Jealous of those elite Google Glass explorers who are the first to try out the camera-equipped smart glasses (for $1,500)? Now you can film your life with a subtler wearable gadget that costs just $279, starting next month.
Slightly larger than an iPod Shuffle, the Narrative Clip (formerly known as Memoto) takes photos twice a minute all day so that anyone can capture all the special moments in their lives — up to nearly 3,000 photos, or 4 GB per day of data. Special software organizes the photos so the flood of images doesn't become overwhelming. It clips onto a collar or can be worn like a necklace.
Initially funded on Kickstarter late last year and the new recipient of $3 million in venture funding led by True Ventures, the founders of Narrative say their mission is to create the "ultimate lifelogging device." While "lifelogging" used to conjure up images of a solitary geek — such as wearable pioneer Steve Mann — covered in awkward wires, cables and belts, new wearables such Narrative Clip promise to be unobtrusive.
Who wants wearable tech?
Company co-founder Oskar Kalmaru said that initial Kickstarter backers have come from many walks of life: early-adopter types, yes, but also people with a specific use in mind. "People who travel a lot, [or] parents of young children who want to capture these rare early moments," he told Tom's Guide. "You can't have too many photos of that."
Narrative Clip's software sorts through all the photos taken in a day and separates them into "moments" based on time and GPS data. "Going to work is one moment, meeting for coffee is one moment," Kalmaru said. Then the computer algorithm automatically picks what it thinks is the "best" picture to display from that moment, chosen by factors like brightness, sharpness, whether there are people in the photo, and how colorful it is. (Users can always click through each photo if they want to.)
"Any camera can take photos, but organizing those photos and making sense of them" is the draw with the Clip, Kalmaru told us. The software runs on Android and iOS and photos can also be accessed through the Web. The team is also interested in getting a client to work on Linux. The actual crunching and storage of photos takes place in the cloud, and all of this will cost an extra $9 plus tax per month. (Alternately, users can store all their photos locally and nothave access to Memoto's algorithms.)
Kalmaru and co-founder Martin Källström believed they'd have working Clips in customers' hands by February 2013. But Kalmaru said that turned out to be optimistic.
"You might have thought, 'this is [just] a camera...'" he said. Turns out, "We have three products, not one like we thought....We have a really high-tech complex hardware unit, we have a high-tech back-end, and the third part is these apps for Android and iPhone."
Building all three together and troubleshooting the bugs turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. Finally, however, Narrative expects the first Clips to go out to early Kickstarter backers Nov. 1, and interested buyers who didn't get in on the Kickstarter can pre-order one for $279, to be shipped in the future (after all the backers first get theirs and are ensured a smooth experience)
Wearables and privacy
A lot of work went into the design of the Clip, Kalmaru said. "We tried to give it a friendly feel." Users found that a round camera looked too much like a "Big Brother"-esque eye, but they also expressed a desire that the product not be too camouflaged -- in other words, it should look like a camera.
That would allow friends who don't want to be recorded to notice the device and ask the wearer to remove it.
Still, a lot of the concerns being raised over privacy in the company of lifeloggers sound awfully familiar.
"I read somewhere that [after the introduction of] the first cameras you were able to carry with you in the 1920s, much of the same type of worries were raised," Kalmaru said. (And in fact, after the Kodak camera was first introduced, the Hartford Courant wrote: "The sedate citizen can't indulge in any hilariousness without the risk of being caught in the act.") Added Kalmaru: "This is a worry that has been around much longer than wearable cameras have been around."