The Narrative Clip is a device that’s mostly unlike anything I’ve used before.
It’s a plastic square that’s bigger than a quarter but smaller than a book of matches. There’s a metal clip on the back for attaching it to things — I mostly wore mine clipped to my shirt. And it houses a 5-megapixel camera that takes a picture every 30 seconds. Tap it with your finger twice to take a picture manually.
After wearing it for a while, you connect it to your computer via USB where the many, many pictures it’s taken throughout the day are uploaded to Narrative’s cloud service. At this point, the photos are viewable on your phone via the Narrative app.
This is “lifelogging,” the process of passively capturing data (in this case, just pictures) about your life and making them viewable/browsable later.
It costs $US279 and comes in white, grey, or orange.
Narrative works exactly as advertised — it’s your onboard photographic memory! It’s fun to be able to look back through the Narrative app and know exactly where you were at 1:13 PM last Tuesday, or how funny-looking that guy from the subway was this morning.
Because it’s programmatically snapping pictures without your intervention, you can get great candid shots of friends and coworkers who forget in short order that you’ve gone paparazzi on them.
My model came in grey and it was easy to camouflage amongst my clothing, jacket, and bag. The clip is surprisingly handy and letting you mount the camera in a number of places. At times I wore it clipped to my lapel, breast pocket, in between shirt buttons, and even on the strap of my messenger bag. One could just as easily attach it to a hairband, the front of a bicycle basket, XXXX — use your imagination!
I loved the “interface” (or lack thereof). There are no buttons to deal with here — setting it face-down on a table turns it off. Attaching it to your clothing turns it on, and tapping it manually takes a picture.
The battery and on-board storage is enough to provide for a little over a day’s worth of discreet lifelogging. Four LEDs serve as a battery status indicator and can also warn you when the Narrative is filling up its storage space. At that point, you only need to connect it to your computer to charge the battery and offload the photos.
The negative aspects of the Narrative are mostly social. People will notice it on your clothes and ask about it, which puts you in the awkward position of explaining that you’re secretly photographing everything that’s going on. These are minority instances, however — Joe Stranger on the street won’t notice it, but your coworkers and friends certainly will. Maybe tip them off ahead of time so there aren’t any surprises.
Do not wear it into the bathroom.
Over the week and a half or so that I used the device, it fell off only once and I immediately retrieved it — you’ll develop something of a secondary awareness of where your Narrative is on your body. After all, it costs $US279 and you certainly don’t want to lose it.
The pictures will often be repetitive, especially if you work out of an office or in front of a computer. If this describes you, you may not enjoy being reminded of just how much time you spend in front of a flickering screen.
Rounding it up
I imagine this being a pretty indispensable tool for new parents who don’t want to become camera-toting cliches, or for a blogger who wants to capture images from his or her day without being obtrusive or conspicuous.
For the practically minded, this could be a perfect device for helping you remember things — names, faces, meals, absolutely whatever else.
The price strikes me as a bit high, but maybe that’s ok for now — this is the first generation of a device that seems to be in a field of its own with no clear competitors.
Here are a few photos I captured with the Narrative Clip.