First week with the Narrative Clip

Lifelogging camera

Lifelogging camera


My Narrative Clip arrived last Friday and it’s now time to sum up my impressions so far. For those of you not familiar with the thing, the Narrative Clip is a very small camera that you attach to your shirt, sweather, jacket or similar and then will take one photo every 30 seconds for as long as you don’t put it face down or in a (dark) pocket. The idea is that it will help you remember what is happening in your life, and help you answer questions like ”Where were I on Wednesday, April 11th at 12 o´ clock?” or ”Who did I see last August?” Together with the device comes an uploading app for PC or Mac and a viewing app for iPhone or Android. Most of the hard work of figuring out which pictures are worth saving, calculating GPS-coordinates from raw data etc is performed ”in the cloud”, that is on Narratives servers. This is so that the minuscule battery in the device itself should be able to power it for two days or so.

So, how has the first week worked out?

Did the device help me answer those questions like what did I do and who did I see? Yes, certainly. However, there are some things that could have been better:

  • The angle of view of the camera is not sufficiently wide to compensate for the fact that your clothes are not keeping the camera entirely straight all the time. This leads to a lot of pictures of the sky or ceiling. Also, since the camera employs a regular 3×4 aspect ratio sensor, it does matter how you attach the camera to your clothes. The preferred way is to mount it sideways, that is with the clip facing left. Even so, there are a lot of pictures with decapitated persons or no persons at all. As a workaround, you can attach a wide-angle attachment (meant for smartphones) that will give the camera a wider angle of view at the expense of making it more bulky and obtrusive. (Mine is in the mail from China).
  • The secret sauce of the Narrative Clip is the algorithms that Narrative (the company) employs in its server back-end to figure out how to orient the pictures, where they were taken and what pictures are worth keeping out of the 2000 or so that are snapped every day if you keep it on. So far I must say that I could do a much better job myself than those algorithms, but I can only hope that they get better and better over time.
  • As a way of producing a life-log filled with moments of your days, the current incarnation of the Narrative app is too limited. A very basic request would be to make it possible to add your own annotations, or even better, to pair it with a life-logging app such as Saga. Even so, the current state of affairs with the app is that it is still useful as long as you have not had the clip for more than one week (or a month, I could imagine). When you start to have a very long list of moments to scroll through, you would start to feel the need for some sort of ”time-compression” and -expansion of the time-line. Maybe an interface where you could ”pinch” and ”spread” the fingers to compress or expand the time-line? I do think that Narrative will come up with something good in this area.
  • The device is easy to lose! I’ve dropped it three times already during the week, and now i must attach a lanyard to is and secure it before I put it on!
  • Everyone, including me, thinks it would be a good idea to have a web-app, not only a smartphone app, to sort through your moments. It is difficult to understand that Narrative has not yet been able to produce one, considering that work has been ongoing now for a year and the device itself started shipping just before christmas. As a matter of fact, the progress of development of the smartphone apps also seems slow. What’s going on, Narrative?
  • During this week, location information started to appear in the app. Great! Now, if there was only a way to correct the erroneous information.
  • Saving photos from your moments to your smartphone gallery or anyone of the services that you have signed up for, like Google Drive, is confusing. The camera produces pictures that are 5 megapixel in size. However, when you save it from the app, they become smaller. Why? And if the only way to retain the full size is to make use of a locally stored copy on your harddrive in your computer, how the heck can I understand what the file-name is of that picture on the harddrive? It is certainly not the name that you see when you save it to your gallery in your smartphone or to Google drive!

What about the picture quality? Well, it is not up to the standards of modern smartphone cameras. It is more like how smartphone cameras was 5-7 years ago. Still I would say it is good enough for the purpose of ”logging my life”, and in some cases I have even been surprised of the quality. Here is one example:

Ameli på fikSo, to summarise my first week with the Narrative Clip and companion apps and service:

  • It does deliver on the promise to log your life in pictures
  • It takes good enough pictures (given that it is aimed correctly)
  • It is very hard to aim it correctly as you have no means of knowing and the angle of view is too narrow in many cases
  • It is easy to drop it/lose it, so attach a lanyard!
  • The accompanying software is still very basic and there is a lot of room for improvement
  • Still, I love my new little gadget

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