The camera has been a staple of the technology industry since the 19th century. Nowadays, with the huge popularity of smartphones, more people carry and use a camera than ever before. The latest model iPhone – the iPhone 4 – has a 5 megapixel camera, which is more than sufficient for the casual photographer.
As smartphones integrate ever more powerful cameras, what can the traditional camera companies do to compete? While there will always be a market for high-end cameras – specialist devices used by professional photographers – it’s that middle and lower end market which is slipping away from the likes of Kodak, Canon, Olympus, Sony and Nikon.
Artefact has created a concept camera for the smartphone age, called the WVIL. That acronym stands for Wireless Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. As you can see from the photo above, it looks like a normal camera. One obvious difference is that it detaches in two, one part looking very much like a modern day smartphone. Artefact further describes the WVIL as a “new architecture that combines the lens and sensor together into one wireless unit.”
The founders of Artefact, Gavin Kelly and Rob Girling, told me that this concept camera gave them “an opportunity to re-think how to interact with our cameras.” In the video below, you can see how touchscreen technology is used to provide a new way to interact with your photos. It essentially brings the smartphone user experience to the camera.
This isn’t entirely unique, because some high-end cameras – such as the Canon SD3500 – have touchscreen controls. Plus newer digital cameras often have input sensors (e.g. accelerometers, gyroscopes). However, Artefact takes these features a step further, for example by adding apps and social functionality.
Artefact is envisaging new types of software and apps for their camera. Such as software that teaches you better photography by giving you real-time coaching tips. This would use the sensors in the camera, so it knows what you’re doing and can then guide you to use a certain technique or feature if appropriate.
Artefact’s camera is, like the popular smartphones, built on a software platform that uses touchscreen technology. Other types of apps that Artefact foresees include apps that post-process photos, share images and enhance the camera’s functionality.
Finally, this concept brings the social media functionality that smartphones famously have and deposits it into a digital camera. According to Artefact, current digital cameras have limited social functionality.
For power users of photography, having the ability to manipulate and share photos direct from the camera does seem like a compelling feature. The general consumer is already well served currently by apps like Instagram and Foodspotting, so this wouldn’t be so compelling to them.