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The e-memory revolution is changing everything.

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Tuesday
Jun252013

FileThis|Fetch - another "keep it forever, keep it together" play.

Check out FileThis|Fetch. They will download your documents from banks and utilities and store them in your repository of choice: Evernote, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, or Personal.com. They are following two trends that will be growing this decade as life-logging emerges and changes society: "keep it forever" and "keep it together."

The first trend is "keep it forever." Way back in the stone age of the 1980s, PCs were for geeks in business, and backups were only done by accountants on floppies. The rest of us had more fun to attend to. Then we hit the day when our family photos existed only digitally and had that aha moment: last year's status reports can get fried, but not my personal photos! More and more people are realizing that they want to keep their bits forever.  Backup services have moved from the fringe of geekdom to mainstream TV and radio ads, and using them has evolved from typing arcane commands to signing up for automated cloud-based services. 

The second trend is "keep it together." One of the first wins we discovered back in the MyLifeBits project was the power of bring data together. Instead of photos in the photo app, email in the email app, location in your GPS app, and so forth, we brought everything together. The result was potent. Now you could find photos taken at the same time as a calendar appointment or look for a document you emailed on the day you were in Boston.

FileThis|Fetch is part of both trends. You can keep access documents after the institution no longer makes them available to you online, or even after you have closed your account. And now you can find, say, all your financial statements from last March without having to login to each institution (your credit card, your bank, your 401K, etc.) individually.

This service is not the first and it won't be the last in this growing space. For example, it has a cousin in the social area called SocialSafe that will back up all your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) to your hard drive. 

The pitch of FileThis|Fetch says it is "fulfilling the promise of paperless." Back in 1999 when Gordon Bell started his effort to go paperless it opened the door to the world of life-logging and the digital life. Now we can see mainstream culture beginning to follow down his path.

Keep it forever, keep it together!

Thursday
Jun132013

Wearable Computing Pioneer Says Google Glass Offers “Killer Existence”

Other people opine. Thad Starner knows from years of experience.

Few gadgets have generated as much excitement and hostility as Google Glass, a voice-activated computer-monitor combo worn on eyeglass frames. Now being tested by early adopters, Glass is an ambitious attempt to advance “wearable computing.” It’s also a milestone for Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor who has been building and wearing head-mounted computers since 1993. A decade ago, he showed Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin a clunky version of such a device; in 2010 they hired Starner to be a technical lead for Project Glass.

Full article at MIT Technology Review

Thursday
Jun132013

Don Was with Bob Dylan: the impact of recording conversation

What will happen in society if more conversations are recorded? Conversations are the most sensitive topic in life-logging, and it seems likely that in most societies conversation recording will be frowned upon - if not downright illegal. Still, there are some attractions. Don't you sometimes wish you had a recording of the advice your doctor dispensed at the end of your last visit? Many a spouse has a longed for evidence of what was really said in an argument. And grandparents will hit "replay" many times on that oh-so-adorable utterance of a toddler. 
Here's an interesting anecdote from a place you might well expect to be recorded in - a recording studio. Even so, I'm not sure whether this conversational recording was legal.  Maybe Don Was could have sued over it, but what he actually did was learn and grow as a person. He learned "don't rehash the past" - but a recording of the past taught him the lesson.
Apparently an assistant engineer recorded all of Was’ conversations with Dylan, thinking that Don would appreciate having them. But when he listened to them, he was appalled. He clearly recalls at least one thing on those tapes: “(I heard) Bob standing at the piano telling me something that he wanted to do, and me telling him why it wasn’t gonna work…  I didn’t even let him try the thing out! It might have been the greatest thing ever, and I sort of thwarted him. If I was Bob Dylan, I would have gone home and said, ‘Don’t ever bring that guy around me again!’”
He continues: “I was so ashamed of myself. I was thinking like… like a fan. ‘Man, I loved Highway 61, it’d be great if he did something else like Highway 61!’ So, I’m trying to get him back to something, and he’s trying to look forward and do something different. Which is what you’re supposed to do! You’re not supposed to just imitate yourself, you’re supposed to do something new, that challenges you.”    
But he took it as a learning experience of sorts: “It’s a lesson to everybody. It’s larger than producing records. Don’t be that way in life.  Don’t keep repeating the same old things. Be present in each new moment, don’t rehash the past.  So I don’t think I was of great service to Bob Dylan.”  
Wednesday
May152013

Q&A re. Extreme Lifelogging with Autographer

I was interviewed by Imogene O'Neil of Autographer re. my thoughts about lifelogging with cameras. 

It is at http://blog.autographer.com/2013/05/the-future-of-lifelogging-interview-with-gordon-bell/  and I have copied the interview page below.

