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Glass functionality on a budget - Part 1: Video / Photo / Audio capture
While we all wait eagerly for Google Glass to arrive, i'm writing a series of articles on how to replicate Google Glass functionality with other gadgets at a much cheaper price.
First up? Video, photo and audio recording with the SunnyCam HD glasses, which will set you back £99.99.
To replicate the Glass experience I want to be able to do all of the above on my face. I want to use a tool that looks like a regular pair of glasses as far as possible and although I won't be able to share content straight from the glasses, I want it to be relatively easy and doable via my phone if possible.
The Sunnycam HD sunglasses fit the bill. Visually, they look like a pair of sports sunglasses, probably like a set of knock-off Oakleys I suppose. They come with 2 sets of lenses, clear and polarized tinted. The giveaway that they are something out of the ordinary are the larger arms on the glasses and - of course - the tiny camera on the bridge of the glasses.
In the box you'll find the glasses themselves (with the aforementioned 2 lens types), a cleaning cloth, a sturdy zip case, a neck cord, car and mains USB adaptors with a USB charging / download cable and a 16GB microSD card with a full size SD adaptor.
Yes, the glasses write to a microSD card - which makes it easy to transfer content to either your computer or to your phone if you're lucky enough to be toting one with microSD expansion. Using the included charging / download cable the glasses expose themselves using the normal mass storage protocol, so if your device supports USB host, that will work too - the best way to hook up in lieu of wireless connectivity. Although a 16GB card is included, I tried cards up to 64GB in capacity and they work great. Videos are saved in AVI format, images are saved in JPG format and audio is saved in WAV format.
Working the glasses is simple - you have two buttons on the left arm of the glasses, which is also where the charge / sync port is and the microSD slot. The other side has the battery. The button near the front is the power / record button, long press the button to turn on. The LED indicator will appear red briefly before flashing blue to indicate that it's automatically started recording. A quick press of the power button again and the glasses go back into standby mode and the light stops flashing. A longer press turns them off completely.
The second button is used to switch mode - toggling between video, still photo and audio. The mode is indicated by the aforementioned LED - blue for video, red for photo, alternating blue / red for audio. When in photo mode, short pressing the power button will take a picture.
Once you get the hang of it the glasses are easy to use, although with no headphones / audio output you do have to rely on the LED indicator to determine whether the device is on or off and which mode you're in, which can be awkward to see, particularly in direct sunlight.
You'll get 2 to 3 hours of use when recording video, obviously this increases if you are just taking photos.
To test out the glasses I've used them canoeing, cycling and driving. Generally speaking, wearing the glasses, happily, doesn't feel that different to wearing regular shades. They are not too heavy at 55g and although the arms are obviously wider to accomodate the electronic gubbins inside, they're not too uncomfortable. Small screws allow you to adjust the length of the arms too. Depending on the shape of your cycle helmet (or similar) you might find it sits on the frames, something worth bearing in mind.
Quality wise, you have to factor in both the cost of the glasses (they're relatively cheap) and the size of the camera sensor itself (it's small!) and with that in mind, while not up to the quality of, say, your phone camera - it's not bad.
I'm prepping a couple of video clips and stills to upload, you can also get a good impression of the output by checking out users' videos on YouTube. The first few times you view your videos you'll become more aware of 'how you look at stuff' (that is, where your head is), adjusting your behaviour slightly for later 'shoots'. You'll also realise how much vibration your head can go through in certain situations.
Overall, i've had a good time with the glasses - I look forward to taking them on the slopes later in the year and they are good fun to mess around with. Video and photo quality is acceptable although I found the sound a little muffled. I'd love to see audible mode indication, OIS, a bit longer battery life and a bunch more features for sure.. but then you wouldn't be able to pick them up at £99.99, would you?
Oh, and yes - I want Google Glass even MORE now.
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