News & Politics

Google Sells Out of Creepy New Always-On Camera That Recognizes, Watches Your Family

(Image via Google)

A few days ago Google began taking orders for its new “Google Clips” device, an intuitive mini-camera that utilizes machine learning to recognize familiar faces and capture special moments. It appears that Google was inundated with orders for the new device, which retails for $249 with free shipping. As of Monday night, the best customers could hope for was to sign up to be on a waiting list. According to a report at Engadget, those who were able to place orders were told to expect delivery dates ranging from February 27 to March 5, 2018.

When Google first announced Clips last October, they explained that the camera would be “always waiting” to catch the perfect shot — a “designated photographer” perched on a shelf or desk that can capture the perfect 7-second video clip of your family. If that sounds a little creepy, read on.

“We’ve put machine learning capabilities directly into Clips so when you turn it on, the camera looks for good moments to capture,” Google explained in the press release. “Clips looks for stable, clear shots of people you know. You can help the camera learn who is important to you so when grandma comes in town, you’ll capture the grand entrance.” Once you activate your Clips camera, it waits in the background, surveilling the room as it searches for familiar faces to film with its AI technology.

The company claims that the gadget was designed with privacy concerns in mind. The following features are supposed to allay our fears:

  • It looks like a camera, and lights up when it’s on so everyone knows what Clips does and when it’s capturing.
  • It works best when used at home with family and close friends. As you capture with Clips, the camera learns to recognize the faces of people that matter to you and helps you capture more moments of them.
  • Finally, all the machine learning happens on the device itself. And just like any point-and-shoot, nothing leaves your device until you decide to save it and share it.

In other words, it’ll only be spying on family members and frequent visitors to your home, not intruders or delivery people (you have Ring for that).

Movie fans may recall that the 2017 film “The Circle” featured a very similar device. Emma Watson, who plays a young, idealistic employee of a Google-esque corporation (The Circle), agrees to wear a clip-on camera 24-7 which allows her every movement to be broadcast over the Internet. The company’s goal was to have Internet eyes watching every inch of the planet — for the greater good, of course. The creepy storyline was written as science fiction, but the ideas seem to have been ripped straight out of a Google press release.

UPDATE January 31, 12:05 a.m. EST: In response to PJM’s questions about Clips, Google responded: “This was a limited pre-order and we’ll have more details to share soon.”