Ina Fried

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New iPhone App Provides a Glimpse of the Moments Before a Photo is Taken

Though there are plenty of apps for sharing still pictures taken on an iPhone, a three-person start-up is hoping to carve a niche with a program that captures not only a still picture but the several seconds of video that preceded the picture’s taking.

The company and its namesake app are both dubbed Glmps (pronounced “glimpse”). The app, which is headed to the iTunes App Store on Thursday, is the brainchild of Nick Long, Paul Robinett and Esther Crawford. The three met over YouTube, where all were frequent posters. They have since built a disparate start-up — the principals live in Milwaukee, Columbus and Austin — to develop and market the app. They expect they may all end up in the Bay Area, but for now it is a lot of video chatting, email and travel.

“For now we are trying to capture a glimpse of a photo moment,” Robinett said in an interview. In order to capture the moments that precede a picture being taken, Glmps records video from the moment the app’s camera is engaged. The app’s benefit is the ability to capture the serendipitous moments that lead up to a photo being taken.

Once a scene is captured, it can then be saved to the company’s Web site and shared via Twitter or Facebook. Users can also use their Glmps to check in to Foursquare. To alternate between viewing a still or video, one simply clicks on the smaller of the two windows. The scenes can also be embedded into a Web page, as done here.

“You can shoot video, but most people won’t check in with video, and photo is lacking to tell the whole story,” Robinett said.

The idea is a compelling one. It’s actually a product I have been wanting for some time. I had an idea several years ago that it would make for a cool photo exhibition to have still photos displayed alongside monitors showing the moments before and after a photo was taken — since those often add context and life to a moment.

Sony actually had a hybrid still/video camera a few years back that had such a feature. However, it seemed like not necessarily enough to justify buying several hundred dollars worth of hardware.

Glmps, on the other hand, brings the idea to anyone with an iPhone, makes it easy to share, and hits the magic price: Free.

While phone-based photo networks like Instagram and PicPlz tend to feature a lot of scenic stills, Glmps is more geared toward things in motion, particularly people and pets. The app has been in beta with a few dozen active testers. Among the interesting users so far: A married couple in which the husband is in Afghanistan and the wife is at home with a new baby. The couple use the app to send short snippets of their day to one another.

Glmps has evolved since it was first envisioned. The original idea, Long said, was to bring to life short looped videos of a scene, similar to the way the Daily Prophet newspaper works in “Harry Potter.” The company also toyed with capturing the scene after a picture was taken, but ultimately decided to go with a hybrid approach that captures a still image and the five seconds that precede it.

The still itself is a low-resolution square image. The trio opted for lower-quality stills and video in order to make the glimpses easy to capture and share.

Although definitely accessible, there are some caveats with Glmps. First of all, the program can be a battery hog. In part, that’s a necessity, given that the app is always recording.

Also, the video moments recorded by the app can only be saved by posting them to the Glmps site, where they are available for anyone to see. There is no “private” option, which may make you think twice about, say, capturing that adorable moment of your loved one snoring, or of the kids doing something embarrassing.

It also should make people think twice before turning on the optional geolocation feature.

The Glmps trio says there are a number of features it hopes to add, including an option to keep moments private, or share them with only a select group of friends.

For now, Glmps remains a work in progress. The business model, the company said, is “evolving” and the product is currently bootstrapped, though they are seeking investors.

“We’ve met with investors,” Crawford said. “We just haven’t found the right partner.”

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