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Santa Rosa firm develops pioneering video cameras

  • Ryan Griffith models the Liquid Image Apex HD+ Camera Goggles at the company's Santa Rosa office on Thursday, January 17, 2013. The HD+ versions of their camera goggles are capable of live streaming to smartphones and tablets via Wifi.The The ski mask camera won an Innovations Award at this year's International CES in Las Vegas. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Debbie Wymer got a surprise gift from her boyfriend at Christmas: ski goggles with a built-in video camera and microphone.

This month she wore them and filmed the downhill action on a two-day Santa Rosa Ski Club outing at the Northstar resort outside Truckee.

"It was fun to share it with all my buddies," said Wymer, a retired insurance claims adjuster from Windsor. After a day on the slopes, the friends gathered round a laptop and viewed their exploits.

"We had some really good laughs," she said.

Wymer got a second surprise when she learned the high-tech goggles were created by a company that moved to Santa Rosa a little over a year ago. Liquid Image, owned by a married couple who each graduated from Santa Rosa High School, makes products for a small but growing consumer category: Point of View, or POV, cameras.

The cameras, which can capture surfing, snorkeling, skydiving and other action-packed activities, experienced sales growth last year of about 70 percent to 4.5 million units, according to research firm IDC.

It estimates sales could grow to nearly 8 million cameras this year as consumers try out the latest wrinkle — built-in Wi-Fi that allows users to watch the video immediately on their smartphones.

"This is a good time to be a startup" in the POV market, said Chris Chute, IDC's research director for digital imaging, based in Framingham, Mass.

In the age of smartphones, video clips already seem a ubiquitous part of life. But POV cameras add a different dimension because you don't have to hold them — a good thing when water-skiing, racing dirt bikes or driving high-performance cars on the track. The cameras can be mounted to helmets or attached to moving toys so they capture the user in action.

"A lot of it is the ability to shoot yourself in a particular situation," said Chute. "In a way it's a little narcissistic, but it's a lot of fun."

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