Cool or creepy? Google Clips smart camera learns to spot and film your family and friends

Google's new $250 hands-free camera takes silent motion snaps.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Along with new phones, a laptop, a mini smart speaker, a VR headset, and translating earphones, Google has also launched Clips, a different take on life-logging cameras.

Priced at $249, Clips comes with a clip so it can be worn, but it isn't necessarily intended to be a life-logging device that continuously take snaps from a shirt pocket.

As Google puts it, Clips is focused on family and friends and is meant to be an occasion's 'designated photographer', pegged to a chair or left on a table and ready to capture moments without asking anyone to "say cheese". As such, Google calls it a hands-free camera.

Google's machine-learning algorithm, dubbed Moment IQ, decides when a memorable moment is happening. The device waits for stable and clear shots of people, and learns to recognize familiar faces. Similar to the iPhone's Live Photo format, Google's Clips takes motion shots or "clips", although instead of three seconds they last seven seconds.

The format is a JPEG with embedded MP4s. Interestingly, there's no microphone so the motion snaps are silent. The device shoots with a 130-degree field of view, has 16GB storage, and has a three-hour battery life. It can stand on its own, but also has a clip stand.

Google worked with Intel's Movidius to put its AI on the Movidius Myriad 2 vision-processing chip, which enables better battery life and avoids the invasiveness of analyzing private moments in the cloud.

As there's no screen on the device, moments can be viewed on a Clips app that will be available for Android and iOS.

Google says it will sync quickly from the camera to the app using Wi-Fi Direct. Clips can be saved or deleted from the app, and individual frames can also be selected and saved as a high-resolution photo.

Google says it put a lot of thought into designing Clips with privacy and control in mind. No doubt it's aware that its focus on Clips for snapping kids and family at home could be seen as creepy.

However, unlike Google Glass, Google notes Clips actually looks like a camera, so it can't really be construed as a hidden surveillance device, and importantly, it has an LED that lights up when it's capturing things.

Also, since Moment IQ focuses on faces it sees frequently, it's not optimized for capturing random members of the public.

Clips is available for pre-order in the US now. Google hasn't said whether it will release it to other markets.

If Google's camera turns out to be a hit, it might be time for Microsoft to update its SenseCam.


Google notes that Clips actually looks like a camera, so it can't be seen as a hidden surveillance device.

Image: Google

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