Wearables and cameras have a somewhat difficult relationship. When it comes to gadgets that sit on the wrist, it’s really only within kids smartwatches that we see a front-facing camera sitting above the screen. We haven’t seen one turn up on a smartwatch since the early Samsung Gear days.
Sure, there have been patents from Apple that have hinted it considered it, but generally the concept of taking photos with watches hasn’t really taken off.
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But what if you were to move the camera from the wrist to the finger and make it a fashion item, in the form of a smart ring? Well, that’s the thinking of startup Unlike Labs, with its Insta Ring helping users capture photos and 4K video directly from their finger. The company’s device is currently available from $89 on Kickstarter, with its rings set to be delivered to backers next February.
“My husband is a actually a big fan of smartphones, and he likes to break them down and see all the tech that’s used inside. So, one day he broke down his Samsung Galaxy S8, opened it all up and had the idea to build a ring using just the components from the phone. That was really the beginning of the prototyping and testing,” said Unlike Labs founder Mariola Grzduk.
“I think the idea is interesting to us because there is nothing quite like it on the market. We think there’s a comfort and difference to taking a photo or video from a ring; it allows you to catch a fleeting moment of your life, one which you may otherwise miss preparing a normal camera or phone.”
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So, how exactly does the Insta Ring work? As Grzduk told us, users simply slip the ring (available in 12 colours, including black, white, red and blue) on and press or hold one of the two side buttons in order to capture a moment. The device builds in a 12-megapixel camera for photos, with features like optical image stabilisation, face detection, HDR, auto-focus helping to assist captures, too. The design also allows for the Insta Ring to be taken in the water up to 50 metres, with the 128GB internal storage helping you save snaps until you’re ready to upload them across to your connected phone.
But with so much to pack into such a small device, building prototypes and getting the ring to the stage where it’s ready for manufacturing on a larger scale has been a considerable challenge for the startup, Grzduk said.
“This is our first adventure with crowdfunding. The team does have experience in tech – both hardware and software – and everyone is a specialist in a different branch of science and industry, but it’s been a very big challenge,” she said. “We’re actually a group of friends, and so we’re happy that we’ve been able to develop a concept together, build the beta version and have a successful campaign,” she continued.
With this representing the startup’s first foray into hardware, it, like many other small companies, has also worked to try and bring all of its initial ideas to life. And though this has meant the ring itself is on the chunky side, the upside of this is that it’s packed with camera tech. Grzduk told us that the company will potentially look to slim down the device in the future, though the priority will be to keep one eye on the latest camera tech used in phones and bring it to a future iteration of the ring.
The Insta Ring poses an interesting concept to the burgeoning world of smart rings. An area we traditionally see fitness and fashion blend is instead being leveraged here to create an alternative way of capturing moments – whether they’re selfies on holiday, dives into a pool and everything else in between.
The project has already surpassed it’s funding target, with Grzduk confirming that the final design is ready for production once the campaign closes at the end of November. The only hurdle left to jump is within the software, with the iOS and Android companion apps yet to be fully completed.
The fact that everything is in place to begin manufacturing is a tick for Unlike Labs, though, as with any campaign, risks are always present that could push the rollout of its device back.
That aside, there’s a lot to like here. It may not sit in the same mould as the svelte smart rings that have come before it, but there’s a genuinely impressive amount of tech onboard the Insta Ring. With that, it has the potential to be the Snap Spectacles for your finger; something that will no doubt appeal to a younger generation and encourage the capture of quick and easy photos and videos.
If it’s able to do what it claims on paper, this be one campaign that’s worth a closer inspection.
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