The Best Camera Is the One You Don't Take Out of Your Pocket

December 2011

When I was younger I liked to read books about kids who were detectives, like Encyclopedia Brown. There was another series about a girl named Cam Jansen, who was aided in her detective work by her photographic memory. When she wanted to remember a scene, she simply said, “Click!” and it was permanently preserved.

Soon, anyone will be able to do this.

I have a feeling that Path realized this a while ago and is skating to where the puck is going to be. Their cutesy demo video shows seamless transitions between real life moments and the snapshots being captured in Path - in nearly every situation it would have been incredibly awkward to say “hold on, let me take out my camera to get a shot of this.” Path is executing on the ideal model for this future world in that these moments are “private by default”. No data is mined, no social graphs are monetized.[1]

There are several other situations where some sort of wearable device vastly improves an existing use case. I encounter one almost every time I go running - inevitably I’ll want to capture some interesting piece of scenery, but I never bring my phone with me, and even if I did I wouldn’t really want to stop to take it out. Put the camera on my sunglasses - boom. Problem solved.

Another use case in need of improvement is one of the “features” of the Jawbone UP - right now you’re supposed to take a picture of every meal you eat. Sites like Foodspotting have managed to get the early adopter set to make a habit out of photographing every dish before they dig in, but if it’s as effortless as saying “click,” suddenly it’s a lot easier to get people at risk for diabetes to keep a journal of what they’re eating.

Thanks to Sam Grossberg for unwittingly listening to a first draft of this post over a beer a couple weeks ago.

[1] Here is my plea to Path: Don’t let me be a free user. I know that I can buy filters and buy songs on iTunes via Path, but that’s not really tied to the value that I’m getting from the app. How about a voluntary subscription a la Instapaper?