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The Google Clips Camera Puts AI Behind the Lens (theverge.com) 150

The Verge's Dieter Bohn reviews Google's AI camera, dubbed "Clips," which was announced alongside the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Here's an excerpt: You know what a digital camera is. It's a lens and a sensor, with a display to see what you're looking at, and a button to take the picture. Google Clips is a camera, but it only has some of those parts. There's no display. There's a shutter button, but it's completely optional to use. Instead, it takes pictures for you, using machine learning to recognize and learn faces and look for interesting moments to record. I don't know if parents -- Google's target market -- will want it. I don't know if Google can find a way to explain everything it is (and isn't) to a broad enough audience to sell the thing in big numbers, especially at $249. I also don't know what the release date will be, beyond that it will be "coming soon." But I do know that it's the most fascinating camera I've used in a very long time.
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The Google Clips Camera Puts AI Behind the Lens

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It puts AI behind the lens, and your data in China.

    And Poland.

    And Uzbekistan.

    And Uruguay.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @07:21AM (#55313857) Homepage Journal

      That's okay. As long as the data is kept out of reach of the American three letter agencies, I feel better. Those are the ones with an ability to harm me, and an incentive to justify their existence.

      • As long as the data is kept out of reach of the American three letter agencies [with] an incentive to justify their existence.

        That data is only used by people who have a financial incentive to manipulate you into spending money on things via targeted ads.

        Unlike a TLA which presumably has real problems to keep them busy. Also, unlike a TLA, Google cannot just resort to having men in dark suits whisk you off to GitMo if they cannot get your data any other way.

        Also, frankly, I've never heard of anyone being

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      You didn't actually read the article, did you?

      The first is that everything on Clips happens locally. Nothing is synced with Google's cloud at all — except the photos you save into Google Photos. All the facial recognition happens on the device using its own processing power. None of it is paired up with whatever facial recognition you may have set up in Google Photos. It doesn't pair faces with names, it just recognizes faces it sees a bunch over time...

      The clips the camera takes are also stored only on the camera itself. They don't try to sync over to your phone unless you ask for them. They're also encrypted on the camera, in case you lose it.

    • It puts AI behind the lens, and your data in China.

      What "your data". The AI took the picture, not you. So you don't even have a copyright claim to that data.

      • So you don't even have a copyright claim to that data.
        Of course you have.
        I suggest you read the relevant laws.

        • Wow, nice assertion. Where's the case law or example. If PETA can get an ape to own the copyright on the picture it took, instead of the photographer, why don't you think this would be in the same boat?

          • PETA did nothing of the sort and had to drop the case. The only thing PETA accomplished was to remove copyright since the picture in the case was not taken by a human.

            • Boom. That copyright was removed because the picture was not taken by a human. These pictures are taken by a computer. That's kinda the point I was making.

              Yes, I overstated the precedent. But it actually does prove my point.

              • Removing the copyright a human claimed to have, does not grant anyone else the copyright.
                So: it does not prove your point.

                Computer algorithms can not gain copyright on the creations they make: it is written like this in the law.

                • Neither can the person claim a copyright on the creations of an algorithm. I doubt Google really cares about the copyright of your pictures. But they really don't want someone else to own them. Otherwise, they might not be able to use them however they like.

          • Because copyright law excludes explicitly automatic generated "works" from being copyrightable. E.g. music generated by an algorithm can not be copyrighted, and most certainly not "by the algorithm" ... you perhaps could construct a case that the inventor/author of the algorithm has the copyright.

            In this case not even the owner of the camera would have the copyright.
            But I guess, Case Law will later agree that the copyright is with the owner of the camera.

    • But "it's the most fascinating camera I've used in a very long time"...
      This has to be the lamest attempt at astro-turfing I've seen in a while.
  • the hell!? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Blymie ( 231220 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @06:09AM (#55313681)

    Oh come on! COME ON!

    It's bad enough that even on hacked phones, we don't have access to the firmwares. And that we have no idea, 100% idea if the NSA/etc can exploit vulnerabilities to take pics even on a clean phone.

    Even outside of that, on 'normal' phones, no doubt 1/2 the malware on Google Play is the CIA.

    But no. That's not enough.

    Now people are going to willingly walk around with devices that take pics of everything they do. What the hell man!

    #_$)#@+_$)@#_+$)@#+$)@+_#)$+_

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      we have no idea, 100% idea if the NSA/etc can exploit vulnerabilities to take pics even on a clean phone.

      With this, NSA can just stream the images from Google. Don't even need to bother to hack any of the cameras, the fools will buy the cameras and pay for the bandwidth to stream images backs to Google and thus NSA.

      • by nasch ( 598556 )

        Unless you think Google is straight up lying about it, this camera uploads nothing to Google.

        • I doubt they're lying, but it seems risky to assume they aren't.

