Like all mediocre photographers, Google's Clips camera occasionally lucks into some good pictures.
The new $249 gadget, released in February, automates much of the job of a certain kind of photographer. You place the 2-inch high white square on a surface, preferably someplace frequented by children or pets. It automatically captures any "candid" scenes it determines are worthwhile with its wide-angle lens.
I spent a week with the camera, planting it on countertops, floors and shelves. Unfortunately my cat and bunny both passed away last year, so Clips only had children to work with. Luckily, my children are extremely good looking.
Even so, the resulting photos and videos had a common, soulless look to them. The wide-angle meant they were busy, with too much in focus and no appealing composition.
Essentially, Clips combines the hands-off approach of a surveillance camera with the visual style of a surveillance camera.
And yet, for a camera that silently watches you, Clips doesn't feel creepy. Google (GOOG) has been careful to avoid raising any privacy red flags. It stores all images and videos on the device. You preview photos using the Clips Android or iOS app over a one-to-one WiFI connection, and manually choose which ones to save to your smartphone.
While it might not succeed as a camera, it does raise interesting questions about what makes a photograph "good," and if you can ever program an algorithm to make art.
"The act of photography is the act of expression," said photographer Ben Long, author of "The Complete Digital Photography." "The [Clips] algorithm would just be the expression of the photographic ideas of whoever wrote that algorithm, minus the knowledge of what makes the scene around them interesting."
To come up with its special sauce, the Clips team asked professional photographers working at the company what they believe makes a good photo.
The software looks for children, animals, and faces, preferably within three-to-eight feet of the lens. Clips likes movement, but tries to avoid blurry photos and can tell when something is blocking the lens, like the hand of a curious child. It learns the faces of the people you save the most and takes more pictures of them. It is programmed to have a preference for happy, smiling faces.
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Source: CNN News