Design and features
The Looxcie is a small Bluetooth headset that can be worn over your ear in the position that a traditional headset would reside. The difference here is that the Looxcie comes with a built-in video camera that can record for up to four hours from its rechargeable battery. It's a way to document your day-to-day activities without having the burden of carrying around a traditional camera or camcorder.
It comes in two configurations: a version with 5 hours of internal video storage for AU$249.95; or 10 hours for AU$279.95.
Setting up the Looxcie should be a straightforward task, but we stumbled at the first hurdle: mounting the ear loop. The hole that the loop has to pass through is rather small, and it takes a lot of force to get the bar to pass through this opening. We fear this may not be an isolated incident, as there's a rather large diagram provided in the box, which instructs the user on how to correctly insert the ear loop.
The device also comes with a range of removable earpieces, which can be changed depending on your preference. Other optional mounting accessories available include a ball-cap clip, a tripod mount and a helmet strap, which sell for AU$19.95 each.
Video quality is 480p, equivalent to DVD resolution, while it downscales to 320p when sharing.
To get started on sharing content from your Looxcie, you need to download one of three apps that are available for either Android or iOS devices.
LooxcieCam is the app for controlling the Looxcie from your smartphone; it records in 480p quality for one hour of footage
LooxcieMoments is for using the camera as a live viewfinder or watching back footage you've already recorded on the device. You can edit portions of a clip and upload it to a sharing site
LooxcieLive is the app for live broadcasting content from your Looxcie to friends who are also using the app on either Android or iOS. You set up a Bluetooth connection from the device to your smartphone, and then it streams online through the LooxcieLive service. There's no web viewing available at the time of writing, so all users must have the app.
It does seem counter-intuitive to have three apps that cover similar functionality when a single app with multiple options would do the job just fine.
The Looxcie works without any stand-alone apps, if you so desire, and records to internal memory. Footage can be viewed on a computer by plugging it in with the included micro-USB cord.
Connecting the Looxcie via Bluetooth is simple; just hold down the connection button at the top of the device (beneath the record button) and turn the power on at the same time. The Bluetooth streaming to a phone works very well and is reasonably seamless, showing what's being recorded by the camera in near-real time.
There's a red light visible when recording, which makes covert capturing a little more difficult if you're trying to be secretive.
The Looxcie is not designed to make cinematic masterpieces. For simple sharing activities, such as uploading to YouTube or capturing a funny moment, it's fine. Video quality is reminiscent of VGA recordings from compact digital cameras and smartphones back in the day. From the Moments app, you can change certain parameters, like lighting, to compensate for backlit situations, as well as white balance. Video is captured as an MP4 file.
However, the sound quality is poor; the volume difference between the wearer and any subjects in front of the camera is huge. Mono audio can be acceptable for these purposes, but more often than not, this device will disappoint anyone trying to hear what's going on. We also found that the audio would occasionally drop out for a second at a time during filming.
Bluetooth audio is quite the opposite, though, making it a viable option as an accessory for answering phone calls.
Given that this is designed to be a mounted accessory that you wear on your person, it would have been nice to integrate some sort of stabilisation system, even digital stabilisation, on the Looxcie. Unfortunately, there's none, so every bump, movement or slight turn of the head is captured in nauseating definition.
A good application for the Looxcie would be as a camera that sits somewhere steady and stable, and is left to record the action. Thanks to the smartphone apps, which helps it act as a remote viewfinder, this is easy enough to do.
There's no way to capture still photos with the Looxcie, which could have been something easy enough to integrate in the device.
The above sample video was taken and edited from the LooxcieMoments app, hence the 320p quality. As you can see, the footage is off-axis and shaky when walking, as the camera does tend to move out of alignment when worn as intended.
For an active parent or someone who likes to keep a watchful eye over their lives every day, the Looxcie is a good way to capture video without needing to carry around a separate camera. Needless to say, AU$250 for a head-mounted video camera with serious limitations on video and sound quality seems like a lot of money, unless you enjoy the quirky nature of being able to record footage from a covert device.