          • by nasch ( 598556 )

            It sounds like it can't even connect to the internet. Rather it is a wifi hotspot and you connect your phone to the camera to download photos. Presumably some security researcher will check it out and make sure it can't do anything it's not supposed to.

            • Presumably some security researcher will check it out and make sure it can't do anything it's not supposed to.

              Correct. This would count as "not taking their word for it.". But it's also entering into territory that's a real hassle -- you can't just test once and be done done with it, you have to test frequently -- or at the very least, you have to retest every time the operating system or relevant apps update.

              • by nasch ( 598556 )

                If it can't connect to the internet, you can just not update it.

                • For the device itself, yes, but I'm assuming that there's software on the phone itself that is involved as well. The fact that the device doesn't directly connect to the internet doesn't mean much when the phone can.

                  You could avoid updating that too, of course. I'm in no way saying that this is an unmanageable security situation.

                  • by nasch ( 598556 )

                    Well of course the phone can upload photos to the web, but that is nothing new and has nothing to do with the camera. Whether or not you're OK with your phone's capabilities and security limitations, nothing will change if you decide to use this camera too. You'll just have more photos.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @07:01AM (#55313819) Homepage

      Speak for yourself. I want better lifelogging; I find the current state of lifelogging apps, like Sony's "Lifelogger", quite poor. I'd love an app that logs *everything* I do, from as many sensors as it can, constrained only by realistic storage / bandwidth constraints. If something like this could be built into my cellphone or a cheap cell accessory, that would be awesome.

      The main problem with it being simply an app on a cell phone is that cells have only front and rear cameras, but for a cell in your pocket what you really want is a side camera (which nobody has). But I can picture solutions for that problem...

      • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @07:59AM (#55313981)

        Speak for yourself. I want better lifelogging; I find the current state of lifelogging apps, like Sony's "Lifelogger", quite poor. I'd love an app that logs *everything* I do, from as many sensors as it can, constrained only by realistic storage / bandwidth constraints. If something like this could be built into my cellphone or a cheap cell accessory, that would be awesome.

        The main problem with it being simply an app on a cell phone is that cells have only front and rear cameras, but for a cell in your pocket what you really want is a side camera (which nobody has). But I can picture solutions for that problem...

        Please understand that while you may want to record *everything* you do, the rest of us do not, nor do we want to be included.

        And to clarify, the main problem we have here is technology like this bullshit does not leave us with a fucking choice to NOT participate. I have enough cameras and invasion of privacy going on right now, paid for by my taxes. I sure as shit don't need more.

        And right now, I can't "picture" a solution to solve for the endless amount of narcissists invading society that seek to destroy the concept of privacy altogether.

        • How about a full-body silver-bubblewrap suit with tinted visor? As a bonus it could have environment controls, heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. And as an added bonus, it could have front-facing camera to record your precious moments.
        • Maybe don't go out in public if you're that scared of having your picture taken?
      • Sony's Lifelog is great! I burned so many calories during last night's bike ride while I slept.
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Hahaha, so true! ;)

          I started using it as a replacement for Latitude when Latitude went away, but the software has gone way downhill since then (wish I could revert to an old version). Now it's all about (poor) calorie counts and sleep tracking. The map that you used to be able to have on your timeline with precise positioning is now hidden, no longer on the timeline, and only moves you in big blocks, with a more awkward interface. The timeline shows you "browsing" and "phone call" and the like, but you can

    • Personally I'm going to start decorating my jacket with high intensity LED IR strop lights and 2.4 and 5 ghz frequency jammer.

      Google can take this 1984 crap and pound it squarely where the son doesn't shin.

    • RTFA, dipshit.
  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @06:14AM (#55313687) Journal

    ...could be tweaked!

    Like if you're a single guy/gal to look out for people who might pique your interest...
    Like if you're security conscious, look out for people (cars?) who are UN-familiar in your area...
    Like if you're an artist/designer/fashion person, look for certain patterns, colors, STYLES (ok, that'll be hard).

    Having a brain behind the camera that isn't yours (the brain not the camera) lends itself to all sorts of interesting possibilities. Maybe it could even be taught to look for certain patterns (like this person or this KIND of person comes by this spot under these circumstances/times). Might be useful for marketing (oops, maybe that's not a good thing) but definitely surveillance.

    It would also be good if the camera could read (in addition to having geo-tagging). That way it might be more context aware. Oh, and how about hearing? That way it could learn more about its environment (and what people are saying). How about a speaker? That way it could interrogate its subjects. Hmm... with enough work, this camera could become sentient!

    • The second one isn't too hard. I do it with my pi and openalpr. Adding pattern recognition (we all it "AI" now), and a camera isn't new, although Google engineers think they invented everything.
      • > I do it with my pi and openalpr.

        WTF? It never even occurred to me that a Pi could have enough juice to run ALPR, so of course I never bothered to look for an ALPR app for it... Everything I've seen that runs commercial plate recognition takes a fairly hefty desktop PC.

