Monday, December 27, 2004

Visual Guide Maps Possible With Sensecam

Imagine an army of Sensecam-wearing travellers contributing their daily image captures to an online archive for travel information -- or perhaps to the Tourist Board or Ordinance Survey where the visual data can be turned into digital maps, a kind of "Walk this way..." on-the-ground visual guide to cities and specific locations.

Given that there is word that Sensecam (and similar products) will include Global Positioning System recorders that will match images to specific co-ordinates, you can see the possibility of travellers being able to pull up instant real-image maps on some kind of hand-held monitor.

Ancient memorisation systems often involved imagining a city and leaving objects or facts in specific locations around the city (in the mind), which would make it easier to remember. Using GPS data to file images associated with specific grid references or co-ordinates echoes this ancient art.

Armchair travellers could have the world opened up to them - viewing the different adventures of a hundred different Sensecam-wearing visitors to Rome, Egypt, New York, the Sahara, China or Timbuctoo!

Prospective visitors could get a feel for a place by viewing Sensecam data from fellow travellers who have trod the path before them. No more wondering whether there are long queues to get into the Colloseum on a Wednesday, or even what a particular hotel's breakfast buffet is like.

Travellers already in place in another city or country, could call up the data for where they are if they are lost and have a step by step view of where to go next or get an insider preview of a certain attraction to see if it's worth going in.

See also:
Internet Travel Monitor - Experimental Microsoft Gadget Keeps Record of Your Life

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Thankyou Letters Memory Jogger

Christmas has come and gone once again. And you are starting to think about sending Thankyou cards (you are, right?) for all those lovely or hideous gifts that you were given.

Okay. First letter. "Dear Aunt Mabel, Thank you so much for the lovely...." What the hell did she give me again?

And that's when it hits you. You have no idea which gift came from who. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit flowing so amply into your glass killing your brain cells but now you are as blank as the fresh fall of snow on the ground outside!

If I had been wearing a SenseCam, automatically capturing images as I opened my Christmas presents, I would be able to scan back through my image log for Christmas Day and look at the labels on the pile of presents that I got.

Then it would be no problem to write my thankyou cards and letters.

"Dear Aunt Mabel, Thank you so much for the lovely 6-toed mauve and green socks that play Jingle Bells with every step, for the bottle of Brut afershave for men, for the Statue of David fronted apron complete with genitalia. The nose and ear hair clippers will be particularly useful and much appreciated (I can already hear much better!). Best Wishes, Your Loving Nephew"

New Washington Post article on digital image capture versus traditional photography mentions SenseCam

See new Washinton Post article: Digitized And Brought To Life - New imaging allows miracles detailed and deeply personal.

This article explores the changes occuring in the photography market - the move from film to digital cameras and the spill-over affects that is having on society. The writer focuses on how new digital image capturing equipment has allowed her to resurrect old family histories by scanning decaying newspaper clippings, and storing, enlarging and restoring old photographs in a digital format. She goes on to explore how people are using digital cameras and mobile phone cameras as functional tools because digital photography gives you instant access to images. Now you can use your mobile phone camera to capture notes, take a surrepticious picture of someone you've just been introduced to so you can memorise their face later, or take a picture of a piece of burst piping so that you can show it to the manager of your local hardware store and get a replacement.

The article mentions software that Hewlard-Packet are making "that might one day tell stories about people's photos automatically, using data from such sources as global-positioning-systems."

It goes on to say how Microsoft is pursuing similar visions with the SenseCam. Here's the direct quote:

"It showed off a prototype called SenseCam this year, basically a camera in the form of a pendant or other object people can wear. The SenseCam is programmed to sense scene changes and events in people's lives and automatically take a ton of pictures."


Saturday, December 25, 2004

I Wish I Had A SenseCam!

It's on days like today, Christmas Day, when you wish you had a way of preserving the memories forever. Sure you can whip out a camera, but unless you are a genius with a camera, it usually lacks the spontaneity and ends up looking posed.

