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The disturbing acceptance of Google's new 'smart' camera

March 2, 2018 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by The Week

In the reviews that rolled out recently for Google's new Clips smart camera, there were the rote things that you'd expect in all tech reviews: what was good, what was bad, and, inevitably, whether or not you should buy it. There was, however, a key idea conspicuously absent: whether or not the product should exist at all.

The pitch for the Google Clips is it's a camera that sits off to the side in a room and automatically captures the kinds of candid shots that one never really plans for -- the most common examples cited being some random happening involving one's kids or pets. Instead of mere serendipity, however, the camera uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to try and guess when to best take a shot.

Reviews, perhaps unsurprisingly, haven't been great. The technology to take pictures in a smart way with satisfying results simply doesn't exist yet, largely because determining what makes a good shot is still a profoundly human, subjective thing. But perhaps a product with such obvious flaws is cause for concern for reasons more significant than the release of yet another disappointing gadget. Instead, it appears that in rarely questioning whether a piece of tech should have been released at all, we are unwittingly become guinea pigs for tech, and inadvertent cheerleaders for things that, in the aggregate, end up making things worse.

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