A Snapshot of Lifeloggers

Wearable Cameras Aren’t Picture-Perfect


Anyone who knows me well knows that I take a lot of photographs. I wouldn’t describe myself as an amateur photographer (no expensive DSLR for me) — I’m a snapper. I just like recording shots from my daily life.

I’ve owned a GoPro camera for several years. I bought it for specific activities like skiing and mountain biking, but I see the newer wave of lifelogging devices as something quite different.

Given my interest in recording my daily life, the concept of a wearable camera — a lifelogger — is very appealing to me.

The Autographer was the first product I tried back in October 2013, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it since then. It’s very much about capturing pictures and turning them into time-lapse videos. You can easily get snapshots, but I’ve found it is more suited to recording events. It has a fisheye lens, making its field of vision much wider than a standard camera lens and enabling you to capture more of your surroundings (see A Day in Pictures).

My most successful use of the Autographer has been at occasions such as weddings or a day out to a theme park. There aren’t many people who get excited about an invitation to “come round and watch our wedding video”, but I’ve found that a two minute time-lapse capturing the highlights of the day with a funky backing track can be very popular when posted on Facebook or YouTube (see example here).

More recently, I’ve been using the Narrative Clip camera. The Autographer has a bulky design, but the Narrative Clip is sleeker and much less noticeable. I bought a white unit, which looks discreet on a light shirt.


The Autographer (left) and Narrative Clip (right) devices.

I found the Narrative Clip much more orientated to capturing individual images than the Autographer. Its standard camera lens is more limited than the Autographer’s, but has a similar viewing angle to the camera on your phone.

Saving pictures from the device is as simple as connecting it to your PC with a standard USB cable, and the images are uploaded into Narrative’s cloud. This is where the magic happens: all images are saved, but the photos that appear in the accompanying smartphone app have been filtered to show only the best ones. You can quickly review them and share a particular picture to a social network or by e-mail at the touch of a button.

One downside of the Narrative Clip is that the uploaded images are low-resolution copies rather than the original image you captured (which is stored on your PC). This is understandable given the interaction with the cloud, but frustrating when you share them — I feel you should have the option to upload the images at full size, triggering the download for the image you want to share.

One downside of the Narrative Clip is that, although full-resolution images are uploaded to the cloud, you only get access to low-resolution copies in the app. This means you have to go back to your PC to get the full-resolution picture if you want to share it. However, the Narrative team tells me this is something it’s working on, so watch this space.

Advocates of lifelogging often praise the ability of these devices to capture ad hoc moments — a typical scenario would be bumping into an old friend and seeing their smile at the first moment of recognition. The reality is that snapping such shots happens very rarely. The Narrative Clip only captures a photo every 30 seconds, so you’d be lucky for it to randomly save the exact moment described above. The Autographer can be set up to capture images more frequently, but it would still be unlikely. That said, both cameras have the capability to take a photo on request.

I’ve found the Narrative Clip particularly well-suited to reviewing your day, and its picture highlights makes this easier than with the Autographer. The images it captures offer a new, fun perspective. The quality isn’t good enough to do a great deal with the images — you couldn’t rely on a lifelogger to capture a decent record of a holiday — but they provide a casual “soundtrack” of your daily life. However, that’s likely to change as their camera technology improves.

I’m also fascinated about social etiquette for lifeloggers. The devices are currently so niche that most people don’t even know they exist, meaning that they’re not the lightning conductor for privacy concerns that Google Glass has become.

The Autographer’s size means that people are in little doubt that you’re wearing a camera. I’ve not yet been asked to take it off, but I remove it when I feel its use isn’t appropriate. People are a lot more comfortable when they understand that the device only takes pictures every 30 seconds or so, and that it doesn’t capture audio or video. That seems to be the fine line that Google Glass has crossed.

The Narrative Clip’s discreet design makes it more covert, so it falls to you to make decisions about where it’s appropriate to use it. However, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it — I’ve inadvertently got nice pictures of an immigration officer at an airport recently. That’s an interesting record of my day I wouldn’t otherwise have, but it’s also one that could land me in trouble.


Cameras will start to be discreetly integrated into a multitude of wearable devices, be they dedicated cameras, smartwatches or even smart jewellery. There’ll be a fierce debate about the issue, but I’d argue it’s going to be virtually impossible to prevent cameras from getting everywhere. Already, almost every one of the 1.2 billion smartphones that will be sold this year will have an integrated camera.

GoPro has sold over 8.5 million cameras to date and a staggering 3.8 million last year alone, showing consumer appetite. There’s also been an explosion in the use of windscreen-mounted cameras in cars.

Lifeloggers certainly aren’t something for everyone at this juncture. I like the idea of being able to easily capture my daily life, but don’t like the work required to do something useful with the pictures. It’s too time-consuming to review them, and the picture quality at present makes them little more than a novelty.

There’s no doubt it’s a very interesting area, and with companies like Sony talking about entering the market it’ll soon be a product category that everyone will be familiar with.