Google Clips: A New Kind of Smart Camera

Google Clips: A New Kind of Smart Camera

Many people want to capture the little moments in life, but they’re easy to miss if you’re not watching carefully. Google’s newly announced Google Clips should help take care of that problem in an interesting new way. Google Clips is a new kind of camera that will work unlike any other you have and will catch more of your memorable moments on…well, not on film, but on the device.

Google Clips is a small, square, white device with rounded edges and very limited functions on the device itself. As you might guess from the name, it has a clip on the back that allows it to be attached to other items, but it can also stand on its own. It has a small lens, of course, and a shutter button, but the intention of Google Clips is not to use the shutter button—it’s to let Google Clips learn which moments you might want a photo of.

Google Clips is a smart camera that recognizes and learns when it has an opportunity to take a good moving photo. As time passes, it gets better at knowing when to take a photo; it learns to recognize faces, it can tell when there’s a pet in the frame, and it even notices when there’s photo-worthy lighting. The idea is to set Google Clips somewhere in your home and allow it to take photos that you’ll enjoy seeing later, without someone having to be behind the camera. Clips doesn’t even have to connect to the internet—it connects to your phone. You can look at the photos it’s captured using your phone, and you can decide which ones to keep, which ones to share, and which ones to toss. The phone app can suggest which photos it thinks you’ll want to keep the most, and you can also use it to save specific still photo frames from a moving photo. It’s also smart in other ways, like being able to tell when the shot is blocked, and Google says it will have up to 3 hours of photo-taking in each full charge of the battery.

The idea of Google Clips is an interesting one, and, of course, it’s easy to imagine the pros and cons of such a device. One reason for using Google Clips is that it is a hands-free way to get photos—no one has to stand behind a camera. It also provides candid shots instead of photos of people with stilted or forced expressions. It could capture important moments that a family member misses, allowing that person to get a chance to see it. And hey, since it can recognize pets, it might even be possible to get some shots of what your dog gets up to while you’re at work. But there are certainly some reasons you might not want Google Clips, as well. For one thing, it might feel invasive to have a device randomly taking photos of you. If you’re doing anything that you might not want a photo taken of, you’ll have to remember to turn it off beforehand. Also, it may make some visitors to your home feel uncomfortable knowing they might be photographed at any moment, particularly if they’re averse to having their picture taken. Also, though Google Clips emphasizes its safety and security, some people might be nervous about having any device watching them throughout the day, security reassurances or not. And, of course, there’s its price: a substantial $249. Of course, for such a new type of product, a price like that isn’t strange, but it does place it outside of the typical family’s price range.

If Google Clips sounds like a device you’d like to add to bring into your smart home, you can join a waitlist now and await the announcement of a release date. While you’re waiting, make sure you look over Google’s detailed and highly informative Google Clips page. I, like many others, am looking forward to seeing this smart camera in action.

Alexa Devices Can Now Send More Notifications

Alexa Devices Can Now Send More Notifications

Amazon has now announced that they’re further expanding Alexa’s ability to push notifications to devices. If you have an Alexa device, like an Echo, you may have noticed earlier in the year that Alexa had gained the ability to notify you about your Amazon deliveries. The ring of light would begin to pulse, indicating a notification was waiting. I was confused and a bit worried the first time it happened to me, since I’d missed the news announcement about it; I thought my Echo Dot might be malfunctioning, considering the weird pulsing light. Since then I’ve found this notification system pretty handy. Your Echo can also flash to let you know when you’ve received a message or call (remember, you can make calls and send messages between Alexa-enabled devices).

Now Alexa’s notifications are getting even better. Alexa devices will now be able to display the flashing ring of light and make a sound when there’s an alert from an enabled skill. The skills that currently work with the new notification feature are few, though—right now it only works with a very small amount, and Amazon only names three in their announcement: The Washington Post, AccuWeather, and Life360. Amazon’s announcement mentions more will be coming soon, and TechCrunch names Just Eat and Astrobot as two other skills that were involved in testing. Oh, and don’t worry: if you don’t want these push notifications, you don’t have to have them. You’ll need to opt-in to get them, and you can disable them in the Alexa app’s settings (Amazon describes how to do this on their website).

It’s hard to tell how soon Amazon means when they say “coming soon,” but hopefully these skills will enable push notifications sooner rather than later. People have been asking for more push notifications for some time now, myself included. Many users have asked to be able to have Alexa interact more and easily offer things like news alerts and calendar items. With The Washington Post, at least, these news alerts will be possible, but if you’re not necessarily a fan of that news provider, you’ll still have to wait to get push notifications about news from other outlets on Alexa. I know I’ll be keeping watch to see when new skills are able to send chiming notifications to my Echo Dot.

Nest Adding a New Line of Smart Products

Nest Adding a New Line of Smart Products

If you’re pretty interested in smart products, you’ve probably heard of Nest. Nest has made a number of smart devices, and they’ve recently announced some pretty big upcoming products. Up to this point, Nest has been best known for their smart thermostats and their smart smoke detectors that also send alerts for carbon monoxide. In an announcement on September 20th, Nest gave a glimpse of their upcoming smart devices that will expand their product line and take them into new territory.

