What Google Clips Is and How You Can Use It

The surprisingly simple artificially intelligent camera is kind of cool

The Google Clips camera sitting on top of a stack of textbooks


The Google Clips camera is an artificially intelligent camera that automatically shoots photos of your life from wherever it's placed.

Information in this article applies to all Google Clips cameras that are used with smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat and higher and iOS 10 or higher.

What Google Clips Is

Google’s camera is similar to competitive products that have come before it. Action and lifelogger cameras, such as the GoPro Hero and Narrative Clip 2, respectively, are portable and typically capture imagery while worn on the body. Smart home security cameras (Clips resembles the Blink security camera) save local or cloud recordings and allow real-time monitoring. Modern mobile devices, apps, and digital cameras have intelligent face and eye detection features for improved photography.

What the Google Clips Camera Is Not

The Google Clips camera is meant to be a hands-free accessory that takes candid photos without any intervention. It can replace the need for a selfie stick or a dedicated photographer.

The Google Clips camera clipped to the handlebar of a child's toy

One of the Clips camera’s biggest strengths is its simplicity, which also means a number of situational limitations.

  • Google Clips is not a point-and-shoot camera: You can turn the Clips camera on and off as well as initiate recording through the manual button on the front. But that’s it. There is no LCD screen, no viewfinder, and no device settings or controls to adjust. Everything — particularly captured content — is performed automatically by the internal hardware and software.
  • Google Clips is not a security or spy camera or nannycam: The Clips camera records motion photos (without audio, it doesn't have a microphone) at 15 frames-per-second (FPS) for several seconds at a time. Home security cameras continuously record video with audio at 30 FPS. Google Clips has a white exterior, a visible LED that glows while recording, and lasts up to three hours per charge, which makes it a poor substitute for a security, spy, or nanny camera.
  • Google Clips is not cloud- or network-connected: The Clips camera features Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth LE, which allows direct pairing to smartphones to view and share videos (using the Clips app for Android or iOS). Unlike surveillance cameras that require a network connection for recording, replays, or real-time monitoring, Clips is completely self-contained, private, and secure. All data stays on the unit until sent to a mobile device (the transfer is also encrypted).
  • Google Clips is not an action or lifelogging camera: Although the Clips camera can be worn (using the included clip stand), it performs best when placed in a fixed location — stable shots tend to have better focus. The clip stand allows for spontaneous and unique perspectives (for example, when attached to the backs of chairs, ends of tables, or strollers) without having to engineer a solution.
  • Google Clips is not for trips or vacations: The Clips camera features Google’s Moment IQ machine learning algorithm, which is designed to recognize lighting, framing, facial expressions, and more and capture great photos. The algorithm focuses on people and pets (common ones, such as dogs and cats), especially those seen more often. As of yet, Google Clips is inadequate for taking pictures of landscapes, buildings, random objects, or strangers.
  • Google Clips won’t work with all phones: Clips is compatible only with select Android (running Android 7.0 Nougat and higher) and iOS (running iOS 10 or higher) smartphones.

How to Use the Google Clips Camera

Using Google Clips is simple. Twist the lens to turn the camera on, set or mount it somewhere facing people or pets, then let it do its thing. The 12-megapixel (MP) lens has a 130-degree field of view (FOV), so there’s little need to precisely aim it. If you want to manually trigger a recording, press the shutter button (which is located below the lens).

The Google Clips camera next to a smartphone showing photos taken by the camera

Google Clips has 16 GB of internal storage for saved video and recharges through the included USB-C cable.

When you want to view, delete, edit, or share videos or photos (video frames can be exported as auto-enhanced still photos) from the Clips camera, connect using the app (available for Android and iOS). Content can be downloaded to the smartphone and uploaded to Google Photos for safekeeping.

Given the specialized hardware — Intel’s Modivius Myriad 2 vision processing unit (VPU) — along with Google’s Moment IQ machine learning algorithm, Clips records more quality content than not.

Who Needs Google Clips?

The Google Clips camera is not meant to replace smartphone, digital DSLR, or mirrorless camera photography. Instead, it’s an accessory to capture candid moments that wouldn’t have been captured otherwise. Given its pocket-portable size, it’s easy to carry and place Google Clips most anywhere.

Google Clips app on smartphone

For example, imagine that you want photos of the family having fun together on game night. As the photographer with a smartphone or digital camera, you’re likely to be excluded unless you set a timer or use a remote shutter — you may also need a tripod. Setting a timer disrupts ongoing play while also negating the whole candid element. Using a shutter hinges on remembering to press the remote as well as pure luck of capturing worthwhile images.

Google Clips is a product of convenience. It does away with awkward situations while capturing in-the-moment memories. Instances that the Clips camera can prove useful are:

  • Parents and kids engaged together in an activity (for example, painting, building blocks, and cooking).
  • People and pets engaged together in an activity.
  • Kids doing cute kid things (the kind that stops when they know someone is watching).
  • Pets doing cute pet things.

Artificial Intelligence for Hands-Free Photography

The success of the Google Clips hinges on its artificial intelligence (AI). The camera is designed to automatically decide what moments to record (essentially curating) while learning to recognize familiar faces over time. It offers:

  • Face detection and tracking: Snapchat and the alternatives with face-tracking filters use face detection technology in real-time to apply fun animations to selfies. Samsung Galaxy smartphones feature Smart Stay technology – the front-facing camera senses when you’re looking at the device, thereby keeping the screen on despite timeout settings. And if you upload photos to social media, Facebook’s facial recognition feature will pre-tag familiar friends for you.
  • Eye and smile detection and tracking: Advanced digital cameras commonly feature eye and smile detection and tracking. When enabled, it helps the camera lock on and follow subjects (particularly helpful when they’re in motion). This feature is usually tied to the shutter release, which means the camera takes the picture the instant it senses open eyes, big smiles, and great expressions (as opposed to faces in mid-blink with pursed lips).
  • Picture worthiness: Photo editing apps can identify and highlight objects, sharpen or blur, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and more. Many feature some form of one-touch auto-enhance that corrects everything at once. So it's possible to program a camera with thresholds, allowing it to take photos when subjects or faces are in focus (using auto-focus) and areas are well-lit, among other various contextual and artistic criteria that make for interesting pictures.

Where Google Clips pushes the boundary of leveraging artificial intelligence is through its ability to recognize faces without needing internet access for instruction or assistance. Everything is processed on the device, completely offline (it's secure for those concerned about privacy). As the Clips camera sees more of the same faces, it learns to recognize those as ones that should be recorded more often.