Here's what I learned being 'that' wearable camera guy

When my FrontRow wearable camera came in the mail, I was very hesitant about donning it everywhere to record my life.

Wearable cameras have a bad reputation, arguably since so-called ‘Glassholes’ were first accused of being pretentious and intrusive. And, honestly, there’s some truth in that. Unlike most cameras, wearable ones are always on your person and they could be recording with little-to-no indication whatsoever.

I’ve done plenty of street shooting between my journalistic career and as a hobby, so I have no reservation about capturing public scenes. However, no matter how discreet I was or how small of a camera I used, it was plainly obvious whenever I was taking a photo.

In this way, shooting with a camera or a smartphone felt like adhering to a non-verbal agreement: yes, I might be taking a photo of you, but it’s also obvious when I’m doing so. Wearable cameras break that social contract by hiding in plain sight.

It doesn’t help that wearable cameras still aren’t terribly prevalent. Between the demise of Google Glass, and Snapchat Spectacles falling into obscurity, the most common wearable camera you’ll find are those worn by police officers. So, on top of the social stigma, you’ll also be the odd man out with a wearable camera.

Facing my fears

Despite my many reservations though, I still really wanted to give it a try. So, I decided to record my journey through the halls at IFA 2017 with the FrontRow.

“What a putz,” I said as soon I saw myself wearing the FrontRow camera in the mirror.

The FrontRow camera’s styling is divisive to say the least. It’s a big, round and flat disk that makes many large pendants look small.

Now, as someone who never wears jewelry, this oversized pendant looks as tacky as one of those giant clocks Flavor Flav wore. Still, I forced myself to keep it on and walked out of the bathroom onto the IFA 2017 show floor.

As I walked around the twisting and meandering show floor, I was sure someone would gawk at my strange, oversized pendant and realize in disgust that it was actually a wearable camera.

To my surprise, though, there were more people than I expected who were gleefully curious as to what it was. Most even thought it was actually really cool when I explained what the device was. An even greater number of people didn’t bat an eye to it.

Sure, most conferences have a busy show floor, and everyone was more focused to get where they were going – not to mention that this crowd is way more used to people wearing goofy tech – but I quickly realized most of my fears and suspicions of wearable cameras were more in my head than in reality. 

Of course, there are still places you should never wear the FrontRow, like into a public bathroom.

After using the FrontRow for a few days, it’s clear to me that there is  something more to wearable cameras than just self-aggrandizing. There is something nostalgic about looking back at my time lapses and remembering the time I got lost on the show floor, or when I ran around in circles or that person I shared a quick conversation with.

Wearable cameras are extremely convenient for capturing moments and do the perfect job of reminding yourself of experiences.

Smartphones are undoubtedly the most common device everyone uses to capture photos and video, but sometimes it’s also the most inconvenient way to capture a moment. Whether you’ve got your hands full at the time or want to focus at the experience without distractions, actively capturing an experience isn’t always ideal. 

This is where wearable cameras could come in to fill the gap, and for these reasons I hope they become as ubiquitous as smartphones so everyone can capture.

Now, for the true challenge: wearing FrontRow amidst the general public.

Beyond the Rift is a bi-weekly column where we take a look at emerging technology that's just beginning to sprout up in the world. We'll look at the newest tech like eBoards, eBikes, wireless  headphones, 360 cameras and much more.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.