It’s amazing to see how cameras have evolved over the last 20 years. Remember the days when you’d have to load a roll of film into your camera and then take that film in to be developed after only 12, 24, or 36 snapshots? Those days are long gone. Now we can capture the ins and outs of our daily lives with our smartphone cameras and share those moments with the world in an instant via the touch of a button. The Narrative Clip wearable camera takes this concept of chronicling our lives—or “lifelogging”—to a whole new level by snapping a picture every 30 seconds, and I recently had an opportunity to take one for a spin.
Overview & Design
You read that last sentence correctly folks, the Narrative Clip takes a photo every 30 seconds as long as it is on. That equates to 960 images if you were to wear it for eight hours, and more than 2,800 images if you were to wear it for a full 24 hours. Needless to say, I was expecting something a little more substantial when I first opened the box and was taken aback by its size and simplicity. True, I knew that it had to be small to be “wearable” but the Narrative Clip is a 1-1/2” rounded square of plastic hardly larger than a piece of chocolate. I thought: “there is no way this is a camera.” But my doubts were eased when I spotted a small smartphone-style camera lens in the corner.
The Clip’s 5-megapixel camera snaps a 2560 x 1920 resolution JPEG every thirty seconds, and its 8GB of memory can hold about 4,000 pictures, or about two full day’s worth (excluding sleepy time). Also packed inside the Clip is an accelerometer that senses orientation and flips your photos upright no matter how you’ve clipped the device to your body, a GPS chip, and a battery that lasts for about 30 hours.
There are no buttons on the Clip, but you can take a single shot by double tapping the front of device, and can stay on top of your battery power by keeping an eye on the four LED lights on the side. To power it off, all you need to do is set it down lens-side down. On the back is a simple metal clip that allows you to slip it on to a tie, shirt pocket or lapel, or even a hat-band or purse strap, so you can keep your hands free while still collecting and sharing your stories.
I found the concept behind the Narrative Clip to be an interesting one in theory, but wasn’t sure about how it would play out in practice.
Installation & Set Up
When it comes to instructions, I’m a fan of simplicity, but found the Narrative Clip instructions to be a little too simple, so ended up visiting their website to see what needed to be done to get up and running. There were really three components to setting it up. First, plug the Clip into your computer via micro USB and let it charge. Next, download the Narrative Uploader on your computer to activate the Clip and create an account; and lastly, download the Narrative app to your smartphone.
After following the steps to activate my Narrative Clip, I was eager to take it for a test drive. The day in question was a beautiful summer day, and I had a bunch of errands to run for work, followed by a staff picnic in the park, so thought it was the ideal day to break it in. I clipped it to my tank-top, and found that while small, it often ended up pointing down or sideways as it yanked at my shirt, so I found myself fiddling with it quite a bit to make sure it was pointing in an outward direction.
After a morning running from my car to big box shops back to my car and finally back to my office, I wanted to see what kind of candid snaps my Clip had taken, so opened up the Narrative app. I saw nothing. I was confused. So I turned the Clip off by placing it face down on my desk, and then back on, checked the app a few minutes later, and still, no photos. Convinced, as I often am, that my device was defective, I left it at the office while I played bocce ball and football in the park with my colleagues.
That evening, I did some troubleshooting to find out why my photos weren’t showing up in my Narrative app, and discovered that the Clip does not automatically pair with your smartphone. Nope, you need to first download your photos to Narrative’s cloud-based storage, and then you can see them in the app. So, as it turns out my Clip was taking photos of my errand-running after all. However, we are so used to everything automatically synching with our phones these days, I feel that the delayed gratification of seeing your photos in the app is a bit of a miss on the Clip’s part. So too was the length of time it took to download the photos from my morning—12 hours. In my frustration, I reached out to the support team at Narrative and they responded very quickly. The let me know that on average, downloading takes a matter of minutes, so the problem was likely with my wireless connection. Hmmm. I’m sure I’m not the only one with occasional temperamental wireless, so that is something to keep in mind.
The next day I wore the Clip again, and in the evening, the download took no more than two minutes, so thumbs up there. That said, my pictures were pretty bland, which is perhaps an accurate reflection of my life these days, but even so, there were many that were blurry and others that pointed to a spot that was nowhere near where I thought my Clip was pointing. That all makes sense though when you’re wearing a camera and have no way of previewing what it’s seeing.
The Narrative app, which runs on both Android and iOS, is easy to navigate and intuitive in the sense that it sorts the photos you’ve uploaded to Narrative’s cloud server and groups them into “moments” that are based on the time of the day, GPS location, lighting, photo composition, and face detection. If you see a photo you like, you can easily upload it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, save it, email it, text it, and much more. You can also use the calendar drop down to jump to a specific date and scroll through those photos.
A Note on Privacy
As I was testing the Narrative Clip, I had a number of friends, servers, and cashiers ask me what it was. Rather than telling them it was a pedometer, I was honest with them and told them it was a camera, and almost every reaction was the same—“So you’re taking pictures of me right now?!” Some were intrigued, others were embarrassed, and one was extremely angry; a cashier at a big box store was so upset that I was possibly taking pictures of her, she demanded that I delete any and indicated that if she saw her picture appear online, she would find me and sue me. A bit extreme? Perhaps, but it does bring up the question of privacy, and whether or not you should have to tell people that you are wearing a camera that is snapping a picture every 30 seconds.
I think the Narrative Clip is an awesome idea for events like BBQs, birthday parties, or weddings where you can capture candid moments while spending time with friends and family. I mean, can you imagine the shots you’d get if you had the Best Man and Maid of Honour at a wedding wearing the Clip?! But as far as wearing it everyday, I’m not convinced. Perhaps it’s because after three days of wearing it, I didn’t see one photo worthy of sharing on social media (clearly I need to lead a more exciting life). That said, when I finally do meet the man of my dreams, I will make sure to equip the wedding party with a Clip each!