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Manually clicking photos are a thing of the past

By Raunak Haldipur

In their recent event in October, we had Google introduce a whole bunch of new products ranging from the Pixel 2 phones, the Pixel Book laptop, new Google home speakers, new AI-powered earphones called Pixel Buds, and also a brand new Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered camera called Google Clips. Before all these products were launched, we saw Sundar Pichai come on stage and talk about how Google is focussed on AI-first when it comes to creating their products. So, it was no surprise that all the products launched have a lot of AI-powered elements. For example, the Pixel Book has a dedicated button for Google’s AI-powered assistant.

AI-Powered camera

Google Clips, the AI-powered camera lets the computer decide when to click the shutter button. The user need not manually click the shutter. The only thing the user has to do is turn it on, and if something interesting is happening in the surroundings, the camera clicks and captures that moment. Google Clips also recognises the user’s face as well as the user’s family’s faces.

Here is how it works: The user has to turn the camera on and pair it to their mobile phone. Once it is paired, users can put the phone away if they want to. The Clip camera can be placed anywhere and it shows a blinking LED light to let the users know that the camera is on and ready to record. Using Google’s algorithm, it captures a 7-second clip of an event, for example, if it sees children playing, it will record it. Since the camera can recognise the users, their family and even their pets, the camera learns over time and starts capturing photos of only those people and ignore other people. It is smart enough not to record a person’s hand when they go to pick this thing up and to know what a really blurry shot is when it is being swayed around. That being said, the user also has the option to click the shutter button and take a picture manually.

There have been apprehensions when it comes to security because this, in effect, is like a spy camera. Google assures users that the photos taken using Clips are fully encrypted and stored on the camera and the phone with which it is paired. No data is sent to Google or anyone else. The Clip does not have a microphone so, it can’t record audio of the user’s surroundings.

What does the camera pack?

The Clip has a 130-degree wide-angle lens on a 12.3 Megapixel camera. It only has 8GB of internal storage, but it should be more than enough for shooting for a day. The clip’s battery should last around 3 hours if it is on and is actively recording stuff and should easily go for a few days on standby mode. It weighs 42 grams and does not have a microphone. The clip currently supports the Pixel phones, iPhones, Samsung Galaxy S7 and S8. Support for more phones should be coming soon. The camera will retail for $249(around ₹16,000) and they are primarily marketing the clip to parents with young children and pets.

Betting big on AI and the future

The Clips camera’s software can very well be the future of social media. As wearable devices and smart devices become more common, smartphones will become less visible and relevant. Google is preparing for a world where the Glass actually looks good and sells well. Google Glass was a device which was at least five years ahead of its time. Snapchat has come up with Snapchat spectacles and has proved that people are into the idea of having a camera attached to their spectacles.

If the attached camera automatically captured the best moments of the day and made them easily available to be shared on social media platforms, it would make smartphones really irrelevant. Such a device and a futuristic approach sound like something one would probably see in Black Mirror and that is exactly what Google is setting the tone for with Clips.

Google is banking big on AI across all of its products, and through Clips, they can test the public’s comfort level with computer vision in their everyday lives.


Photo credit: portalgda via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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