In the decade between founding Wanaka's Snow Park in 2001 and exiting the business in 2011, Sam Lee had captured seemingly endless behind the scenes footage of big events. But he was frustated with trawling through hours of footage to edit out everything other than the highlights.
Those shortcomings led to the brainwave that would become MeMINI, a wearable camera to capture everything from a child's first words to hilarious joke at a family gathering.
The device continuously records for up to five minutes, with the user pressing a button to capture only the moments they want.
Lee likens the process to old school videotape recording in a loop, with only the segment users want to keep clipped off and saved. He also likens it to the ability to pause and record live digital television.
"We create an excess of digital material and often nothing happens," says Lee. "I wanted to create something that was always recording, but if nothing happened that was worth saving, you just don't press the button."
If users press the button more than once, the second moment is 'stitched' onto the first to extend the clip that's saved. The camera features full HD, image stabilisation and battery life of three hours.
Lee has a joint venture with Ben Bodley and the team at miniature camera maker Teknique, which has created three generations of working prototypes. Auckland-based Blender Design has made seven or eight prototypes that demonstrate the enclosure and the look and feel. Teknique and Blender Design are collaborating on another camera invention, the Quebee camera in a cube.
Lee and the team have also created a magnetic backing plate called Magnatech to attach the MeMINIcamera to the user's clothing.
The system is completed with software for storage and sharing of the moments users capture. Using the smartphone app, they can control the recording loop time and camera settings.
Users can also choose to instantly share clips via social media, or email them to selected individuals. And they can use cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive, connecting over wifi or to other devices via Bluetooth.
To date Lee has funded MeMINI's development, but is hunting US$50,000 on Kickstarter to pay for of the first 1000 cameras to be manufactured. At the time of writing the project was closing in on its target, reaching US$45,000 in pledges. After the Kickstarter campaign meMINI will cost US$249.
Lee and Bodley are launching the system at US electronics show CES.
The entrepreneur says his ultimate aim is to be the equivalent of the Go Pro, a wireless connectivity camera targeted at adventure sports enthusiasts, but for the family and lifestyle market.
"This is something I'm really passionate about and really believe in," he says. "It's kind of cool when you want your own product."
He adds Kickstarter is a chance for Kiwis to shake off tall poppy syndrome. "Hopefully we go really well on Kickstarter and show that people in small towns can reach a global audience."
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