The Future of Lifelogging – Interview with Gordon Bell

14th  May 2013

Lifelogging pioneer Gordon Bell has been using a wearable camera in some form since early 2000. He was the subject for the MyLifeBits experimental lifelogging project and is a principal Researcher at Microsoft. Here he talks with the Autographer team about the future of lifelogging.

 

Gordon, you’ve been involved at the forefront of technology for many years now, from minicomputers, timesharing and multiprocessors in the 1960s, to the birth of the internet through to the fascinating work with Microsoft Research. What was it that led you to first become interested in wearable technology?

Gordon Bell with an Autographer

LUCK! Or as Pasteur said: “Chance favours the prepared mind.”

In 1998 I started the quest to capture bits of my life so as to be paperless. That soon evolved to include “everything” in life… without really thinking a lot about what that meant. By 2001, when we wrote the first paper on Storing Everything, except anything real time. We started the MyLifeBits project based on the necessity of a database and Gates’ 1995 observation that “someday you will be able to store everything you see and hear”. Vannevar Bush’s 1945 design of Memex was our design spec.

In 2000, I met Dr. Astro Teller, the founder of BodyMedia, a wearable armband for tracking energy expenditure and heart rate, which was similarly intriguing for health monitoring. I started wearing this device in late 2002, so the idea that there would be full body monitoring was already coming into view.

In the late 1990s I had seen the MIT ‘Cyborgs’ – Steve Mann, Thad Starner, and others at the MediaLab, who were doing various forms of lifelogging. In September 2003 the founder of DejaView contacted me about using their wearable video capture that stored snippets; and then in October, Lyndsay Williams of Microsoft Research produced the first wearable SenseCam with Fisheye lens, based on the Philips USB Key Camera. So it was pretty clear that something for visual capture was going to happen. Lyndsay sent me one of their first prototype SenseCams in 2004.

Steve Mann with "Digital Eye Glass" (wearable computer and Augmediated Reality systems)

Steve Mann with “Digital Eye Glass” (wearable computer and Augmediated Reality systems)

It was also during this time that I began to speculate about the body area networking (BAN) and the body mainframe, that looked to eventually be the cell phone we have declared to be a smartphone.

 

These events illustrate “the Carver Mead eleven year rule”—namely it takes 11 years to achieve any kind of uptake from something coming from a lab, based on his observations of the inventions of the transistor and the integrated circuit.

Did you anticipate the lifelogging trend would catch on with the wider public as quickly as it has?

No, people have adopted lifelogging more rapidly than I thought, or at least they have recognised the value of saving everything. I owe this partially to social media e.g. Facebook and Twitter, and the smartphone, which makes it is easy to chronicle all sorts of aspects of your life. These devices are the capture agents of life events, and the social media is where the content is held.

You’ve been using a wearable camera in some form since early 2000 – from early SenseCam models to the Vicon Revue and now an Autographer. What have you found most fascinating as a user?

Image sampling is an effective capture mechanism for special events, walks, conferences, and site visits. Constant monitoring is especially useful in social situations as a means to capture a lot of faces for eventual person retrieval. (To make the most effective use, the faces have to be identified and ideally matched with contact information in professional settings, such as conferences.) Recalling exactly what I’ve eaten and then sizing this up. However, the most fascinating aspects still reside in my mind, waiting for software and hoping for some surprising, compelling, “killer” apps.

What excites you most about wearable technology?

On-body 24 x 365 logging of personal health data. Capturing every heart beat and being able to ultimately use this information for understanding e.g. stress and then being able to provide early warnings of heart attack, stroke, etc.

BodyMedia aim to provide accurate information about your body.

BodyMedia aim to provide accurate information about your body.

What do you see as the main technology and behavioural enablers for wearable tech and lifelogging?

Technology: Much of the hardware exists. The peripherals for smartphones to monitor and diagnose health e.g. heart, eyes, ears, echo sensing, even the possibility of small MRIs or X-rays. These will trickle down to be used for personal health i.e. lifelogging. Instead of being asked about diet and exercise, these things will be automatically captured.

eMemory is what I believe to be the significant use – helping immediate recall. This covers a number of ranges from the distant to the immediate past, and then a way to provide immortality. 

How do “extreme life-loggers” deal with what many people may see as information overload?

I don’t think we have many “extreme”  lifeloggers. Cathal Gurrin of Dublin City University is the most extreme for picture capture and he doesn’t record audio. Cathal has tools to analyze the millions of images that are his life. One can imagine all the software and insight you can get e.g. time and motion of everything you do, to the amount and healthiness of all your food intake.

 

Thad Starner does the most useful and extensive lifelogging —he has an on body computer and uses his “twiddler” keyboard to take notes, thus his content is easily accessible be searching or the database he uses. BTW: he was on the Google Glass design team.

 

Wait a year to ask that question when there starts to be software and more cameras, including Google Glass that can do “extreme lifelogging” with audio. These will cut new paths as people record audio and then get challenged for doing it.

Where do you see life-logging going next?

