This very cool little device is much more than a high capacity SD card: it has an in-built Wi-Fi chip that allows it to connect to your local Wi-Fi infrastructure (whether via a wireless router, access points or an ad-hoc connection to your PC) and will automatically upload the images you’re taking to a folder on your system and (optionally) to your favourite photo sharing service such as Flickr. I chose the “Pro” version to have the flexibility to connect to an ad-hoc network with my PC, something I may need when presenting in Las Vegas.
As you’re no doubt aware, I don’t normally do product reviews, but I can see some really interesting potential uses for this technology – especially the thought of adapting it for use with tools such as Photosynth or Photofly – so I can’t resist going through how it works. My idea is to give a digital SLR containing this card to a member of the audience to take snaps of an object inside the classroom. While I present, the volunteer will hopefully snap away and the resultant photos would just appear in a folder on my PC, ready for uploading to Photosynth and Photofly (a manual step, for now, but I’m certainly chewing on ways it might be automated :-).
So far the device seems to work well. To get started you place the card in the provided reader and plug it into a USB port on your system, at which point you should have the option to install and then launch the Eye-Fi Center application.
The Eye-Fi Center is – as you’d expect – the tool you use to configure your Eye-Fi card. You start with the main UI, from which you can display and modify the various settings of your Eye-Fi card(s), as well as manage the photos you’ve taken and transferred.
I actually found that I needed a file-sharing service configured and enabled – even if I only wanted images transferred locally to my PC – which surprised me somewhat. Perhaps this was a glitch specific to my set-up but it took me a while to recognise it. You’ll see later on there are ways to only upload selected images to Flickr, etc., so it’s not an especially big deal, all things considered.
I shoot neither RAW nor video with this particular SLR, so I won’t bother looking at those settings.
The next option of interest is related to geotagging:
The card doesn’t contain a GPS chip (now wouldn’t that be something? :-) so it relies on the WPS service provided by Skyhook. Apparently iPhone devices once relied on this service for non-GPS positioning (such as inside buildings), but as I don’t have an iPhone this is my first exposure to this service. It’s pretty slick – it certainly did a surprisingly accurate job of positioning the images I’ve taken at home and the office:
As well as the Eye-Fi Center application, there’s also an Eye-Fi Helper agent which presumably maintains some kind of connection with the Eye-Fi servers and remains ready to bring down images as they become available. When it does so, a toast pop-up notification appears with a thumbnail and progress bar for that download:
All this no doubt raises some security concerns for some people (in fact I’ve seen such concerns raised on the web), but I personally see more potential benefits from the technology. And I’m now getting used to service providers hosting (and hopefully not looking at) my files, and in any case the images I take are innocuous enough.
On the download frequency: the images tend to download in fits and spurts. Part of this is about being close enough to the wireless router (or PC if using an ad-hoc network), but it’s also about configuring the camera not to turn itself off in attempt to save power too readily. I suspect there must also be some server-traffic component to this on the Eye-Fi side of things, as there are certainly times when it feels as though the photos should come more quickly.
The other change I’ve made – specifically with respect to Photosynth and Photofly – was to adjust the resolution of photos being taken by my SLR down to 3 megapixels. Neither technology makes use of anything above 3 megapixels (and Photosynth’s synther apparently uses a maximum of 2 megapixels), so anything greater would mean some conversion is needed prior to upload to these services, as well as resulting in a larger download from the Eye-Fi servers.
I’m going to continue to play with the technology over the coming weeks, but so far I’m pretty impressed (and think it’ll add a fun component to the AU demo). If you’d like more detailed information on this Eye-Fi product, see this review on Engadget.