Google Clips: An exclusive look at the smart camera's latest improvements

Google has continued to quietly update its smart camera, with the latest update set for release this week.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

When Google released Clips, a small camera that relies on AI to capture photos and short video clips without any interaction on your part, I was skeptical that it would capture the moments I want, and more importantly, the people I care about.

I just couldn't get past the idea that the software inside the small camera could reliably detect who and what I care about to take a photo or motion clip.

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Eventually, I learned to let go and trust the camera, and for the most part, it did what it was supposed to. For the past few days, I've been testing Google Clips and a handful of new features that will begin rolling out to users throughout this week.

I've had access to the new software for a few days, but even when taking that into account, the update has improved the overall experience.

The most notable change involves still photos. After the update, whenever a photo is captured with the shutter button or via the Live Preview section of the Google Clips app, a full-resolution photo is saved, along with a motion clip. This change ensures the exact moment that prompted you to press the button is captured, along with whatever occurs after that. Previously, only a motion clip was captured and users had to go back and manually save a frame as a photo.

For those who use automatic capture, Clips will now save what it determines to be the best frame from an automatically captured clip in full resolution. To test the feature, I handed the camera over to my kids for a few hours. At the end of the photo shoot, I scrolled through some 200 clips, and for the most part, the new photo feature reliably picked out a face or some sort of action and saved it as the main frame of the clip.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Timelapse was added earlier this year, and it's used when the camera remains still for a period of time. I didn't have enough time with this feature to ascertain whether this update made a big difference. But the idea of adding a time-lapse feature to Google Clips, a camera that is designed specifically to be a passive camera, makes so much sense and is something that never crossed my mind during my initial review.

Also: Google Clips Review: A smart camera that makes Dad proud

There's no interaction required by the user (beyond enabling timelapse in the camera's settings) for a timelapse to be created. Just turn the camera on, place it where you think it'll get the best shots, and then let it alone. In between capturing motion clips, it will switch to creating a timelapse and save it to the Clips app.

Other new features in the update include the option to enable a higher frequency of capturing actions like hugs or smiles, jumps, and dancing. Additionally, you can now share the camera with friends and family members, and edit the list of familiar faces the camera uses,

Admittedly, since the initial Google Clips launch and media blitz, it's as if the camera all but disappeared. Outside of a handful of updates prompting a series of stories, there just hasn't been a lot of talk about Clips.

Also: Google Clips review: your family's personal robot photographer CNET

I still think the biggest hurdle Google will have to overcome with Google Clips is earning the trust of its users -- trust that the camera will capture the photo(s) and motion video(s) that he or she would if pressing the shutter button.

Google has improved what triggers prompt a clip to be captured, and with this week's update that makes it easier to save better quality photos, the story of what Clips can be for the end user is starting to come together.

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