Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Record Your Life and Justin.tv

Imagine wearing a small camera on the side of your glasses that recorded everything you saw as a video on your computer. You would then have a video recording of your entire life. How would this change the way you lived your life or interacted with other people?

You might think you don't have to worry about such questions for a long time because the technology is not available. In fact, not only is this both technically possible and economically feasible today, but it has actually been turned into a website that follows the life of a guy 24 hours a day.

How could you do this and how much would it cost?

To capture video, you would need a thimble-size video camera such as the one DejaView sells for $350 that could be mounted on your glasses or baseball cap. This would then wirelessly record to a iPod ($250 for 30GB) or other portable hard drive stored in your pocket.

To store the videos long term, each night you would upload your daily video from your iPod to a large hard drive in your computer. The cost of storage is surprisingly cheap. Hard drive space goes for 3.3 GB per dollar based on this 300 GB Hard drive that can be purchased for $90. To figure out how much space they would require to store, I took a look at file sizes of YouTube and Windows Media File videos for various resolutions.

Quality Resolution Bandwidth Space an Hour Space a Day Cost a Day
YouTube 350x240 .33 mbs 150 MB 3.6 GB $1
TV 640x480 1.0 mbs 450 MB 10.8 GB $3
HD 1280x720 2.0 mbs 900 MB 21.6 GB $6

For just $1 a day you can store your entire life on video in a quality similar to YouTube!

Standard television quality requires about 3 times as much space or $3 a day, and HD quality two times as much as that or $6 a day. All 3 versions are affordable today and with improvements in technology these prices will drop much further. Amazon also offers an online storage service for $0.15 per GB-Month which might be even cheaper depending on usage.

What would be the impact of recording your life?

First, it will extended your memory. No longer do you have to worry about forgetting where you left your keys, or what you promised a friend or coworker you would do. Memory is surprisingly malleable (as eye witness accounts attest) but now the video shows you exactly what happened. No longer would anyone be able to lie to you about what they said previously, as you would be able to bring up the video of your last interaction with them.

Second, it allows you to review your life. How exactly did I spend my time yesterday? What was I doing a year ago today? Now you know.

Third, it leaves a legacy for your children and grandchildren, as they can see how you lived your life. All of your most important life experiences (graduation, wedding, family vacations, child's first word, etc) as well as the mundane are now recorded.

Forth, it captures the unexpected events. Funny moments, car crashes, breaking news, and amazing events are now all captured. If you are mugged now you have a picture of the guy who did it. The camera is always rolling.

What if you then broadcast it to the entire world?

While this concept has appeared years ago in movies like EdTV and The Truman Show, it is now a reality at justin.tv. With the tagline waste your life watching other people waste their lives, the site follows the every move of Justin 24 hours a day. He wears a hat mounted camera/microphone/transmitter to capture the video which is then sent via cell phone technology to their web server where it is broadcast live to the world, as well as being stored. The quality is a little worse than YouTube, but in the same basic ballpark.

This setup bypasses the need for an iPod like device in your pocket but requires that you are always in a location with good cellphone reception. It also adds an extra cost of a 24 hour a day cellphone internet connection. If you an have unlimited access plan, that would probably not be too expensive, but if you have to pay by the minute it would add up very quickly.

While I think it is a cool proof of concept, the actual result isn't much fun to watch. Most of the time it is just plain boring (whose life isn't?) and the accompanying chat room has nothing but inane comments.

What are the implications of everyone broadcasting their lives?

First, it would offer a new way for you to share your life with others. This is video chat and instant messaging on steroids. You would be able to go to your computer and see what all your friends are doing at the moment. They would be able to do the same. Others would have the ability to see what you are doing and in a way be there with you.

When you are on vacation or traveling somewhere, now all your friends and family could join in on the experience. And before you went on the trip, you could choose to watch the video of someone who lives in that country to see what life is really like there.

At the same time, when you are watching someone else's life you aren't living your own, so you only have a limited amount of time to be viewing other lives. What you really want is a way to just watch the highlights of the day, an RSS feed of a "Sports Center" like recap of your friends and families lives.

Second, privacy is replaced with transparency. In general I think this is a good thing as privacy is overrated and transparency underrated. You would no longer be able to lie to others, as they would be able to see exactly what you are doing. Your life would be an open book for anyone to read, and you would need to act accordingly.

But there is the problem of people abusing the openness. Stalkers come to mind (although if the stalker also was wearing a camera and everyone could see what they were doing then this is likely not a problem). Doctor visits also seem like something that should be private (but if everyone knew what everyone else's medical issues were, maybe we would all be much more compassionate on this). Having the ability to turn off the camera at these times would probably solve this problem.

Third, it makes it easier for other people to help you out when they can see exactly what you see. Your friends and coworkers could contact you on a cellphone (or maybe secret service style always on ear piece) feeding you with useful information. This would come in handy in many situations such as delivering a job proposal, picking out new clothes at the store, going on a job interview, when you have gotten lost driving or your car broke down, when you are cooking, and (for those cheats) taking tests at school. Just like in Mission Impossible where an entire team of people are guiding Tom Cruise by being able to see what he sees, so to could you have an entire team of people helping you out in your daily missions.

Imagine hiring a full time personal assistant that just watched over your life and was able to give you advice. Unlike a secretary that sits at a desk, your assistant is with you where ever you go, able to see what you see and able to contact you via cellphone where ever you go. The assistant could remind you of appointments, look up directions, remind you of people's names you have forgotten, Google information for you, or get reservations for you when ever you need it. Of course you are probably thinking that could not probably afford to hire an assistant. But, if companies outsource to India, why not you? For 1/10 the price of an American you could hire a personal Indian assistant who could view your life over the internet, just as easily as an American could here.

From the classic Seinfeld episode Summer of George:
George: I've tried. We don't have it. But maybe the two of us, working together at full capacity, could do the job of one normal man.

Jerry: Then each of us would only have be like a half man. That sounds about right!
When you have a personal assistant with you all the time, you have your own personal George, and you too can be half a man.

The implications of being able to record your life and broadcast it over the internet are profound. And rather than just being science fiction, the technologies are possible and the price reasonable enough to start using today.


Nipun said...

This is a fantastic post! Raises many creative possibilities and many more ethical questions. Thanks for researching and writing this up, Fat Knowledge!

Fat Knowledge said...

Nipun (if that is your real name :)),

Glad you liked it. I aim to please.

I think they just opened up the site to allow others to video blog their lives as well. Are you up for it?

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