ArcSoft Simplicam review: Can Simplicam's new face recognition feature see more?

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Simplicam is also highly customizable. You can turn the camera on or off, adjust your push alert settings to get them in real-time or as a less frequent summary. There's also a night vision feature that can be set to auto, on, or off and two-way audio.

In addition to push alerts, Simplicam also has an email notification option. I opted into email notifications and manually entered in two different addresses as my email alert destinations. I have been feverishly checking my regular and spam folders, but so far haven't received a single email alert. Bummer. Fortunately, I didn't have the the same email-alert-issues with the second Simplicam review unit.

Cloud recording gives you even more options. In addition to motion and sound alerts, you can receive face recognition notifications. You can also set specific schedules that you'd like your camera to be on or off, in addition to being able to review clips.

Setting up face recognition. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

For face recognition, you can scan in as many as 10 faces. Those "recognized faces" are probably friends, family-members, your dog walker -- anyone you'd expect to be in your home. I scanned in my face along with Ry Crist's, Rich Brown's and Brian Bennett's.

The process is very simple, just make sure you're 10 feet away from the camera and select "Ready" on the app. Then, it will give you audio cues, instructing you to slowly turn until your right shoulder is facing the camera and then back around until your left shoulder is facing the camera. During this process, Simplicam snaps dozens of photos at various flattering/unflattering angles so that it should be able to detect the nuances that distinguish all of us from one another, particularly the bearded Ry, Rich and Brian.

The new alerts, with face recognition feature. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Andrew Gebhart and Jared Hannah acted as my "unrecognized faces." So, if they walked in front of the camera's field of view, I was supposed to get a notification saying, "The My Simplicam camera saw an unrecognized person at approximately (insert specific timestamp)."

The beauty here is that you can set it to always auto-delete the footage of you walking around your house (because video clips of you vacuuming the living room probably aren't particularly useful). You can even customize within the recognized face settings, so it can delete your footage, but save the clips of your dog walker, house cleaner or kid. And, of course, you can set it to alert you and save any recordings when it detects a stranger.

Delving deeper into face recognition. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The problem is that this beta feature still has some kinks to work out. You'll notice in the photo above that Simplicam thought Rich was Ry, that Brian was Rich, that Jared, an "unrecognized person," was Ry and that a line-up of Ry, Jared and Rich was Ry, Brian and Rich. Hm.

Simplicam claims that it will learn over time to improve its ability to recognize one face from another, but so far I'm not impressed. It's especially concerning that it thought Jared was Ry, since Jared wasn't scanned into the system at all. It did work sometimes, but not enough to trust it implicitly.

Proximity also didn't seem to make a difference -- face recognition floundered whether someone was very close staring directly at the lens or in a line-up of people several feet away. Also, Simplicam is much more likely to trigger a motion alert (rather than a face recognition alert) if someone walks by quickly; you really do have to pause for a moment within the camera's field of view for it to pull data from its pre-scanned facial recognition cache.

Simplicam does make it clear that face recognition is in beta and encourages its customers to provide feedback so it can make improvements along the way.

The camera hardware itself is unchanged. Megan Wollerton/CNET

Simplicam has three cloud storage fee options: 1-day recording lets you review the last day of video and save 1 hour of your favorite clips for $5/month or $50/year. It goes up from there to $14/month or $140/year for 11 days of recordings and 3 hours of saved clips; and $23/month or $230/year for 21 days of recordings and 5 hours of saved clips.

I'm signed up for the 1-day recording level and was able to explore some of the advanced features as well as the standard no-fee options. I had no issues with this camera (except for the lack of email alerts, and only with the first review unit). I received motion, sound, and face alerts whenever an event occurred and was able to access saved clips and live streaming on both the Web and mobile apps. The 720p resolution was also really solid -- there's also not a huge difference between the Simplicam and the Dropcam Pro's day and night vision modes.

Simplicam (left) and Dropcam Pro in day and night modes. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

With its lower monthly fees and the addition of face recognition alerts for cloud subscribers, ArcSoft's Simplicam is qualified to take on our highest rated Wi-Fi security cameras -- but the face recognition feature does need a lot of work. I'd still recommend Simplicam today, though. It's a fantastic option for someone wanting a cloud subscription and all of its related benefits without spending $10+ a month.

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