How did a small Israeli company get to design CMRA, the Apple Watch camera band accessory introduced November 2 in a groundbreaking advance for the wearables field?

“When we started playing with the first line of smartwatches in 2013, we realized that we were close to the future of communication but it needed a camera to come to fruition,” says Jonathan Caras, cofounder and COO of Glide, whose free video messaging app is installed on millions of smartphones and devices, including Apple Watch and Android Wear.

Glide’s video messaging app is built into the Apple Watch. Photo: courtesy
Glide’s video messaging app is built into the Apple Watch. Photo: courtesy

Introduced in 2014, Apple Watch has sold some 15 million units, yet hasn’t replaced the smartphone as a primary-use device. The tech giant therefore came to agree with Glide’s assessment that a camera accessory could be game-changing.

“When Apple heard that we were working on a camera-band accessory, they rolled out the red carpet to help us construct CMRA with an Apple feel and look,” Caras tells ISRAEL21c.

Shawn Grening, former technical program manager for Apple Watch, joined Glide to guide the project with Glide CEO Ari Roisman.

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, one-third of Apple Watch users regularly buy accessory watchbands, “none of which offer external functionality,” Caras points out. “So we’re coming to market with not just a high-quality band but a whole new dimension to what the product can do.”

2 high-res cameras

CMRA (available in black, blue, gray or white) captures 500 stills or 30 minutes of video per charge. Its two high-res cameras — a self-facing 2mp and an outward-facing 8mp – both capture HD video.

Images and videos can be shared directly from your wrist on apps including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Glide’s visual messenger. They’re saved to the device’s 8GB embedded memory.

CMRA is available in four colors. Photo courtesy of Glide
CMRA is available in four colors. Photo courtesy of Glide

The CMRA band is available for pre-order at a limited-time launch price of $149; after its worldwide launch in the near future, it will retail for $249.

Caras says that putting the camera in the band enables added functionality without diminishing the watch’s battery life because it has its own battery. A charging dock simultaneously charges the Apple Watch and CMRA band.

CMRA’s charging dock. Photo courtesy of Glide
CMRA’s charging dock. Photo courtesy of Glide

 CMRA integrates natively with existing apps and will feature an SDK for third-party developers.

“We are positioning this as the go-to camera for watch developers,” says Caras. “Any app that could benefit by having a camera will have the opportunity to do so.”

The Glide culture

Caras considers CMRA an extension of Glide’s core business.

Founded in 2012 in Jerusalem, Glide is the world’s first messaging application to leverage streaming video technology. Video messages, stored on the cloud, are delivered almost instantaneously and can be viewed at the recipient’s convenience, affording a “video walkie-talkie” experience.

What does this have to do with CMRA? Caras explains that Glide’s expertise and award-winning proprietary technology optimize battery life, speed of transfer and other aspects essential to video on a wearable device.

“That’s the tech side of it. From the vision side, it’s also very complementary. We believe that the best way for people to communicate is face to face, and in an era of devices without keyboards, the ideal way to communicate is right from your wrist,” says Caras.

Glide, which has raised more than $30 million in VC investments, has approximately 50 employees in its Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Bay Area offices, and will soon establish a presence in China to oversee manufacturing of CMRA.

Glide’s headquarters in Jerusalem Technology Park is renowned for encouraging fun during down time. (Tel Aviv staffers join in several times a week.)

Glide cofounder Jonathan Caras having fun at work. Photo: courtesy
Glide cofounder Jonathan Caras having fun at work. Photo: courtesy

“I wanted to inspire creativity and cross-department communication,” Caras tells ISRAEL21c. “I felt the way to do that was to take breaks together, eat lunch together and have off-sites together. A sense of family and community is important to maintain in promoting a culture with free-falling ideas. When you have a stressful environment you have to constantly promote an aspect of fun or you’re going to lose that.”

Glide cofounders Caras, Roisman and Adam Korbl live thousands of miles from their family and friends, so they are among the majority of Glide users, for whom the app enables group/family chats.

One of many awards won by the company recognized its contribution to improving accessibility to telecommunications and media for the deaf community in the United States.

Glide Community Manager Sarah Snow at the Texas School for the Deaf. Photo: courtesy
Glide Community Manager Sarah Snow at the Texas School for the Deaf. Photo: courtesy

In 2016, Glide and team were selected by Fast Company as one of the 10 Most Innovative Companies for Video and 100 Most Creative People in Business. Roisman was chosen by MIT Technology Review as a notable “Innovator under 35.”

“Life’s amazing moments happen fast and are easy to miss. Having a camera instantly accessible on the wrist makes capturing and sharing incredibly quick and convenient,” said Roisman. “As smartwatches become independent of the phone, wrist cameras will become commonplace for capturing memories and communicating visually.”

For more information on CMRA, click here.