I really believe we are going to have to see how wide scale and deep it goes—i.e. how much of life people are going to bother to log, and how many people do it. One could argue that there are a billion shallow lifeloggers that comment and tweet about everything. Let me posit the following taxonomy that illustrates the possibilities as to the depth of lifelogging:

Implicit, light lifelogging You don’t delete anything on your computer or cloud stores or social sites
Professional lifelogging Communication, professional material
Personal and family lifelogging iLife, Google
Lifelong learned logging Books, magazines and journals you read
Social lifelogging Communication, ideas, etc. e.g. FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yammer
Health-wellness lifelogging Quantitative Self groups
Conversations & thoughts lifelogging Transcribing notes from conversations. Thad Starner, c1993-
Extreme lifelogging Everything you see and hear aka Sousveillance e.g. the likes of Autographer products and services (camera and image cloud store)
Lifelog Tracks Everywhere you’ve been, aka lifetrack / lifetrek
“Image” i.e. what society thinks it know about you logging or Reputation.com
After-lifelogging: Only your avatar knows. TBD
Institutional lifelogging of the famous: e.g. LoC, British Library
Property lifelogging: A catalogue of all the stuff we own

And how about looking to the future of wearable technologies and life-logging, for instance in the next five to 10 years?

Two possibilities: a plethora of special appliances like we have today; and a body mainframe based on smartphones with all the devices connected to them to hold data and to do special post processing. There’s a social aspect too where people’s state is distributed and held by others. I will stick with my 2010 prediction that extreme lifelogging will be commonplace in 2020 based on the next generation of devices.

You can find out more about Gordon Bell on his website and Wikipedia page.

Thursday
Apr112013

Extreme Lifelogging (EL) of Everything Seen and Heard: Update, Speculation, and Ubiquitous Souveillance = Maximum Surveillance

With all the cameras aimed at continuous personal recording that Steve Mann called Sousveillance, it seems certain that “Extreme Lifelogging” by 2020 is certain—a prediction I made in 2010.  Whether Extreme Lifelogging (EL), or for that matter, any technology becomes a useful product or service is based on three factors: Can it be done? Is it proven to be useful i.e. does anyone want it at that price? And is it legal?  Until now, only a few of us were exploring whether it was useful for anything other than the creation of research papers including human interest stories about weird looking people. Only a few thousand cameras capable of near EL existed and were in use including a few being used for research to aid people with impaired memory. EL with images and AUDIO recording for everything we see and hear are yet to be available and in wide use by consumers, unless they are recording video. The recording of conversations, particularly phone conversations is certainly prevalent for commercial purposes, yet there is little real use of audio aka voice recording beyond video coming from glasses- or spy-cams. Audio recording is barely legal in some areas--but this will all change if and when the new generation marked by Google Glass (GG) come into use.

Generally overlooked is that a number of police forces are being equipped with high quality, personal video recorders attached to a patrol person or their car. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/business/wearable-video-cameras-for-police-officers.html?emc=eta1&_r=0Let me not discuss this because hundreds of articles, blogs, books, lawsuits, papers, and TV programs (including a real TV program of arrests) have been and will be devoted to this.  Needless to say, because these devices are small, have to work and deliver reliable results, the engineering of this equipment is something that should be the envy of extreme lifelogggers. Watch, sunglasses, shirt button, etc.  embedded video spy cameras are plentiful at less than $100 for surreptitious recording.  Ironically, while sousveillance is also thought of as the inverse of surveillance, with pervasive and ubiquitous recording by everything by everybody, we will reach having the ultimate, full scale surveillance

Happily for those of us who believe there  may be a utility of various facets of lifelogging this is all about to change brought about by cameras like the “Go Pro” still/video camera for sports.  Smartphones e.g. iPhone host a plethora of time lapse photo and video apps that are only limited by imagination and battery life. Two SenseCam inspired devices from Autographer and Memoto are in the process of being engineered for introduction. All these devices will end up costing about $400 depending on whether there is some sort of service subscription for image storage. Sensr.net, a company  I invested in, hosts video and time lapse photos from these sources as well has web cams. 

Google Glass (GG) is the device that has drawn the most attention for several reasons: it is more than a video camera and mic mounted on the frame of a glasses; it has a  speaker and display evolved from Thad Starner’s years of experience and displays; and finally it is a platform for apps.  Already three Silicon Valley venture funds have formed the Glass Collective to support startup companies who will use GG as a component for apps. Thus, it is a safe bet that a significant app will emerge from so many tries.

A BET
I would like to place an optimistic bet that within 5 years, there will be 10 million GGs in use when priced at a few hundred dollars. In mid May 2013, one of the market research firm estimated 10M by 2015.

Alternatively, if someone has a more optimistic feeling and is willing to bet 2 years and just 2 million units, I’d take the conservative side—the side I usually win on.