The Google Clips Might Be the Ultimate Dad Camera

The smart camera snaps photos of family members it recognizes and automatically uploads edited photos to a secure cloud.

by Michael Frank
Google clips

You know how your family is always on you to get more shots of your toddler, and how you meant to do a better job of getting the “real” camera out to do this, but basically, all you have is jittery shots taken with your phone? This is absolutely normal. And there’s a solution for this first-world parenting problem: Google Clips. The tiny, A.I.-driven camera snags three hours of video and images and then automatically selects the best moments for you.

Attach the Clips to your chest, place it on the dinner table or the mantle, and leave it running. It not only scans for movement but, via facial recognition, also for key members of your family and your posse, too. Then it snaps off seven-second, discrete highlight reels, populating the companion app on your Android/iOS phone. There you can quickly view the footage and instantly share it on social media or directly with your friends, parents, etc. And, because privacy is important, the content doesn’t live in the cloud unless you want it to. You control where the video does or doesn’t go.

Pretty sweet, right? Here’s what else is cool: Google says Clips gets smarter over time. The more the device sees your core family and friends, the more it knows who to video. It won’t snap footage of the UPS guy dropping off a package, but if your friend Joe drops by for beers every weekend, it knows Joe is a good friend and will record those interactions. Ditto, of course, your parents and in-laws, and your kids’ BFFs, too. Also: It knows the family dog (or cat, or hamster), and makes sure to film them, also.

While we haven’t tested Clips yet, we’ve held it, and it’s tiny and portable, about a third the footprint of a smartphone and half the weight of Hershey bar, so it’s easy to keep handy. Stuff it in your pocket and it’ll be with you anywhere you go. While it’s not exclusively meant to be wearable (it has a small, tie-bar style clasp on the rear), Clips’ wide-angle lens makes it easy to park in any corner of even small rooms, allowing it to capture anything that’s going on. It’s also sensitive enough to work in low interior light.

What to do with all of these videos? Because you can designate footage you like to be stored in Google Photos, that also allows Google’s smarts to sub-divide video by dates, locations, friends, and family, etc. That means the family trip to the Grand Canyon won’t be lost to oblivion a year from now, even if you’ve upgraded your phone by then. And, yes, it also snaps stills, sort of. You can freeze any frame of the video to select your favorite stills, and these are also readily shareable or you can kick these as their own shots to other storage media or, distinctly, to directories you create on Google Photos.

To be sure group shots work (or anytime you’re not certain Clips can “see” everyone or everything in a frame) there’s live preview on your phone, where you can also control settings, see Clips’ battery life, etc. One important note is that you’re not limited to only these short reels. While editing isn’t necessary (and Clips auto-highlights the best footage if you’ve left it on for a few hours to shoot in the background), you can stitch several series of 7-second videos together for, say, the very best 30 seconds of your daughter’s fifth birthday party.

What can’t it do? We’ll have one to test soon and will report back. But we are curious about the limits of how to mount it, and whether accessory mounts (on a stroller, or your kid’s bike helmet) will emerge from Google or in the aftermarket.

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