatives such as Lightbox.

However Looxcie’s consumer exit does suggest that getting mainstream smartphone users to want to become human camcorders by clipping on an additional lens isn’t the easiest sell in town. What’s needed is a really slick app, and zero-hassle hardware. So it will be interesting to see what Lightbox can deliver.