I have a 6 year old son, and I would love to have a SenseCam seeing and unobtrusively capturing what I have seen so far this Christmas Day. The unstoppable excitement as he woke up every half hour from 2.30 AM (groan!) to ask if he could open his presents yet!

The joyful wonder in his bright blue eyes as, at last, he got his hands on the presents that Santa had left in his Xmas stockings. The eager hands shaking with glee as he unwrapped them.

The family gathering in the living room, which was decorated with a snow white theme, with paper snowflakes (that we had all cut out) suspended on cotton thread from the ceiling, the tree covered in decorations and lights, the bright pile of presents beneath the tree -- and the look of wonder and excitement on the face of everyone in that room.

I wish I had a SenseCam to capture these true gifts -- these precious moments of togetherness, happiness and joy.

Did I mention it started snowing and we went out and made snow angels, and pelted each other with snowballs? It's not often that you have a picture perfect archetypal Christmas -- and I wish I could have caught each moment of it.

Are you listening Microsoft?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

New GizMag article on Sense Cam

GizMag article: SenseCam - the Black Box Flight Recorder for human beings asks an interesting question.

Does the SenseCam user own the information, or can it be used against the individual too - can it be used by an insurance company or police or another individual to the detriment of the wearer?

The article predicts that there will be some landmark cases that will determine the true answer to that question and cites how information from GPS and speed data recorders in cars is already being used in some legal prosecutions.

The idea that SenseCam may also add to the Reality TV trend is an intriguing one. Will we also one day be seeing program's like "America's Funniest SenseCam Videos" or "SenseCam Survivor"!

The suggestion that future versions of the SenseCam may have a heart rate monitor that triggers photo capture at moments of high stress and extreme heart rates, could lead to a very interesting "Pop Idol - the insider view" type programs... as well as providing very good biofeedback evidence in the conquest of stress.

Full artice here:

Monday, December 20, 2004

If Santa had SenseCam...

If Santa Claus had a SenseCam, what would we see when we reviewed the image captures from his epic Christmas Eve delivery run?

Well, despite the best efforts of Microsoft's Cambridge Research team, it would all be a blur.... The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have clocked Santa travelling at over 600 times the speed of sound!

NORAD track Santa's progress every year and have concluded that the jolly man in the red suit must be using super high tech equipment to deliver to millions of homes all over the world!

Given Father Christmas's obvious love of technology, will the elves at the North Pole (or is it Microsoft HQ?) start making a commercial SenseCam for all those boys and girls all over the world who would love this cool gadget toy to play with?

A SenseCam can stay awake while you sleep, and capture what you miss, so it can only be a matter of time before some lucky SenseCam user captures an image of Santa Claus sneaking a mince pie before disappearing back up the chimney!

Surely Santa will be delivering Sensecams to a stocking near you soon?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Do gadgets help or hinder?

Maths wizards can do instant calculations in their heads. Instant maths teacher Scott Flansberg says this is a learnable skill and his Mega Maths program can teach it to anyone. But give me a calculator and I can do the same calculations without the effort of hard thinking.

Fitness trainers invites us to work out with weights and get sweaty doing aerobics if we want to get slim and toned. But there are electric pads that you can stick on your body, which make your muscles twitch and flex, while you lie slumped on the couch watching TV - and they tone your body with no effort on your part!

In ancient Greece and Rome, they used to have competitions in memorisation - and people would commit the history of their peoples to memory, and encycopedias worth of facts, information that would take days to recite. The Sense Cam claims to be a digital diary, a personal history catcher, a virtual visual memory to capture all the days of our lives.

The question is: do gadgets weaken human ability?

If I use the Sense Cam, will my own visual memory be weakend as I come to rely on the Sense Cam more and more?

On the one hand, when someone or something takes over a task for us we become lazier regarding that task and our ability to do it will become rustier through lack of practice.

