Google's Clips camera is latest effort to bring AI into home gadgets - <b>Technical Lobby</b>

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Google's Clips camera is latest effort to bring AI into home gadgets

SAN FRANCISCO: Babies, dogs, and artificial intelligence. Alphabet Inc's Google is betting this combination proves irresistible with the Tuesday launch of Google Clips, a pocket-sized digital camera that decides on its own whether an image is interesting enough to shoot.
Google's Clips camera is latest effort to bring AI into home gadgets
The $249 device, which is designed to clip onto furniture or other fixed objects, automatically captures subjects that wander into its viewfinder. But unlike some trail or security cameras that are triggered by motion or programmed on timers, Clips is more discerning. 

The company sees big potential with parents and pet owners looking to grab candid shots of kids and animals. The Clip shoots seven-second videos, without audio, that can be edited into GIFs or high-definition photos. These images can then be downloaded and shared via smartphone.

But Google's bigger ambition is the mastery - and commercialization - of artificial intelligence, an area where it is investing big. Google executives say success requires tight integration between hardware and software, which is why the search-engine giant keeps plugging away at consumer electronics.

But the device is nonetheless an important demonstration of Google's advances in computer vision, a form of artificial intelligence focused on identifying objects, according to Cyril Ebersweiler, founder of the hardware business incubator HAX.

"The next thing after sound will be computer vision, and they can't allow [themselves] not to be doing something," Ebersweiler said.

The new candid camera
Google's Clips camera is latest effort to bring AI into home gadgets
Google says Clips, which was announced in October, is the outgrowth of years of research into what people like about their favourite images. Consumers overwhelmingly preferred candid shots as opposed to ubiquitous selfies and other posed photos. But casual photographers often cannot whip out their phones in time to catch the action. 

"There is gold in between the photos you take" with smartphones, Juston Payne, product lead for Google Clips, told reporters this month. "This camera gets at those moments."

Payne said his team had no mandate to develop a stand-alone camera. They could have packed more software into smartphone cameras, for instance.

But he said a dedicated device that could fade into the background proved to be the best solution for naturalistic photography. Measuring 2 inches by 2 inches and weighing two ounces, Clips can be hung from a drawer handle or a tree branch at the playground. Payne said the gadget is not meant to be worn.

The device's lack of sound may disappoint consumers, but Payne said audio would have encouraged people to film themselves while skydiving or skiing, pursuits the gadget's auto-capture technology is not yet capable of handling.

Michael Kim, a product design consultant at Kim Advisory Capital, said Clips could be convenient as an "ambient photographer." But he questioned whether such a pricey "novelty toy" could win a large following.
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