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Kodak Adds New Wi-Fi, Dual Lens Cameras

4/25/2006 03:15:00 PM Eastern

New York — Kodak celebrated the EasyShare digital camera system’s fifth anniversary today, by introducing a new version of its dual lens V-series camera and the second generation of its EasyShare One Wi-Fi enabled digital camera.

The company also pulled back the curtain on several technologies under development, including facial recognition software, intelligent album creation, image instant messaging capability and high-volume digital scanning.

The new dual-lens V610 packs a total of 10x optical zoom power (38-380mm, 35mm equivalent) in a camera body less than an inch thanks to the use of two lenses. The 6-megapixel V610 also offers built-in Bluetooth — a first for Kodak — for sending images to other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

The camera offers image stabilization; a 2.8-inch, 230,000 pixel LCD; and VGA movie recording at 30 frames per second (fps) with image stabilization. The V610 will ship in May for a suggested $449 in the U.S.

Kodak also reaffirmed its support for the EasyShare One Wi-Fi camera. Pierre Schaeffer, Kodak consumer digital imaging group VP/chief marketing officer, noted that it remains the only Wi-Fi-enabled camera on the market capable of sending e-mails directly from the camera (models from Nikon and Canon use wireless networking to send images to PCs and printers).

The new version — the EasyShare One 6MP — will retain that capability with a higher resolution and lower retail price. The 6-megapixel EasyShare One 6MP will hit stores in the beginning of the summer for a suggested $299. Kodak will sell a wireless SD card as an optional accessory for a suggested $99.

The new EasyShare One incorporates the WISPr (Wireless Internet Service Provider recommendation) protocol, which Kodak said increases the number of hot spots accessible to the camera.

Alongside the cameras, Kodak introduced the sixth version of its EasyShare software. According to Schaefer, the software has been installed on 30 million computers, making it the most popular imaging application. The new software, like the old, will be a free download and available with its new digital cameras.

Kodak has sought to simply the digital experience and continues to seek ways to improve the digital workflow, Schaefer said. “We used to talk about ease of use, but there could be a thousand ‘easy’ steps in a process.” The new watchword, Schaefer said, was “smart convenience” which would streamline the process of finding, sharing and creating with digital images.

Technology and innovation would be put in the service of solving the new problems of the digital era — including unorganized “digital shoeboxes” on consumer’s PCs, Schaefer said.

Echoing themes aired by company president Antonio Perez during International CES, Schaefer said that the 100 year old company would retain its heritage of one button simplicity while breaking from the analog past. Just as digital audio has ushered in new modes of interaction with music, so too will digital imaging. “The old doesn’t dictate what the new is about,” Schaeffer added.

The “new” was also on display as Kodak research scientists demonstrated several technologies that the company planned to bring to market at an unspecified time in the future. The technologies largely centered on image management and Kodak has hinted at several of them for years now. The company demonstrated facial recognition software that can scan a photo archive and return pictures with specific faces, and intelligent album creation, which can scan and organize photos based on the composition (landscapes grouped with landscapes, etc.).

The technology would likely be incorporated in both the EasyShare Gallery Web site and future versions of the consumer EasyShare software, said senior research scientist Dale McIntyre.

A new scanner, recently commercialized and set for wider distribution, can batch scan hundreds of digital images into high resolution files in minutes. Software under development would automatically date those pictures and, since the scanner can read both sides of the photo, add any written information scribbled on the back of the photo into the picture file.

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