People see the pictures, realise how boring their lives are.
May 22, 2003 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Wearable camera could store your life in images. "Casual capture" is HP's term for a way of taking snapshots that involves the minimum of effort on the part of the photographer. Ideally, the consumer could don an always-on, wearable camera, visit an event such as a party, and afterwards find that the camera had automatically selected and cropped the most memorable images. (More Inside).
posted by Ufez Jones (16 comments total)
Researchers admit that this is probably an impossible goal, but are working on a more limited -- and possibly more realistic -- version of the technology. This continuously records images into a rolling buffer of a few seconds or minutes in duration; when something memorable happens, the user makes an indication of some kind, by saying a word or pressing a button. The camera technology then zooms in on that part of the buffer and, using complex pattern-recognition technology, selects what appear to be the best images, and appropriately adjusts and crops these images.

The technique is designed to push the limits of how ordinary people take snapshots. While it is not designed to replace conventionally composed photography, it could vastly increase the number of photographs people take. Researchers said they expect casual capture to increase demand for low-cost storage, among other effects.
Any tech-savvy people see this as feasible?
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:45 AM on May 22, 2003

Interesting link, Ufez Jones. I'm not an engineer so I'll guess that technically, storage will get keep getting cheaper and cheaper; and image recognition will also improve. We might also be able to develop AI to recognise what a good picture and/or a good experience is (although photographic composition is so subjective that you'll probably just get unsatisfyingly 'average' pictures). To get beyond the 'few minute' buffer though you'd have to wireless the image stream somewhere, and thus have ubiquitous radio towers that could handle the high bandwidth of these multiple image streams. And huge storage farms somewhere to handle all the image files.

For some reason the idea of spending my time sifting through abstracts of terabytes of past experiences at the expense of having new experiences, does not really appeal to me.
posted by carter at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2003

Something similar came up in a brainstorming / bullshit session I was involved in. Put some omnidirectional (capturing the full sphere of light) cameras at your party. Then have a computer basically automagically generate a nice photo album at the end. It would be really hard, and it probably wouldn't work, but it's not clearly impossible. You'd probably start with recognizing human faces, bodies, smiles, gestures, etc. Throw in some mikes and detect laughter. Finally you connect it to your computerized composition designer and make the pictures look good. Presto bingo.
posted by Wood at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2003

now available with wireless internet connection and retinal scanner in Neal Stephenson's "Gargoyle val-u-paq"

"We spell the pack with a Q!!!"
posted by ProfLinusPauling at 12:05 PM on May 22, 2003

A while ago there was some news about a robot photographer that would trundle around and take best-guesses at good shots.

Doing a quick google turned up an article here., so this is (perhaps) nothing more than miniturization of an existing product.
posted by devbrain at 12:16 PM on May 22, 2003

In Orson Scott Card's Xenocide (I think) there's a character who has a camera working as an artificial eye. It automatically records everything, and I think he can go back and dump some of it to external storage to save for later. Without needing the eye-brain interface, I don't see why that sort of thing would be hard at all (small camera mounted somewhere like a button, wireless to hard drive in pocket), although it might make people pretty uncomfortable to be recorded in social or more intimate settings.
posted by callmejay at 12:30 PM on May 22, 2003

I just have this mental image of the Verizon Wireless guy taking two steps and saying "picture this" over and over and over.......
posted by briank at 12:45 PM on May 22, 2003

Isn't there some sort of telephone recording device that works on the same rolling-buffer principal - whenever something memorable/juicy is said, you hit a button and the last minute or so is saved? Or did I just read that somewhere?
posted by gottabefunky at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2003

the big problem isn't the hardware, it's the software. being able to take good photos is going to be tricky to automate.

Wood - doesn't your idea have the huge problem that the povs are fixed? i'm no great photographer, but even i'm aware that moving the camera position a few inches can make a huge difference. using a camera aligned with someone's eye at least has the advantages of (1) giving recognisable perspective and (2) cashing in on people's natural tendency to look at "interesting" stuff.

i was reading this link on etiquette for nonconsensual photography just a few days ago. it could become mightily relevant - personally i'd pay good money for something that jams other people's cameras when they try to take pictures of me without consent
posted by andrew cooke at 1:46 PM on May 22, 2003

When I was younger, for a long time, when I saw something that I wanted a picture of, I would blink three times, and think, "click". That way, when I grew up, and they had the technology to dump the contents of your brain into a computer, I could just scan through and pick up those images.

Still waiting for that computer thing, though.
posted by majcher at 2:10 PM on May 22, 2003

a robot photographer that would trundle around and take best-guesses at good shots.

Rather than try so hard to guess/recognize when the 'best shot' moments are, why not just have the thing take shots at random moments? I bet the results would be a lot more interesting.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2003

On second read, people like this piss me off to no end.

The following text is my own, from a similar discussion elsewhere. I'm lazy, sue me.

I'm not taking a picture of YOU. I'm making a recording of the photons bouncing off of you. It's not like I'm stealing your soul or anything, you primitive screwhead.

Really, banning cameras from pretty much anywhere is a wrong-headed and ultimately short-lived proposition. We are living in the brief window of history between the invention of photo-taking devices, and the ubiquity of small, undetectable devices that can take pictures (or audio, or video, etc) and store them remotely. Enjoy your little temper tantrums while you can, because your illusions of privacy are going bye-bye.

And that is just what it is - an illusion. Say I have a very good memory, an excellent eye for detail, and I'm a rather good artist. Nothing prevents me from giving your glistening, naked manliness the once over in the locker room, going home, and reproducing your likeness in pencil, charcoal, or my own feces. (The preferred medium of sickos, wackos, and thieves worldwide.) Bottom line, if you're so concerned about other people "stealing" you, stay home, under the covers.
posted by majcher at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2003

mmm, feces art...

I recall reading many years ago a science fiction short story called "Snow" I believe, in which the main character had a robotic device the size of a mosquito which followed him around his entire life, recording everything in video and audio. And this was just an ordinary consumer device that practically everyone in this imaginary future time owned. I would love to have something like that. Far too many times I have wished to take pictures or video of what I was seeing, but decided against it because it would interrupt the moment. Automatic constant, continuous, and unobtrusive recording of every event in one's life will some day be possible, and I for one cannot wait.
posted by Potsy at 3:02 PM on May 22, 2003

At parties, I'll pass the camera around, or just set it down somewhere. Sooner or later, someone will pick it up, take a few pictures, and pass it on. The results are sometimes unexpected and usually funny. It is a great way to remember a night without having to resort to retinal implants or robotic photographers, or dorky wearable technology.

Oh, and majcher, you have my vote.
posted by tomharpel at 3:19 PM on May 22, 2003

Law enforcement folks must be loving this stuff.

To think finding a nearby ATM machine that accidentally captured the scene of a crime was once a big score. Now with phones on cellphones and, eventually, everyday clothes (coupled with GPS technology), one can soon expect any crime committed in public to be captured from a dozen plottable vantage points...

Plug that in here, and this there, and you'll have a 3-D rendering of the crime ready in time for the arraignment.
posted by pzarquon at 3:19 PM on May 22, 2003

majcher, this guy sounds like the woman who tried to tell us all how we should (or shouldn't) read other people's web sites some time ago. About the same chance of being ignored, as well.
posted by dg at 1:14 AM on May 23, 2003

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