One of Nest’s new products is a complete home security system. The security system includes Nest Guard, Nest Detect, and Nest Tag, as well as the Nest app. Nest Guard is a small device that will work like the base of the security system. You can use it to enter a passcode or otherwise tell Nest that an authorized person has entered or is leaving. Nest Tag will work with the Nest Guard to arm or disarm the system quickly. The Tag is a small device that is pictured being kept on a keychain and that will be placed on the Nest Guard to essentially sign in and sign out when coming and going from your home. And Nest Detect is a thin bar that can be placed on windows, doors, and walls for several purposes: it has a motion detector, it can tell when a window or door is being opened, and it can shine a light when it detects your movement during the night.

With the Nest app, you’ll be able to control this smart system from your phone. You’ll get security alerts and be able to call the police. If you have one of Nest’s security cameras, you’ll be able to check the video to see what’s happening and, with an added subscription, provide the video to police if necessary.

Also announced was the Nest Hello video doorbell. This doorbell will let visitors ring you using a smart device. You’ll be able to see them in HD, and you’ll be able to speak to one another. It will also alert you if someone sets off its motion detector, even if they don’t ring the bell.

These announcements, and the announcement of new outdoor security cameras, are certainly good reason to keep an eye on Nest in the future—2018, specifically, when these products are meant to come out. If all goes well, Nest will soon be known for much more than their thermostats.

(Featured image: Nest)

iPhone X’s Camera Incorporates Face Tech

iPhone X’s Camera Incorporates Face Tech

There’s been a lot of hype about the upcoming new iPhone X, and with all the hype has come plenty of news tidbits. One major piece of information has been the discussion about Apple’s Face ID technology. Face ID will, among other things, allow iPhone users to unlock their phones simply by using their face. Face ID can recognize a face and use it as a security measure, sort of like unlocking with a fingerprint or a PIN. It will also let you do things like make payments by verifying your face. Face ID is implemented using the iPhone X’s TrueDepth Camera. The TrueDepth Camera incorporates a number of technologies in order to “accurately map and recognize a face,” says Apple. While Face ID sounds exciting, another interesting and fun application of the TrueDepth Camera will be the new iPhone’s Animojis. You heard that right—Animojis.

Using the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X, you will be able to send customized and animated emojis to your friends. Right now, of course, texters are usually limited to the typical pre-chosen emojis. These emojis have a limited range of emotions, to some peoples’ frustration. I myself have often found myself irritated when I couldn’t really find the right emoji to accurately express what I was feeling (because of my ability to send texts with unbelievable typos, I really need an emoji to better display my embarrassment). And considering how often people replace full-blown sentences with simple emojis, having more options could be great fun.

Animojis will allow you to use your TrueDepth Camera to choose from a set of different Animoji styles, like perhaps a panda. You will then be able to make different faces—Apple says there are “over 50 different facial muscle movements”—and display that emotion on your chosen style. You will be able to send these Animojis to your friends as short, looping animations. This should let you feel more like you have properly expressed your true emotion, though of course, you’ll probably be doing so as a unicorn or a fox. Still, Animojis should bring some fun to the world of emojis for owners of the iPhone X.

Internet 101: The Internet of Things

Internet 101: The Internet of Things

By now you may have heard someone talking about the Internet of Things (or IoT). This term has been popping up more and more in recent years, becoming part of many peoples’ everyday vocabulary. But for many people, the name has appeared so suddenly that it’s caused some puzzled looks. What is the IoT, and how can you start taking part in the phenomena…or are you already?

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things refers to the smart products that connect to the internet or to each other. You bring the Internet of Things into your home when you buy certain smart products. For instance, your version of the IoT might come from your smart fridge and your Amazon Echo. These smart products use the internet to complete their services. Because of the internet connectivity, smart products that are part of the Internet of Things are able to offer more highly technological solutions to older, less advanced household items.

What are the privacy concerns?

There is an ongoing and lively debate about the Internet of Things, and it mostly centers on privacy. Many people feel perfectly safe using smart products that connect to the internet, stating that the manufacturers can’t use these products to gather or use their data in unwanted ways. Others argue that, terms or service or not, the internet of things can be used to compile data on individuals and be used in negative ways. Some also worry about government reach and whether their data or recordings could be compiled by government agencies. There are some cases of the government attempting to seize data in instances of criminal cases, like when Amazon was pressured to turn over recordings captured by a murder suspect’s Echo device. (After Amazon held out, the suspect eventually allowed Amazon to turn over the data.) But opinions still differ on how big of a concern privacy is with internet-connected devices. How private and protected your data will be is difficult to fully know, though the Terms of Service (TOS) for each device you connect might give you a better idea of what to expect. Whatever you decide, just be sure to read the TOS carefully for each product, making sure your data won’t be passed on or stored by anyone who could misuse it.

What are the pros and cons?

