Are You Ready for the Era of Lifelogging?


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We blog, we tweet, we Facebook. And soon, with the help of a little camera worn around the neck, we’ll lifelog. 

The camera, created by Microsoft Research UK, was originally developed to assist people with Alzheimer’s to recall events throughout the day that they’d otherwise forget.  The camera takes pictures automatically as often as once every 30 seconds, and also uses an accelerometer and light sensors to snap an image when a person enters a new environment, and an infrared sensor to take one when it detects the body heat of a person in front of the wearer. It can log 30,000 images onto its 1-gigabyte memory.

The gadget was officially released this week at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, and will shortly hit the market branded as the ViconRevue. 

Right now it’s possible to lifelog with your cell phone to some degree, and a few people, like Justin of Justin.TV fame, have gone so far as to install mini cameras in their baseball caps to capture their hour-to-hour activities for the world to see. 

But the ViconRevue is likely to usher in the next big phase of the widespread “show everyone everything” impulse.  In short order, a plug-in for Twitter will be available for the camera allowing a user to transfer his or her life as it happens to as many eyes as care to watch.  No doubt the same will happen for Facebook and personal blogs. 

As with all communications technologies, this one will serve up ample portions of the good, bad and ugly. On the bad side, the little camera is going to transmit more banality than anyone should have to stomach.  On top of that, it’s going to become the porn maven’s dream gadget.  Veering even more ugly, it’ll create more opportunities for violation of other peoples’ privacy — as if we don’t have enough of that happening already.

On the good side, though, I can forsee some really cool applications.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to ride virtual sidecar with someone as they climb Mount Everest?  Or hang around with someone touring a city you’ve never been to?  We’ll see a lot of that sort of thing, too.

The irony of this for me is that most of our gadgets draw our attention away from people in physical proximity to us all day long — but with lifelogging, viewers will have the opportunity to watch the daily ongoings of total strangers’ lives.  Do people somehow become more interesting when they’re not around us?  I wonder…

Link to story in the New Scientist.


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