The trouble with stopping to take a photo or record a video that captures a memorable moment is that by the time you've whipped out your smartphone, fired up the camera app and started taking pictures, you're not a part of that experience any more.
"We capture a lot of experiences, but it takes you out of the moment," said Johan-Till Broer of Ubiquiti Labs, echoing the complaint of anyone who's ever been tasked with camera duty at a birthday party or on a trip.
Ubiquiti Labs thinks it has the solution — a wearable camera that does all the picture taking and video recording for you while you go about your business. Wear the $399 Front Row camera around your neck, and it will capture images and video of all the things you're experience with minimal effort on your part.
The circular FrontRow features a 2-inch touchscreen and is lightweight enough to wear on an included lanyard around your neck. A magnetic clip also lets you pin the camera to your clothing.
Flip the FrontRow around, and a 8-megapixel camera with a 140-degree wide view can capture photos and videos. Just above the touchscreen there's an 5-MP selfie cam. A media button operates the camera and joins power and home buttons as the only controls on FrontRow.
FrontRow ships with customized versions of popular apps including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. That makes it easy to live stream video to those social services, and FrontRow's battery has enough juice to let you stream for two hours. "It's a camera for people who like to share content on social," Borer told me during a FrontRow demo.
But the camera's more compelling feature is Story Mode, an automated time-lapse capability where FrontRow shoots photos as you go about your day. In Story Mode, FrontRow shoots a picture every few seconds, using a motion sensor to determine the best moment to snap the picture. He showed me a collection of time-lapse photos captured as he walked around San Francisco and put together by FrontRow that were remarkably blur-free.
"People record video but never edit because it's too much work," Broer said. FrontRow aims to address that problem.
FrontRow's battery can keep Story Mode going for 10 hours. The camera has 32GB of storage, giving you plenty of room to store all those captured images.
There's a temptation to compare FrontRow to GoPro's Hero5, as that action camera also costs $399. But the Story Mode feature on FrontRow struck me more like Snap's Spectacles, only capable of shooting autonomously in a longer form and not tied to the Snapchat app. I could see FrontRow establishing itself as a valuable travel companion, automatically capturing images of your trip while you're freed up to fully enjoy the sights and sounds.
FrontRow's battery promises 48 hours of standby mode. Quick charging through its USB Type-C port lets you fully charge the camera in 20 minutes. FrontRow connects to your smartphone over BlueTooth, and it offers Wi-Fi connectivity as well.
The camera is now available from both Ubquiti Labs and Amazon.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.