Privacy isn’t the only discussion to be had about the Internet of Things. Here are some other things to consider when deciding whether to jump on board with the IoT:

Pros

  • You have access to new and exciting tech
    Smart devices are everywhere, and there are new and interesting items being added to the Internet of Things on a regular basis. So many different products are becoming part of the IoT that it’s often hard to even keep track of what’s available.
  • You’re given the ability to perform tasks more quickly
    After setting up a device, having internet-connected devices often makes it easier to complete tasks. You can shut off an appliance that’s in the other room while you’re running out the door, for instance, instead of taking the time to go back and flip a switch.
  • You can use hands-free abilities
    Many devices are voice-controlled, like certain remotes and Amazon products, meaning you can often get something done just by using your voice. If you’re a multi-tasker (who isn’t these days?), you could be checking an email with one hand, pouring your coffee with the other, and adding an event to your calendar just with your voice.
  • It’s possible to create a hub for numerous items
    With the Internet of Things, more and more of your home products can be connected with each other, and in some cases, they can even be accessed through the same app. One way you might do this is by having several different light bulbs all able to be controlled in the same app, which makes it possible to turn all your lights off or on at the same time.
  • There’s a growing base of apps and abilities
    Some devices, like the Amazon Echo, include different skills that can be enabled, and these skills are consistently being improved and added to. Other smart products are regularly updated to work more smoothly and add more convenient features. Knowing that people get tired of the same old same old, most companies are working to make their products better and more convenient.

Cons

  • You become dependent on an internet connection
    Devices that are part of the Internet of Things rely on, well, the internet, so capabilities are reduced (or even entirely shut down) during internet outages. It’s already frustrating enough when you’re not able to watch Netflix on your computer during internet down time, so losing the ability to talk to your Echo is like salt in the wound. (Speaking of internet reliability, don’t forget about Easy Internet Now’s reliable, no-contract service!)
  • The price can be a problem
    Some smart devices can be expensive during initial release, which means you may have to wait until prices drop. For instance, some smart appliances can cost over a thousand dollars, when its internet-less counterpart might be only a couple hundred dollars. There are exceptions to this, of course, but price is still a major consideration.
  • The lifespan may not be desirable
    Some smart products may become obsolete more quickly than older products, as the technology continues growing. Like smartphones, devices that are part of the Internet of Things are getting better and better, and some companies will obviously choose to release brand new products that make their former versions less usable over time. Typically (though not always), older devices are updated less often, making the newer (and often more expensive) products more enjoyable to use.
  • Smart products are still in development
    Some items may have fewer options and capabilities at first, since many devices are so new and somewhat experimental. If you opt to purchase smart devices when they’re still brand new, you run the risk of purchasing a product that might end up being less useful than you expected.

What can you get?

Many more products are becoming part of the IoT as the months pass. Here are some types of products you can find, along with one or two products available now (or soon!) in each category:

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, but you can see that there’s a wide range of products that can connect to the internet and expand the Internet of Things. Now that you know what the IoT is, it might be easier to keep an eye on the next new smart device.

7 Places to Travel as a Virtual Tourist

7 Places to Travel as a Virtual Tourist

Virtual reality opens up many new worlds. A virtual reality (VR) headset can make gaming more exciting, immerse its wearer in 360° videos, open the door to virtual social interaction, and, notably, whisk would-be tourists away to places they may have never seen. After donning a headset, users can download an app, like Google 360, and search for destinations they would like to visit. Even without a headset, virtual travelers can click through stunning locales on their computers and other devices. Here are the 7 destinations on Google Street View that VR tourists should travel to first:

1. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, tourists from across the world can go inside the Rijksmuseum and look at thousands of beautiful pieces, including works by Rembrandt.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

2. Nishibama, Aka Island, Okinawa, Japan
Straying from the streets, virtual tourists can take a dive and get an underwater view of Nishibama’s sea life. Headset wearers can move through the water and get a close-up of the sea life and underwater landscape.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

3. Victoria Park, Hong Kong
Travelers can stroll through Victoria Park and take in the brightly-lit nightlife. Looking up can give viewers a glimpse of the stunning skyline.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

4. Milford Track, New Zealand
Tourists can transport themselves to the beautiful Milford Track and take in the view of a tall, gorgeous waterfall. Turning away from the main view, virtual visitors can walk down the boardwalk and spot smaller waterfalls, moss-covered trees, and the dense woods.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

5. The Colorado River, USA
VR tourists can stay completely dry while floating down the Colorado River inside the Grand Canyon. Looking in front and behind, virtual boaters can see the sparkling river. To the left and the right, they can examine the canyon’s colorful layers of rock. For a less serene view, look for the 36 Mile Rapid.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

6. Istanbul Toy Museum, Turkey
Travelers can transport themselves to Turkey and visit the Istanbul Toy Museum. Street View lets visitors walk from room to room, taking in the glass cases full of unique items, some of which are antiques.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

7. Lago di Coca, Bergamasque Alps, Italy
Those who don’t want to brave the mountains can take a virtual trip of the Bergamasque Alps. Visiting Lago di Coca lets tourists get a glimpse of a shimmering lake between the mountains. In the distance, it’s easy to see numerous snow-covered mountains.
Click here to visit on Google Street View