You’ve no doubt encountered SIRI before, Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant for iOS. And if we bring gaze-controlled TVs, Microsoft’s Kinect, Flutter and Leap Motion into the mix, you could be forgiven for thinking that human fingers are becoming somewhat redundant.
With that in mind, another interesting new app has hit our radar, courtesy of Fixational, a startup based in Galway, Ireland. Wink Camera is a wink-controlled camera app for iOS – it’s as simple as that. You wink (assuming the lighting is good) and your photo is taken from the front-facing camera on your mobile device.
What does this mean? Well, no more reaching for the camera or + button. Whilst the app, in its current form, is aimed at people who like taking self portraits – perhaps those who update their profile pictures a lot – I can’t help but feel this app’s main raison d’être is as a show of technology.
Indeed, it does have a slightly gimmicky feel to it, but the implications of this kind of tech are pretty big, and it’s clear we’re moving away from ‘touchy-feely’ to a more gesture-centric design philosophy. Fixational’s wink detection engine can be added to any app without the need for extra hardware, so we could see ‘Wink’ opened up and added to other third-party apps in the future.
“Fixational is anticipating an improved front-facing camera on the iPhone 5 and have blogged about the lack of love Apple has shown in this regard,” says CEO Ronan O’Malley. “They are working on a major upgrade for iOS 6.”
If you agree that this feels like a show of technology, then it’s worth noting that Wink Camera is the first in a number of eye-controlled apps from Fixational. They’re working on a wink-controlled eReader app that enables the user to change pages while holding their iPad in both hands. This will cater for users with physical disabilities and motor skills disorders – so, the implications of Fixational’s tech hold far more potential than at first seems.
As it stands, Wink Camera doesn’t have any real functionality beyond snapping your portrait (perhaps with the Eiffel Tower in the background?) – it saves your snaps to the camera roll, and you can’t access your handiwork through the app itself. A menu for accessing the camera roll directly from within the app will be arriving with the first update. Future updates will also include enabling the use of the rear-facing camera, which will offer a better quality of picture.
“When doing research for the app, we talked to a lot of iOS owners,” says O’Malley. “As we thought, people like talking self-portraits with the front camera. Snaps of themselves in front of something interesting, or with their friends. However, it surprised us to learn that most people were aware that the front camera is worse, and would prefer to use the rear if that was possible. There are obviously two problems with using the rear-camera, one being you can’t see where you’re aiming, the second being it’s very awkward to reach for the shutter button. We’ve solved the second problem with our wink trigger and we’re working on the first. We see it as a different approach to the Flip-LCD camera.”
There are other apps out there that detect facial gestures – for example, HappyShutter, a smile-triggered camera app, then there’s MagicReader, an eReader app that lets you leaf through pages by moving your head. Oh, and if you like simple camera apps, we’ve previously covered QuickShot, an iOS app that helps you capture those Kodak Moments with literally one click.
Fixational is a team of four graduates from Ireland’s NDRC Launchpad accelerator programme. The founders hold PhDs in computer vision and previously worked on self-driving car technology in NUI Galway.
Meanwhile, Wink Camera is available to download from the App Store now, costing $0.99 (USD). You can check out the app’s official promo video below.