Narrative Going out of Business
I received an email this morning that Narrative AB, the company behind the Narrative Clip lifelogging camera that I've been wearing for almost three years now, has been dissolved as of September 26, 2016.
Well, the writing has been on the wall for a while. In July, they already underwent a "reorganisation", and the social media accounts have been suspiciously silent over the last couple of weeks (e.g. the Twitter account was only reposting old blog articles once per day).
So what's going to happen to the devices? And more, importantly, to all our photos on their servers? According to the email, they will be releasing tools to download the existing photos as well as tools to be able to download photos from the clip. Whether these tools will be open source or not is not clear from the email.
On September 26 2016, the company Narrative AB filed for voluntary dissolution. While this means that the Narrative team can no longer continue sales and support of the Narrative Clip, we are committed to secure the future use of all existing products currently in customers' hands.
We will release a tool to allow you to download your existing content from Narrative's servers and to access new content on your Clip. Keep a look out for further details on where and how to get this tool. Our main focus now is to make sure your content is safe.
Right now, the service still works as always. I just uploaded the photos from my everyday round trip to the baker and can see them online. The Narrative Uploader has always had an option to store photos locally, and I've used that since the beginning. Still, due to the occasional technical problem (with the software or when the Clip 2 was new), some of my moments only exist on the Narrative Servers.
The website already lets you download photos, but only one moment at a time and I found that even that is not working if you have a lot of photos in a moment. I've done that occasionally and ran into timeouts on longer moments and had to download it in batches. We'll have to wait and see how the promised tool is going to handle the huge amounts of data.
With the webservice going away, we'll lose an important part of the functionality of the Clip: Rotating photos and adding meta data. You can wear the Clip at any angle (even off angles); it has a sensor that will detect the angle and the software on the servers would rotate and crop the photos accordingly. Being able to download photos from the Clip is one thing. Getting them rotated properly is another - and I guess not something that will be included in the promised tool.
The other thing is meta data: The Clip does support a form of geolocation where it records some location information, but you need backend processing to turn this into actual usable location data. This feature was less prominent in the Clip 2, but I think it's still there. I have no idea if and how this can be replicated locally.
Last time I checked, there were some open source tools for the original Narrative Clip. I'm sure some enthusiasts will jump in now and try to replicate as much of the lost functionality. But realistically, with the device no longer on sale, support for it will fade in that area, too. Which, in my opinion, makes it even more important that Narrative releases as much of their code as possible as open source. I'm sure I can cobble something together to make it work for me, i.e. support my personal use cases, for the time being. But eventually, I'm going to have to look for alternatives.
I'm sad to see Narrative go. It's a cool little device that has found its place in my daily life. When I leave the house, I make sure to take with me: my keys, my wallet, my Narrative Clip, and my mobile phone - in that order. I would miss the Clip and its ability to capture scenes from my life. While many of the photos are rather dull and repetitive, there have been so many moments that it captured for me of which I would have no record otherwise. I'm going to continue to log my life, but - eventually - no longer with the Narrative Clip.