        How effective is it on a Pi?

        • Dude, a Raspberry Pi is fast enough to run arcade games from the 1980's at their native frame rate. I'm pretty sure it can run your "ALPR", whatever that is.
        • There isn't an app for it. You just need to compile it from git. There are videos on YouTube that demonstrate it.
        • Keep in mind ALPR can be divided into two sections, capture and analysis. Most use-cases for ALPR dont need 'real-time' conversion.
          • >Most use-cases for ALPR dont need 'real-time' conversion.

            I am actually unfamiliar with those cases - the two I know would be police (who want instant hits to act on), and parking lot access control, which also needs to be real time.

            I suppose there's historical analysis of video, but in my parts we have privacy legislation to deal with that prevents you from collecting that stuff long term (if you're a government agency... things get vague and unenforced pretty quickly for private companies, but then the

    • Having a brain behind the camera that isn't yours (the brain not the camera) lends itself to all sorts of interesting possibilities.

      . . . hmmm . . . that reminds me of females comments on males who have another brain that is constantly out of control.

      It would be interesting to see what photos that brain would snap.

    • If they became sentient, they could communicate with each other. As in "Look at the sadsack that I got stuck with".
  • Telescreen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TuringTest ( 533084 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @06:41AM (#55313759) Journal
    The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.

    The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

    Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer; though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometre away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape.
  • And does it automatically upload / share the images?
    • Yes, it automatically uploads nudes to the 'appropriate' website. Yes, it also works on kids. Don't worry though, grandma won't see them unless she is into the wierd stuff. This is after all an internet ready device.
    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      There is a way to find the answer to at least the second question. It involves a hyperlink in the summary.

  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @08:02AM (#55313991)

    Personally I just have my camera snap 10 pics in a row when I push the button and I get pretty good shots. Not really that hard and doesn't warrant buying a special device.

    Also not sure why this isn't just a phone app.

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      Read the article for an example of photos that you could not have gotten that way.

    • Also not sure why this isn't just a phone app.
      Because you don't want your phone always to be empty when you want to make a call.
      Because you still want to make nice random AI pictures while you use your phone ...

      Etc.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @09:01AM (#55314211)
    For example, does the Clips take random photos at squiffy angles, upload them to a website where no-one will look at them and then delete them.

    Can it also be used in concert halls, where all it records is a whited-out stage a few pixels wide against a totally dark background and a muffled sound because the user had their hand over the microphone.

    if so, can I buy one, send it on holiday instead of going myself and then bore the bollocks off all and sundry by showing the photos to disinterested co-workers and claiming I had a wonderful time.

  • by trevc ( 1471197 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @09:40AM (#55314453)
    Hopefully this will catch on and we will see a lot more candid photographs of cats on the internet. I know I will be placing my order ASAP now I have a cat.
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Thursday October 05, 2017 @10:22AM (#55314645)

    Unfortunately it needs natural intelligence in front of the lens, and that's not a given.

  • by dlleigh ( 313922 ) on Thursday October 05, 2017 @10:32AM (#55314709)
    From John Varley's "Demon" [wikipedia.org], the third book in his Gaea trilogy: [wikipedia.org]

    "A panaflex had only one urge: getting the shot. It would do anything to get the shot–take a ride on a copter, dangle from a boom, go over a waterfall in a barrel. Its unblinking eye ogled everything, and when it was ready, it shot film. Somewhere in its innards guncotton and camphor and other unlikely substances came together under considerable pressure to form a continuous strip of celluloid. That strip was coated with photoreactive chemicals to produce a full-color negative. The strip moved behind the panaflex’s eye and was exposed in discrete frames by a muscle-and-bone pull-down and shutter mechanism Edison would have recognized."

    https://varley.net/excerpt/demon-coming-attractions/ [varley.net]

  • People wearing Google Glass found out real quickly that people have a humongous problem with being constantly watched by an always on camera going back to Google. So Google through they'd be clever and put that same technology into a stripped down always on decide that would still give them the most easily tractable data stream.

    Personally if this is going to be a thing, then I'm about start walking around with IR strobe lights and frequency jamming devised that knock out both bands of wi-fi. Google can ta

  • Even if this were a good idea, and I'm not convinced yet, the 4 hour battery life is a showstopper. It looks like the designer was so interested in keeping it small and discreet that they didn't budget in enough space for a proper battery. I would be shocked if this is still a product this time next year. At best the "AI" algorithm will get ported to an Android app so you can turn any old phone into this weirdass robotic photographer.
  • At first glance, I thought this steaming shitheap was going to be added to phones---with a disastrous effect on battery life.

    Thankfully, it's being sold as a standalone product which everyone can safely ignore.

    A handful of idiotic Youtubers will probably buy one, but we're fine as long as their fans don't follow suit.

  • "I'm sorry, Dave. I just don't find that a police officer beating that [ black | hispanic | homeless ] person would make a very interesting photograph."

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