When Google Glass started shipping out to early testers, privacy advocates were worried about the gadget’s face camera. Google Glass, they warned, represented a disconcerting new way for wearers to snap secret photos of anyone they were looking at.
Recently, however, two fully funded crowdsourced projects have proved that the humble iPhone can be just as secretive for sneaky snaps. The gadgets, called COVR Photo and the Peek-I, are both shipping soon, and both make taking a photo on your iPhone without your subject noticing a breeze.
All right. So maybe just wanting to sneak pictures of the cute guy sitting across the coffee shop from you isn’t quite an NSA-level invasion. And, truth be told, both of these so-called “spy cams” are pretty nifty extensions of the iPhone’s camera.
COVR Photo is an iPhone camera case developed in part by award-winning photojournalist Thomas Hurst. The case, made for the iPhone 5 and 5s, features a “periscoping lens.” That means you can position the phone flat in your hand to candidly snap pictures without interrupting “the uniqueness of what is unfolding before you,” as Hurst explains on the device’s Kickstarter page.
Basically, you can appear to be looking at the screen on your phone while actually snapping a photo of the person or object directly in front of you, as seen below.
COVR Photo in action. (COVR’s Kickstarter)
Hurst says COVR is more about the art of live photography than spying: Moments like grabbing candid, honest shots of your children having fun, or naturally capturing New York City sidewalk passersby.
A snap taken with COVR Photo. (Instagram/mrobinsonchavez)
But if you wanted to use it as a spy camera — well, you certainly could.
The version of the COVR Photo shown on the Kickstarter page is a full black iPhone 5/5s case with a lens that slides up when you want to take a covert picture. The team says some design tweaks will likely be made before a retail release and, if all goes well, a COVR Photo for the next iPhone should be a given.
The campaign reached its funding goal days ago, and those who pledged should receive their COVR Photo cases this summer. There’s no timeline set as to when the project will hit stores, but the folks at COVR are expecting about a $70 retail price.
The COVR case positions itself as a gadget for candid family photography. The Peek-I spy cam, a competing iPhone attachment that also succeeded on a crowdfunding site recently, makes no such heartwarming claims.
Peek-I is a smaller device than the COVR Photo, but it’s already garnered well more pledge money than its goal. The makers were looking for $1,000 in funding. So far, they’ve received almost $30K.
Peek-I. (Peek-I’s Indiegogo)
Rather than being built into a case, the Peek-I lens simply attaches magnetically around the smartphone’s rear camera. And not only can Peek-I shoot dead ahead with the phone lying naturally in your hand, but it can also aim to the sides of your phone, which is extra sneaky.
Spying! (Peek-I’s Indiegogo)
But it’s clear that Peek-I is far less of a tool for photographers and more of a fun (mischievous) gizmo. It also works with almost any smartphone, not just the iPhone.
You can preorder a Peek-I until May 18 on the project’s Indiegogo page, which will cost you anywhere from $15 for one device or $300 for a box of 40, in case you are doing a lot of spying. Products are set to ship sometime this month.
Regardless of the amount of money pledged to these “spy cam” projects, backlash awaits if they become popular. Let’s hope the early buyers of each will err on the side of privacy consideration before using it irresponsibly.
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