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Cameras

Google dials up the creepy factor and targets families

Commentary: Google markets its Clips, a new, ever-so-cute portable camera, as perfect for pets and kids. A touch creepy, though?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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A touch on the creepy side?

Google/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Lifelogging, surveillance and self-obsession walk into a bar....

Oh, you watched the Google show on Wednesday too, did you?

I was moved by many things in it. The hairs on the top of my back, however, were oddly made erect by something called Google Clips.

At first, my hairs thought this was a new trimmer. For, you know, the hairs themselves. 

It turns out, however, that it's tiny camera that you carry around, clip to things -- or even lie on the floor -- and hope it captures you in memorable unguarded moments. 

Because, of course, you've always regretted not having someone record your charming scratching, nose-picking and Corn Flakes chomping.

One ad for the Clips demands that you "be in the moment." But how can you do that when you know there's a camera watching your every, um, moment?

Worse -- or, more delightful, depending on your perspective -- this camera has a mind of its own. It uses a machine-learning algorithm called Moment IQ to "automatically" determine what photos you want taken. 

Yes, it's a wedding photographer for your whole life. Or something that will capture certain times you definitely don't want captured and helpfully -- and automatically -- send them off to your phone. 

The ad, however, doesn't seem to show too many natural moments. Instead, we get a child hamming it up for the camera and a family seeming to pose for pictures. In a natural, unguarded way, of course.

But Google doesn't stop there. 

It's released another ad that encourages you to "get creative with Google Clips." Which is odd, as it seems to be that Google Clips is perfectly capable of being creative all on its own.

Still, here you're told to "get close to your subject" and then "put Google Clips somewhere fun." 

Your definition of "somewhere fun" might be different from, say, other people's. Or even kids'. Which might make for some interesting surveillance experiments on the part of every member of your family.

Yes, an LED light flashes when it's on.

But there are quite a few gadgets around the house that do that, ones that you're oblivious to. 

The idea, Google says, is to "get a fresh angle on things."

Google declined to comment. I understand, however, that the company believes it has been thoughtful about the privacy aspects. The device only records 7-second clips, isn't capable of long-distance shooting and anything it shoots stays on the phone.

Hasn't technology, though, already given us enough opportunities for fresh angles? It seems not. You must seek to discover more of yourself -- and a lot more of other people -- and perhaps even project it all into the world. 

Oddly, I can't help thinking that this is gorgeous reverse psychology. Google's whole ethos actually involves getting every possible angle on you. 

Still, it's fascinating that it believes families will be desperate to capture these alleged moments with their tiny, mute GoPro that's the result of a brief relationship with a surveillance camera. 

But what if it captures mommy kissing Santa Claus? 

Wait, that's not Santa Claus?

Updated 6:05 p.m. PT: Adds response from Google.