East End Tech: Narrative Clip, a Constant Photographer

Summer on Long Island is both blissfully close and tragically short, making capturing those sun-soaked family moments all the more important. I’ve written many columns about digital cameras and photo services. And for good reason. Although web video is exploding, the good old photo remains the primary global currency of social media—the Euro or Bitcoin, if you will.

At the same time, the gadget world is abuzz with talk about wearable devices. The phrase “Internet of Things” became an industry cliché overnight, way faster than terms like “2.0” or “connect the dots” or “thinking outside the box.”

There’s lots of steak, but is there any sizzle? So far, there have been more misses than hits. Google Glass has tons of heat, and it will probably take over the world someday, but not nearly as fast as we thought. Fitness bracelets are already quite popular, and real utility for consumers, but also quite limited in functionality. Samsung and Apple are racing to bring us wristwatch computers, but there’s legitimate debate about why we need these toys.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge believer in connected wearables. The issue is that no one has figured out how to program these devices to enhance behaviors that are already ingrained in our lives.

Which brings me back to photography. Last week, I finally received my Narrative Clip Camera. I first wrote about it about 16 months ago, when the company was barely formed. Originally called the Memoto, the premise was really cool: it’s a tiny, clip-on camera that automatically shoots photos at regular, 30-second intervals. Later, you review all these life moments that you didn’t have time to point and shoot.

I plunked down $250 and began to wait. And wait. And wait. There were product delays and supplier problems, issues that every startup deals with. There was a legal challenge to the name “Memoto,” so they had to change it. (Much to my kids’ chagrin)

Despite these frustrations, it’s actually been quite interesting to follow the ups and downs of a product launch from the inception. So when my prized little camera finally arrived, I tore open the box like the first night of Chanukah.

WOW!

What a wonderful, weird, quirky experience. The Narrative Clip was just as advertised: tiny, sleek, with a sturdy metal clip that snugly attaches to any item of clothing. The only visible markings are four LED lights that indicate battery level.

Here’s where it gets awesome. To activate, you simply attach the camera to your shirt and go about your business. You have no idea that it’s even working. It silently shoots a new photo every 30 seconds. You can double tap to manually take a specific shot, which is a nice feature.

Viewing the photos is where it gets wonky. For now, the Narrative does not have WiFi. When finished, you take off the unit, connect it to your computer via USB, and it automatically creates a timeline of all the images you just captured.

You must also download the free Narrative smartphone app. Once that is done, your photos will automatically appear on your device—but again, NOT until you’ve tethered it to a computer.

Like I said, the process is still a bit wonky. But man, are the photos awesome. My 8-year-old daughter wore it to her basketball game and delivered hundreds of really cool shots from inside the huddle and on the court. Sure, many are blurry and unusable, but there were dozens of pix that surprised and delighted—images you would never be able to capture with another camera, even if you wanted to.

And despite the steps required to view the photos, this just adds to the suspense and anticipation when you connect the Narrative and finally reveal the shots.

The Narrative isn’t cheap. The list price is $279 right now. But you get free cloud storage for your photos, and it’s easy to delete and clip and save the best ones to your phone, for no extra charge.

In the end, this camera is a prime example of how companies should look at wearables. Do we need to watch video on our wristwatches, or beam email messages through eyeglasses? I’m not sure. But a simple device that changes behavior and empowers us to see the world differently?

That, my friends, is the Internet of Things.

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