It’s a given in this age that new technology frequently eliminates jobs once performed by humans. (Think supermarket self-service checkout scanners.) Here’s a new device that may not send all camera operators and videographers looking for new careers, but it probably will eliminate the need for journalists in some instances to have a cameraman/woman tag along to shoot video reports.

The Swivl robotic “personal cameraman,” recently shown at the Consumer Electronics Show and shipping in Q1 2012, is a small electronic “tripod” for smartphones and small, lightweight video cameras which automatically follows a person who is holding a matched remote control, eliminating the need for a camera operator.

I can foresee many instances where this inexpensive device will be useful for news reporters to shoot video reports solo

And it only costs $159.

The device connects to newer-model iOS (i.e., Apple) devices with a special app, which permits the subject of a video to control the device (video start/stop, photo taking) and supports using the remote control’s built-in microphone to get better audio quality than from the iOS device itself. Other cameras (maximum weight, 6 ounces) and smartphones also can be used with the Swivl, but without the microphone and remote control-functions.

The Swivl can turn 360 degrees to follow the video subject holding the remote, and has up/down following capability as well.

The start-up company boasts of the Swivl’s use for videobloggers, who can use the Swivl to create video posts where they are the star and which look as though a camera operator was involved. But I can foresee many instances where this inexpensive device will be useful for news reporters to shoot video reports solo.

  • During an interview, the subject might be asked to hold the remote — or put it on a lanyard hanging around his neck — so that the subject can move around and be captured, while the interviewer concentrates on taking notes, unencumbered by having to shoot video while conducting an interview.
  • For a stand-up report at an accident scene, a reporter could shoot a video report while moving around to capture the scene, sans human camera operator. By holding the remote in hand and pointing to, say, the site of impact, the Swivl will follow the remote and move the camera to show the impact spot rather than the reporter.

With the rapidly improving quality of mobile devices to capture high-quality video, the Swivl appears to be a device that could do many of the simpler shooting jobs of a trained human camera operator. For high-end production, this $159 device is not likely to suffice. But for video bloggers and reporters doing simple video assignments, it’s an incredibly cheap alternative to dragging a camera operator along.

The videos below are of blogger Robert Scoble interviewing the founder of Swivl and demoing the device, and a promo video from Swivl’s website.

Swivl by Satarii from Satarii on Vimeo.

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2 Responses to Swivl ‘robot’: Good-bye to the cameraman?

  1. sopi says:

    There’s a <a href=”http://gadgetnode.com/motion-tracking-swivl-released/>video of the swivl</a> on there. I’m surprised how fluid the movement is. It does look good, even though it’s not exactly cheap. Can’t wait until they get back in stock. Defo want one! ;]

  2. sopi says:

    There’s a promo video of the swivl at http://gadgetnode.com/motion-tracking-swivl-released/ … I’m surprised how fluid the movement is. It does look good, even though it’s not exactly cheap. Can’t wait until they get back in stock. Defo want one! ;]

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