Few smart home gadgets command the popularity of the Nest Cam, an all-seeing, all-knowing in-home camera system. People used it to spy on their babysitters and house cleaners, capture unexpected moments like a baby’s first steps, or watch over their homes while out of town. Today, the original Nest Cam gets a long-awaited update with Nest Cam IQ, available now for pre-order at $300. The new model comes with enhanced visual quality, better audio pick-up, and new machine learning tools to recognize what’s captured on film. Plus, it’s damn pretty. With a white polycarbonate shell and glossy lens, the Nest Cam IQ wouldn’t look out of place on a Swedish design blog.
Inside that shell, Nest ramped up the video quality with a 4K HDR image sensor. Flip it into “night vision mode” with two infrared LEDs that make it easier to monitor movement when it’s dark, a feature borrowed from the Nest Outdoor Camera released last year. A trio of microphones amplify the sound quality—Nest says the speakers wield seven times more power than the original Nest Cam—and a ring of light illuminates when it picks up someone’s voice. A new feature called “supersight” allows users to zoom into footage up to 12 times for a detailed view of the film, whether to get a good look of a home invader, that object your house guest stuffed into her purse, or whatever else happens under the Nest’s watchful eye.
But that’s just the camera. At its core, the Nest Cam IQ shows how the company’s evolved from one that makes a fancy recording device into one that makes an intelligent robot—one that’s always watching, and always learning, about the goings-on in your home.
Google bought Nest back in 2014, which made Nest the beneficiary of Google’s robust machine learning prowess. For the Nest Cam IQ, that means motion sensory technology that can identify who or what is moving within its 130-degree field of view. It can tell the difference between a golden retriever chasing its tail in the living room, a person whipping up gazpacho in the kitchen, and a book sliding off the shelf. Nest already offered some of these features in its earlier generation cameras with Nest Aware, an add-on subscription service. But now, that service comes enhanced with audio recognition, to discern between the dog barking and the whir of the blender, plus facial recognition technology, to tell whether the person in your kitchen is friend or foe. It can send alerts when someone it doesn’t recognize walks into your home, as well as pivot to follow that person moving around a room and autofocuses on their face to keep their features in view. A little creepy, sure. But the longer your Nest sits perched in your house, watching people filter in and out, the better it can discern between the people you know and tend to have around and those who seem unusual—and the closer watch it holds on anything that seems weird.
In the future, Nest says the Cam IQ will offer integration with both Google Home and Amazon Alexa, creating a network of devices that constantly watch and listen and oversee our lives at home. The possibilities there are still to be determined, but it seems likely that in the near future, we’ll be able to say, “OK Google, what’s mom cooking for dinner?” and our machines will know the answer.