The Narrative Clip Reviewed

I placed an order for the Memoto Lifelogging Camera on 14 May 2013 and received my Narrative Clip (as it was later named) on 31 March 2014.

I’m not sure what I expected to be honest and so finally getting my hands on this device after the better part of a year was somewhat anticlimactic. So here’s my impression after using it [irregularly] over the past three weeks.

First, the packaging. The packaging was impressive; almost too good I think. It felt like in a rush to emulate Apple, that they spent too much money on the packaging. It really was that nice. I admired it for a good – I don’t know, maybe five minutes.. and then threw it in the recycling bin where packaging belongs – no matter how good. The money would have been better spent on a superior camera in my view (spoiler alert).

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The device is well-designed and attractive too. There are no buttons – just a camera lens and a micro-usb port. It is slim and has a sturdy clip to attach to clothing, hats, etc.

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There’s no on/off button. If there is no light, the camera stops taking photos – and so you turn it “off” by putting it in your pocket or face-down on a desk. You end up with a handful of black photos being taken before it switches off, but these are easily discarded.

It takes a photo every 30 seconds. This is a “lifelogging” device – it captures moments in your day by passively taking photos without you having to lift a finger. You can lift a finger if you like and take a photo on demand by double tapping the device – just make sure that your hand is not in front of the lens when you do so (positioning is pretty important).

I suspect that 30 seconds was a compromise based on online storage capacity as much as anything else as a lot can happen in between those 30 second snaps – whole city blocks when walking, laughter, and many other “moments”.

When you are ready to see what has been captured, you have to connect the device to your computer via a USB cable and using their “Narrative Uploader” software. It then uploads all of your photos to the cloud.. somewhere. There is an option to also copy the photos locally – which I highly recommend that you do.

There is no web version of the software. Your only choice of seeing your photos is on their free mobile app and so after you upload your photos, you wait.. and wait… and wait.. for a their server to select what it determines are your “moments” and to send them to your device. The process is slow and generally disappointing.

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You can click on the thumbnail of each selected moment and then scroll through or press play to automate a time-lapse view from that day. The photos are small and it doesn’t support landscape mode or full screen of any sort.

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I’ve used the Narrative Clip for three weeks now and find myself mostly… underwhelmed. So much so, that I can’t bring myself to recommend it to anyone – certainly not yet. This is a good idea that has just not lived up to its potential in my view.

Here’s my main issues.

  1. Privacy. I can keep a copy of the photos I upload locally, but have no information on where the cloud-based photos are being stored and what sort of privacy policy is in place. I can delete Moments from the app – but these are only a selection of the photos that were taken. What happens to the others? There needs to be more transparency here I think.
  2. Camera quality. In bright light and if you don’t move.. the camera is pretty good. But I bet that represents 10% of the “lifelogging” photographic experience. This camera and the image processing software around it needs a considerable upgrade to really get my attention and be “fit for purpose”
  3. No web or desktop app. I understand that it is under development but I still find it surprising that the only interface with this device is via a mobile app. It seems even more strange that they took the time to develop the uploader app for Mac/Windows but didn’t build in the ability to actually view the images – I have to wait for the “moment” generator to work its magic.
  4. It needs a wire. It feels awkward having to actually attach the device to a computer to upload the images. I’m sure that this was a battery consumption decision, but it seems to me that a bluetooth LE solution would have been useful here.
  5. The “moment” generator is poor. It takes too long. I uploaded some photos from my walk today an hour ago and they have still not appeared in my app (edit: my “moments” eventually arrived on my phone 4 1/2 hours after uploading them). Luckily, I keep a local copy as well but this is a classic example of how this device and the related software seems to be letting its users down.

So for me, this is a great idea that achieved an 85% solution – it is so close to being good.. but it simply isn’t quite there. Don’t waste your money – but keep an eye on them as future releases could be amazing.

Oh, I’ve found that the most entertaining thing to do with the Narrative photos is to make a time-lapse movie from them..