My life is pretty dull. I’ve suspected that for a while now, but before I wore the Narrative Clip around for a few days, I wasn’t sure. Now I am.
This tiny, buttonless camera sits on your lapel, snapping a photo automatically every two minutes. It creates a “lifelog,” a timeline of candid photos that represent your day-to-day existence. It’ll capture those little moments right in front of you that you missed, and the ones you forgot to pull the camera out for.
It’s an appealing idea, but is it worth the jaw-dropping $280 asking price? In two words: not really. Given the sheer number of photos the camera is designed to take on a daily basis, you’d think the odds would be good that it would capture magic a few times a day. But for me, if the Narrative’s to be believed, my life isn’t just boring: It’s blurry, grainy and poorly framed.
Editing Alyssa’s subway video. I stare at this screen 50 hours a week.
But let’s start with the good: The Narrative Is a nice-looking object. In fact, it looks like a mini–Mac mini, especially in white (there’s a gray and an orange as well). On the front is the lens for a tiny camera. Below this is a USB port for transferring those shots to your PC.
On the right, four small lights let you know how much battery is left. The back, meanwhile, is devoted to the big metal clip that lends itself to the second half of the product’s name. There are no buttons to be found on the product, but you can manually take a picture with it by double-tapping the front of the camera.
The Narrative has roughly the surface area of a quarter, so it’s small and stays out of the way. In fact, in the few days I wore it, not a single person commented on my tiny new fashion accessory.
As for the bad: For starters, it’s hard to know where to clip the clip. This is particularly difficult in mid-February, as we’re bundled up in layer after layer. Things flap and obscure the screen and tilt the camera in odd directions, which resulted in shot after shot of ceilings and floors.
I have about two dozen pictures of Yahoo’s ceiling in my account at the moment.
I tried clipping the device to my jacket, but it was too thick; I tried my shirt, and the jacket got in the way. I attempted my backpack, but the jostling inadvertently triggered the aforementioned manual picturing taking, resulting in an image every time my foot hit the ground.
There’s no power button. You turn the camera on its face to shut if off. When it doesn’t detect any light, it doesn’t take pictures. That means I don’t have any images of the bar I went to last night. Actually, there is one. The camera took a shot when it saw the jukebox. The image was grainy and blurry — this thing doesn’t do well in low light.
The idea of the Narrative Clip is that you put it on and forget it. You go about your normal life without realizing you’re recording it. Though you really don’t want to completely forget you have it. I had a few close calls before going into a bathroom and one at the locker room at the gym, pulling the Narrative off and taking a close-up, blurry shot of my thumb. Man, I hope that’s my thumb.
At the end of the day, you plug the Narrative into your computer to transfer the photos. There’s no WiFi transfer yet. This is a major bummer. Think of how cool it would be to have everything start transferring the minute it came in contact with a familiar network.
Narrative gives you the option of saving images directly to your hard drive, but it warns you, fairly, that doing so will use up a lot of disk space. Your best bet is just letting everything upload to the cloud and checking the shots out later on the company’s smartphone app. The upload app was a bit buggy on my Mac, but it did the trick eventually. When the upload is complete, it’ll send a push notification to your phone, so you can relive the day that was.
The app is clean and well-designed. Sessions are broken up into moments labeled by the time they were shot. Click into one, and you can swipe through the photos or watch an automatic slideshow. Hold down on a photo, and you can delete it, share it or download it. Sadly, I didn’t find a lot of opportunity to do those second two things.
I take some responsibility for this. Again, the life of a gadget blogger entails a lot of unphotogenic sitting at one’s computer. Of the three days I wore the Narrative Clip around, here are the best shots:
A pretty accurate representation of what it’s like to be a gadget that I’m photographing.
Actually, that one’s not great, but I like it because it shows the top of my whiskey collection.
Interesting, but worth $280? Not really. The idea behind the Narrative Clip is a compelling one. Heck, it was compelling enough to earn a staggering $550,000 on Kickstarter under the product name Memoto. But despite several product delays, there are still some big issues to be worked out. Not the least of them being the price.
At $30, the Narrative Clip would be a compelling novelty. At nearly 10 times that, you’re better off investing in a decent camera — or maybe a vacation from that dull life you’re leading.