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The Backerjack Interview: Narrative’s Oskar Kalmaru on the evolving wearable camera

Raising over half a million dollars as Memoto, the Narrative Clip has been a pioneer in the field of wearable cameras. Originally marketing a life-logging device, the company has seen its cameras embraced for more diverse scenarios. Backerjack caught up with Narrative CMO and co-founder Oskar Kalmaru to discuss what the company has learned from the first Clip. Kalmaru also discussed some of the cool features of the Clip 2, which will include better image quality, better connectivity and 3D-printable mounts, but take a pass on Kickstarter.

Backerjack: It’s been about a year since the Narrative Clip shipped. What have you been hearing from your customers?

Kalmaru: It’s a really nice feeling to be able to go from being a Kickstarter project where everything is just pre-everything – pre-users, pre-product —  to having an actual product out with actual users actually using it and seeing that it does work. It does help people to live in the moment and capture things as they happen and relax in the moment and still get photos out of it People use it in 52 countries now and have been using it for travel, taking pictures of their families, photographing weddings.

Backerjack: From those use cases, it sounds like people are using it more situationally rather than wearing it all day every day and sorting through the photos. When I tried the product, I was pleased with the picture quality but it makes you realize you’re not doing the most exciting stuff every day.

Kalmaru: It’s a camera that’s great for life-logging if that’s what you want to do. But if it isn’t, it’s great for a lot of other things, too. And as with most wearables, what we’re seeing now is that they aren’t necessarily meant to be used all the time. There are a few wearables that are used all the time — maybe your watch, maybe your glasses. You use the camera in situations where it would make sense. It could be having dinner with friends, spending time hiking with your family. It could be doing things that are maybe out of the ordinary or you want to be able to do those activities and stay in the moment and still capture it.

Backerjack: When you launched, you had a competitor that was priced quite a bit higher. It looks like they’ve exited the hardware market so what do you take away from that? Do you think it was just the price point they were at? Or is it a setback for the category?

Kalmaru: I can’t really tell why they pulled out. We’re having a fantastic year. We have users from all over the world using it all the time. We raised another $8 million from Khosla Ventures in Menlo Park. Again, this is proving that this category is the future. Just look at the trends. The photo trend, that’s one megatrend. There are two billion photos uploaded every single day and you have the wearable trend next to that. People are getting more and more used to wearables devices. Combine those two and you have wearable cameras.

Backerjack: Due to some tragic recent events, there’s been a lot of talk about equipping police officers with wearable cameras. That would be a market where the application is clear. Is it something that you would see potential in or do you think that’s where you need specialized equipment?

Kalmaru: I’m not an expert in security or the needs for police officers. But I can imagine that they might have special needs to be worked into the hardware. We want to stay really focused on consumer side, build the world’s most wearable camera for consumers. But you never know. If we can help them out, it would be terrific.

Backerjack: Talk to me a little bit about some of the improvements in the Narrative Clip 2.

Kalmaru: Another good side to having all these users is when you get feedback, we get to know what we can improve. Even though the Narrative Clip 1 does the job at capturing these moments, users told us things can be even better. Those are things we’re introducing in the second one.

There’s three main things. One is improve image quality. There’s an eight megapixel sensor, a wider angle lens so you can see more of the photos but still not this crazy fisheye. The second part is the wireless connectivity. There’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You can use your mobile phone as a remote to control the Clip or you can transfer photos over Wi-Fi.

Backerjack: One of the things that I wanted to be able to address was the frequency of capture. But you haven’t changed that, have you?

Kalmaru: That’s a pretty easy fix. It’s in the pipeline, It’s something coming as well; it’s a firmware fix. Hardware-wise, the third thing is the mount, the clip on the Clip. In the previous version, that was fixed, you only had one mount. In the second one, you can replace it, you can take off one mount and put on another one. You can 3D-print your own ones and we will design mounts for even increased wearability — for your hat, for your jacket or for your dog.

Backerjack Part of the offering that Narrative introduced with the first Clip was a subscription service for storing all the photos that the camera took and allowing you to search through the archive. What was the experience with that?

That is an equally important part of our offering. We have the hardware offering, the storage back-end and the software apps. All those three things play together. When you use the hardware, you get tons of photos and that would just be a mess if you wouldn’t have this software as well.

Backerjack: I believe the figure was two terabytes per year?

Kalmaru: That’s if you use it every day, which very few people do. But even if you use it a little, you can get a couple of gigabytes per day. So we store all the photos for you so you don’t have to think about it and we organize the photos for you so that we wade through all the photos for you. We have an image analysis algorithm that looks through your photos and says, “That photo is out of focus.” Or it’s blurry. These photos have faces, good color. The good photos we can highlight and the bad ones we can hide away. So when you open the app, the photos you see are the good photos until you cautiously dive in to the not-so-good photos. 

Backerjack: And how much does the camera store before you have to offload it?

Kalmaru: The camera has 8 gigabytes of flash memory and the battery lasts for 30 hours, which means that the battery runs out faster than the storage. So when you charge the battery with your computer you also offload the photos.

Backerjack: Will you be doing a crowdfunding campaign for the Clip 2 on Kickstarter?

Kalmaru: No, we plan to ship later this year. We launched it at CES and we had great support here from everyone coming by.

Backerjack: Where can people buy the product today?

Kalmaru: The camera is available at Amazon and a few Best Buy stores, Urban Outfitters, and our Web site at getnarrative.com.

Backerjack: And the pricing of the new one will be?

Kalmaru: The new one will be at $199. We are dropping the price on the first generation to $149.

Backerjack: And, that will stay on the market, right?

Kalmaru: That will stay on the market until supplies run out.

Backerjack: Thanks, Oskar.