On the other hand, could the Sense Cam actually enhance my own personal visual memory and visual awareness? By capturing, isolating and framing the many moments of my day, that I can later reflect upon, is it possible that I could become more attuned to, aware of and watchful of this moment NOW? In that case, the Sense Cam would actually help enhance my own mental ability by acting as a kind of feedback tool. I could compare my own memory of an event against the actual visual images of that same event... and by seeing what I had missed out in my remembered version, next time I might be more aware of that and gradually my visual memory could improve...

Whether it would or not... aah well there lies the human dilemma. What could be versus what actually is....

Friday, December 10, 2004

What is SenseCam and what's in it?

SenseCam is a wearable camera full of sensors that could help people with memory problems, according to Microsoft researchers. The prototype SenseCam takes an instant snap every time it spots changes in movement, temperature or light. Currently capable of storing 2,000 images on a 128MB memory card, the cam could help people record their days.

"SenseCam has been designed to act like a black box for the human body," head researcher Lyndsay Williams told BBC News Online. "It was something I originally created as a method for helping my family find their keys at home. It's so frustrating trying to re-trace one's steps so I build a device which would help find a solution to this problem. It also seems to be potentially the ultimate way to keep a visual blog, or diary, of your life."

Photographic memory
The camera uses accelerometers to detect motion, passive infrared to detect another human being, and digital sensors for light and temperature monitoring. It could do more than give everyone a photographic memory.

What's inside the Sensecam?
128mb Flash memory card
ADXL202 accelerometer/tilt sensor
AA batteries
Infrared sensor
132-degree ultrawide lens

The SenseCam could be a quick and easy way to record, rewind, and relive events.
All the sensor data which triggers the cam's image capturing is recorded and fed into a system called MyLifeBits, another Microsoft project based in San Francisco.

It organises all the captured images like a filmstrip which can be watched back and easily searchable.

The images are also matched against graphs of the various bits of sensor data for wearers to pinpoint which moment in time, or location, they wish to watch again. The playback happens at 25 frames per second, called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP).

Looks are not everything
The device's function is reminiscent of the 1990s science fiction film Strange Days, in which memories are recorded and experienced by others. But the SenseCam is a long way off from that just yet. Its basic look belies its function at the moment. With its 132-degree wide lens, and various sensors, it is a hi-tech little box. But its looks are not of concern Ms Williams and her team.

The aim of the project is to understand how people accept innovative technologies into their lives, she explained. "It helps us understand the responses to new methods of computer interaction. Investigating the sociological effect of new technology is all part of the research process."

It has some potential uses outside the lab and the hospital, though.
"For example, fire-fighters could use a SenseCam device to help retrace their steps for post accident reports, reducing the potential for inaccuracies when identifying the cause of fires," she said.

Fly through the day
Tourism is another area which could potentially exploit this kind of memory recording, relieving tired hands of video-camera recording. Each family member could even have their own version of the holiday. Future plans for it, said Ms Williams, include reducing its size, making it wireless and more power efficient. But wider plans include integrating a near infrared lens, like that used on the Mars landers. This means the camera would be able to record more than the eye can see.
Water would appear black and chlorophyll would show up white, which could have applications in checking whether food is fresh or not, said Ms Williams. A peripheral head-up, or head-mounted, display could also be attached so that wearers could "fly through" their memories.

Courtesy of the BBC

SenseCam Saves Lives

Life is ephemeral. Experiences are even more so.

By capturing the ordinary moments of the day, the SenseCam captures something that leaks from our lives like air from an inflatable tyre... TIME.

Lives are made up of years, years of months, months of weeks, weeks of days, days of hours, hours of minutes, minutes of seconds, and seconds are made up of moments.

And it these moments in which we can experience being truly alive.

It doesn't take something incredible or vastly different to happen for us to experience a "moment".

It just takes an awareness to recognize and frame the moment as what it is: Real Life.

My life.

The SenseCam saves lives. It captures the many ordinary moments through our day. Moments that we would otherwise have lost forever.

With the SenseCam we have the opportunity to live those moments again, perhaps recognizing the Real Life in them for the first time.

Reducing The Duration of Criminal Trials - the SenseCam Way!

Imagine a society where we all wear SenseCam human "black box" recorders.

