Cameras have become a pervasive part of our culture. Surely, camera-equipped smartphones have resulted in more snapshots than anyone could ever have imagined even a dozen years ago, at the height of the stand-alone digital camera's popularity.
Cameras are also finding their way into conference rooms for teleconferencing and at home for security and home monitoring. Until recently, though, not a lot of innovation was going on in such applications. All that changed at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.
First of all, companies like Netatmo showed off "smart" home monitor cameras with integrated face recognition, for example. Its Welcome is a cylinder-shaped camera that applies logic to what it sees, so you can receive a text if someone unknown to the camera enters your house, for example.
And then there was IC Real Tech, with its new line of Allie cameras.
IC Real Tech describes Allie as a "720-degree" camera, which is shorthand for a camera capable of recording pretty much everything in the vicinity -- 360 degrees around the camera, plus 360 degrees floor to ceiling. That, incidentally, is the inspiration for the camera's name, which is pronounced "all - eee," like "selfie."
Allie accomplishes this feat through a pair of opposite-facing 180-degree cameras and a sophisticated stitching engine that combines the views into a single cohesive image using hardware in the camera. The stitching happens in real time and doesn't require any processing on the device that's viewing the video.
The end result is a completely immersive, interactive video image that you can pan around or even zoom into -- both in live, streaming video and video that has already been recorded. All that data is resident in the video content, waiting to be explored at any time.
The Allie family comprises several models: Allie Pro is positioned for security and offers superior optics as well as a premium price tag of about $3,000. The improved optics allow for a relatively deep 8x optical zoom. For $500, Allie Home and Allie Play include most of the same capabilities, but they limit the zoom to 4x.
The major difference between the Home and Play models is styling, with the Play model enclosed in a cute and casual rocket-ship design. All Allie cameras have dual 13 megapixel camera with 720 dpi resolution.
Allie allows for live streaming, so for home monitoring, you can pan around your home from a mobile phone, for example. It also offers cloud storage of up to 30 days.
The applications for Allie are quite broad in both home and business. At work, it's a great tool for security and monitoring, remote meetings, distance learning and teleconferencing. At home, it's also ideal for monitoring and security, as well as more creative applications. At CES, IC Real Tech showed "720-degree" video of a car race from the race car's perspective, with an Allie mounted on the top of the vehicle.
Photo courtesy IC Real Tech