Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024


Halfway through Humane’s Ai Pin introduction video, I kept thinking, “Yes, I want this piece of hardware.” But I don’t want it the way Humane is selling it. Instead, I kept thinking, what if the Humane Ai Pin was a $99 Apple Watch camera that wirelessly connected to the smartwatch?



This Is the First Workable Apple Watch Camera Solution

There have been rumors of Apple Watches gaining a camera that date back to before the device even had cellular connectivity. It never quite made sense where the camera would go, whether it would be oriented to look up at you or facing forward. Would it be to capture things around you or make video calls? Within those two constraints, it still doesn’t quite make sense for a camera to be added to the watch itself.

Plus there are obvious product design questions like whether it’s worth using internal space for a tiny camera with poor image quality when it could be argued that smartwatches need all the space they can get for the battery. Most people want their smartwatches to get thinner, not thicker.

A woman wearing the Humane Ai Pin.
Humane

That’s where seeing the form factor of the magnetically attached Ai Pin helped solidify the solution to how to add a camera to a watch. It should be an add-on accessory for people who want it and it should be wireless.

To be clear, though, I have little interest in the talk-to-ChatGPT product Humane is selling. Instead, I want to see Apple run with this idea themselves.

The Case for a Wireless Apple Watch Camera

Having a wireless camera opens up the possibility for the Apple Watch to mature even more as a product. Snap pictures, record videos, and even detach it from your shirt and hold it in your hand to make FaceTime calls. Maybe even let it clip onto a MacBook to be a better webcam.

To go one step further, it could even still perform the scanning tricks the Ai Pin showed off, identifying food nutrition by scanning a piece of fruit in front of it. Hold up a product in front of the camera and all the information about the object could be displayed on the Apple Watch screen. Scan a sign in a different language and have the translated text displayed on the watch.

If you’re thinking, “Yeah, that’s neat and all, but do I really need a camera for my watch?” Let me offer another perspective in the form of a personal anecdote.

During a recent 6.2-mile run one weekend I got bit by a dog. Thankfully, it was a smaller dog and the damage was limited, but in the moment, without my phone and only my Apple Watch, I wasn’t quite sure how to document the incident for later. I’ve thought of various things to do in hindsight, but the lack of a camera instantly became more of a glaring issue than it had been before.

The only device I use on daily runs is my Apple Watch because it is the equivalent of a tiny, cellular iPod that I can use to listen to music and podcasts. Plus, I don’t have to worry about dropping a $1,000 iPhone. I hope there’s not another random dog attack, but there are plenty of other accidents that could happen while running next to a street. My recent solution has been to use the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses while running, which have a camera embedded for taking photos and videos.

On a more positive side, besides attacks, there are plenty of images to capture, like sunsets or stunning views while out on a run without my phone.

Adding a camera accessory might not change anyone’s mind about using Apple’s watch if they’ve already decided not to. But there is a growing market of people who could benefit from it and who do use the watch without a phone: kids. I know this first-hand. As a parent with a kid who uses an Apple Watch, having a way to video call them would have been really beneficial at certain times. They’ve also asked me plenty of times to take a picture of something and send it to them since they have no way to do that currently.

Apple Needs to Make It Themselves

Forget the silly third-party watch bands with cameras built into them. Those aren’t any good. A real viable solution for deep integration would require Apple to make this accessory. Even just syncing photos from the Meta Smart Glasses to my phone after my run is less seamless than I would prefer.

My Apple Watch Ultra has a cellular connection with its own number. It has streaming audio capabilities, GPS, mapping, fitness tracking, messaging, and even rudimentary games. It’s a real wrist-worn computer. But it needs to continue to evolve. If the Apple Watch doesn’t continue to grow in new ways then are we simply waiting for it to fade away over time?

I didn’t think my Apple Watch was missing a camera until I saw the design of Humane’s Ai Pin. Now I can’t shake the idea that some kind of wireless camera is needed, not to fulfill one single purpose or need, but to cover a growing list of them.



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By John P.

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