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Google’s Clips camera is “designed to be conspicuous”

The final product reveal at Google’s hardware event this morning in San Francisco was the only one that didn’t feel at all like a new iteration of an existing product or a response to something another large company has released. It’s a $249 video camera called Google Clips—coming soon, though no release date was announced—and it doesn’t look precisely like anything I’ve ever seen before.

The fact that it’s pocket-sized and wireless and designed to let you set it up somewhere and let it just shoot imagery is inevitably leading to comparisons with GoPro. But Google’s Juston Payne told me that rather than being meant to let people people capture themselves jumping out of airplanes, it has two other use-case senarios in mind: kids and pets. Machine-learning technology built into the tiny, square camera lets it identify moments that you might care about, such as your child smiling. You then use a phone app (which will be available for both Android and iOS) to review the clips that Clips captured and decide what to share.

Google Clips

Payne says that the phone’s middleman role is meaningful, and stems only partially from technical issues such as battery life. Since the Clips does its capturing without your direct intervention, Google strived to ensure that people wouldn’t think of it as a creepy privacy invader. That also explains its industrial design, which makes no attempt to blend in with the world around it: “It’s designed to be conspicuous,” Payne says.

A few other facts about Clips:

  • Payne says that it delivers image quality comparable to that of a decent smartphone (though not, he hastens to add, as good as that of the new Pixel 2 phones).
  • Google estimates that it can run for three hours on a charge.
  • You can plug it into AC power for longer shooting times.
  • It packs a processor optimized for the sort of neural-network AI it uses to identify what’s going on in a scene—a specialized component that helps explain why the price is $249 rather than something that would make it an impulse buy.
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