Spy things are getting serious with this Spy Tie. It’s a polyester business-style tie with a built-in VGA camera and microphone writing to 4GB of internal storage. I’ve been out prowling the suburbs with it and it’s a very nifty accessory.
The Spy Tie comes with a minimum of accessories, there’s a mains power plug with international adapter for recharging, the keychain fob with the fire button plus the polyester tie itself, all packaged in a tie box. The camera shoots .avi files at 640×480 resolution @30 fps and records mono sound.
The camera smarts are in a sealed package inside the tie. There’s a physical on/off switch and a USB plug hardwired on. The part of the tie around the camera lens is glued to the electronics. The camera itself is tiny and is quite hard to see which is handy for a spy camera. It’s not invisible though, and it sort of breaks up the nice white square pattern. If you lean in you can see it quite easily.
It couldn’t be simpler to use, switch it on to put the tie into warm start mode. You can then control the camera via the keychain fob. A two second press starts and stops the video and a green LED will light up when it’s recording. You’re supposed to only be able to see this recording light from the back of the tie, but I could see it from the front in a dark room, but that’s ok, the camera doesn’t work in the dark and electrical tape will fix the problem if you care.
It charges via USB and the recording time is around 70 minutes with a standby mode of 2 days. The battery in the sealed key fob is good for about 2 years, but I’m sure you could get in if you tried.
The camera will fill the memory card to the tune of around 55MB per minute so the 4GB of memory is good for about 70 minutes of video. The memory isn’t accessible either, so that’s the limit. There’s a time-and-date stamp in the bottom corner of the video which is controlled by creating a text file and saving it to the camera memory. So if you needed that incriminating evidence with date stamp last week, you can easily hack it.
I tried out the Spy Tie in a few common environments; outside in broad daylight, urban night and brightly lit interiors i.e. shopping centre/mall. First things first, it can’t see in the dark. Filming a dark room gives you audio and nothing much else. Outside at night with street lights is better but the image is still fairly useless.
Filming in broad daylight is a little tricky as the tie flaps around in the breeze so you’ll want a suit jacket or similar to hold it in place. It also tends to point at the sky a bit, which ruins the exposure. For outside work you’d probably be better off with something more directional like a Spy Hat or Spy Glasses, which will record whatever you point your head at.
The best use I could find for the Spy Tie was indoors and for face-to-face conversations. The upward camera angle records the person you’re talking to and the microphone easily records the conversation.
What’s it not great at is videoing things you’re holding in front of you. For example this is a screenshot of me playing with an HTC Desire. Even though I was holding the phone up higher than was comfortable in front of the camera, it was still completely out of shot.
The Spy Tie’s biggest boon is that it’s perfectly disguised and you could wear it into almost any venue; tradeshow, cinema, interview, concert or lecture. Couple that with the easy to use wireless transmitter and you’ve got a nifty spy gadget. Here’s some indoors footage:
The Spy Tie is the perfect professional disguise and you could wear it in almost any situation. It’s hard to video things you’re holding or to aim it at things you’re looking at directly but if you’re recording a conversation, videoing anything slightly higher than you, i.e. a stage/lecture/movie or you’re trying to smuggle a camera in where it’s not wanted, then it’s perfect.
It’s not terribly well made but providing you’re not expecting it to last you for more than a year or so, the Spy Tie will keep you entertained, just don’t expect the results to stand up in court. A bargain at US$62.