Google’s iOS-compatible, machine learning-driven smart camera now available in US

First announced last October alongside the new Pixel 2 smartphone lineup, an expanded Home speaker range and other accessories, Google’s miniature smart camera, called Clips, finally went on sale today in the United States priced at $249.

This tiny artificially intelligent and machine learning-powered hands-free camera can spontaneously capture important memories without the user having to remember to record anything. It even learns faces over time and can easily pick out pets like dogs and cats.

The camera is activated by twisting the lens and putting it down.

“Google Clips is smart enough to recognize great expressions, lighting and framing. So the camera captures beautiful, spontaneous images. And it gets smarter over time,” Google writes.

There’s a blinking light to indicate that the camera is currently recording, which is important from a privacy standpoint given that Clips is continually capturing video (it has 16 gigabytes of onboard storage and three hours of smart capture per charge).

Captured and stored footage is analyzed by an algorithm designed to select the best seven-second moments and edit/curate them for you without having to use video editing software. You can also pick any frame from these clips to save as a high-resolution still photo.

Here are a few pointers on how it works, straight from Google:

  • Clips looks for stable, clear shots of people and then looks for good facial expressions, such as joy. We also trained it to recognize dogs and cats, and it prefers when there’s some motion in the scene. Once the lens is twisted clockwise, it’ll turn on and start capturing.
  • People and pets look best when they’re three to eight feet away from the camera—think playroom, not soccer field.
  • The Clipstand that comes with the Clips device makes it easy to set down, hold or clip the camera to things like a chair or vase to get unique vantage points. There’s also a feature called Live Preview in the Clips app to provide a clear view of the action as it happens.
  • Clips comes with a shutter button on the device and in the app which lets you capture something specific. Clips understands faces, smiles, dogs and cats, but doesn’t know a surfboard from a ski slope. For those times you want to capture a photo manually, you can use the button on the front of the device or in the Clips app.
  • Over time, Clips will learn who you want to photograph frequently. You can also give it a head start by letting it learn from photos downloaded from your Google Photos library or by taking a portrait using the shutter button.
  • Use the Clips app to view, save, delete and share your clips, and to choose any frame to save as a high-resolution still or motion photo. If you use Google Photos, finding your clips and stringing them into beautiful movies is a snap. And Pixel users get unlimited backup.

The camera doesn’t require a data connection or an account of any sort to function. “We miniaturized machine learning models to run locally on the device,” explains Google.

Google is aiming Clips at parents and families who want to capture their kids’ and pets’ best moments. The $249 camera is compatible with iOS and comes with a companion app for sharing your content with friends or other apps.

Google Clips is available starting today in the United States through the Google Store, Verizon, Best Buy and B&H.