As we go through our day, the SenseCam sees all and records all.

So... when we are mugged, the SenseCam captures the scene. The police can refer to the SenseCam photos and that helps them catch the mugger. The SenseCam pictures are used in court as indisputable evidence - and that helps reduce the length of the trial.

Consider the other point of view. You are wrongfully accused of a crime. But you have a lousy alibi. At the time of the crime you were alone and no-one else saw you at that time. Normally this would make your position precarious. However, you can produce your SenseCam evidence, that shows what you were doing at that time. Case closed.

That's how SenseCam could reduce the duration and cost of legal actions.

Wall Street Recognition Of SenseCam Potential!

The presitigious Wall Street Journal's first global Technology Innovation Awards recognized the SenseCam and awarded Microsoft Research, Cambridge (U.K.) the runner up prize in the Multimedia category.

The awards recognize technological breakthroughs by individuals, companies and organizations around the world in a wide range of areas, including medicine, software, hardware, the Internet, wireless and broadcasting.

Click here for full story.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

SenseCam and the Invasion of Privacy Question

So what about personal privacy?

You are quietly going about your day, unaware that someone in the Public Toilet was wearing a SenseCam and it was clicking away as they turned and took in the full view.

Or you are at the gym, changing out of your sweatpants and the lady opposite is wearing a SenseCam on a necklace string and way-hey she just unwittingly snapped your butt! Later, your butt may be uploaded to her personal lifetime store - her lifeblog - her visual diary of her day. Who's to say that isn't published for all the world to see?

Clearly, all technologies can be used for purposes other than the ones they were intended for. 'The wheels' on my car help me drive around but occasionally they squish some unfortunate creature (animal - not human!) that darts in front of them.... A knife can carve wood, cut my vegetables or be used as a weapon.

So do we ban new technologies because of what they could be used for?

SenseCam could be a very useful tool in hundreds of situations. And it could be an invasive one in some situations.

Oh what to do? What to do?

See: Is Privacy Going The Way Of The Buggy Whip?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Digital Camera Aid To Total Recall?

For most of us memory loss issues are limited to "where the hell are my keys?". But for Alzheimer sufferers the gradual decline of memory is a serious issue which SenseCam hopes to aid by providing a visual daily diary that patients can refer to for more total recall.

Alzheimer's SenseCam
Posted Jun 15, 2004,

Microsoft's Cambridge lab has been working on the SenseCam for awhile now, a device which basically acts as a human black box recorder, but this summer Cambridge-based Addenbrookes Hospital will be testing the SenseCam for treatment of patients with memory-loss due to Alzheimer's disease or head injury. Worn around the patient's neck, the wide angle digital camera senses movement and changes in light and serves as a visual diary. Patients can potentially track through their recorded experiences, working as a memory aide and improving their quality of life. Other future applications could be for the tourism industry (never miss a moment!) and emergency first responders. PS - We need one of these every time we lose our keys.


See also:

Alzheimer's patients to trial MS labs life-blog gadget
'Black box' cam for total recall

'The SenseCam research project could provide certain patients, suffering from memory loss, with the ability to keep a visual diary of their memories and, potentially, improve their quality of life. Working with Microsoft Research Cambridge really shows the way in which scientific research can benefit the medical sector and we are pleased to be involved in a research project which could have real benefits to patients one day.'

~Dr Narinder Kapur, Addenbrookes Hospital, UK.

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SenseCam - the human "blackbox flight recorder"

Think of it... a badge-sized gadget that you wear which captures everything you do throughout the day. No having to dig a camera out of your bag, no pointing, no pressing the button. This little fish-eye lens is triggered by motion, light and heat changes to snap away capturing hundreds of images throughout the day.

Developer Lyndsay Williams, from Microsoft's R&D Hardware Systems Group in Cambridge, UK, sees the SenseCam having a literal blackbox utility: “This is similar to an aircraft black box accident recorder, but miniaturised for the human body. If a person has an accident, the events and images leading up to this will be recorded, and these could be useful to medical staff."