Tag Archives: Google Glass

Memories and the proliferation of perfectly recorded imagery

You know that feeling when you wake up with a thought that is interesting, but it has no clear answer. Well this is my saturday morning thought.

Events from the past are stored to varying degrees in our brains. Some we might believe we have perfect memory of, others very fragmented and cloudy. Sometimes we have photographs that help us remember in a more clear way, sometimes diaries. But until recently moving imagery of events in our lives have been extremely sparsely available. And those that we might have, have tended to be somewhat grainy through the deterioration in the original film, and rarely is audio available.

Thus we tend to have a memory of people and past events that are unlikely to match how those events and people seemed to us at that actual time. It is often said of course that time is a great healer, and I suppose with the passing of time in many instances the fragmented memory available to us provides us in many situations with fond memories and a longing for a past time perhaps. Although it must be said if our past memories are of conflict, war, starvation, illness, poverty, then this is unlikely to be the case.

So our past may be constructed by fragmented memories that can be to an extent enhanced by photographs, diairies, grainy film footage, and perhaps music and news of the time. But it remains very much of the past – and the grainy footage, music etc. ensures that it is for us the past.

But now of course, as never before in human history has so much recording – in perfect format – both audio and visual, taken place. We can see (not a pun) with Google Glass, the potential to record vast quantities of our daily lives. And the likelihood is that in the near future such recording mechanisms will become interned within our bodies, so 24/7 recording may take place. And such recording may go past just the sensory perceptions of sight and hearing, to also include touch and smell.

What are the implications of this for us? No longer will we have to rely on faded memory, or old photographs. We will have the perfect recording of the people we daily encounter, their actions, movements, voices. I am sure many sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and whoever else, have already started asking such a question.

Obviously, we may choose not to review the past. But potentially gone will be that hazy past that many of us long for. Perhaps with perfect recall, our longing may increase for a distant time. Whether time travel will ever become a reality who knows, but it could be envisaged that we may via the exploitation of our recorded past be able to embed ourselves in that past, but in doing so not live events as they occurred at that time. So of course with that possibility we open up other questions that we may ask, but I will leave it for another morning’s contemplation.

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What was I doing on the 14th September 1983?

We are fast moving to a time when gone will be the days when we have just our memory and a few old photographs to reminisce about the past and our personal experiences. Instead, we may literally be able to watch everything that has happened to us throughout our lives.

This week we had images of the Premiership footballer, Steven N’Zonzi, casually telling a cyclist he had just allegedly injured through his careless driving and who had requested N’Zonzi’s insurance details, that the cyclist would never be able to trace him because his car had foreign number plates. Whilst the cyclist didn’t have a camera mounted on his safety helmet, which has become a common feature amongst cyclists, several passers-by took pictures and subsequently via a Twitter campaign N’Zonzi was identified. N’Zonzi’s attitude was perhaps surprising given the likelihood that with the plethora of image recording devices around these days he clearly would be identified, but then some Premiership footballers may be seen to exist in their own carefree arrogant bubble.

Many cyclists do as I say now have mounted cameras on their helmets to record their travel experiences, and of course wearable camera technology is developing fast, with Google Glass being a prime example of this. It cannot now be in the realms of just science fiction that recording technology is likely to become available as devices implanted into our bodies in some way, therefore actually providing us with the potential to automatically record our complete daily experiences.

The Science Daily website yesterday reported on interesting research being carried out by Kristen Grauman and her team at the University of Texas.
With an explosion in the amount of what is termed ‘egocentric video’ coming from wearable recording devices, Grauman and her team are looking at ways to automatically summarise the lengthy footage that has been filmed.

kristen grauman (Kristen Grauman)

They have developed a machine learning teachnique that analyses all the footage and is then able to identify key elements in order to what Grauman says conveys the essence of the story. Such video summation it is believed will help for example military commanders when reviewing footage from soldiers head cameras, and investigators who are looking through vast quantities of footage such as the mobile phone footage at disasters like the Boston marathon bombings. It also could be used to help elderly people suffering from memory loss. Whilst I am unable to go back and see what happened to me on this day 30 years ago today, 30 years in the future people will be able to review a manageable summary of what took place many years before. Our past experiences whilst being long gone in terms of actual time, will potentially be much more fresh and much more part of our existing reality.

I wonder if for some the time honoured tradition of writing up a daily diary may become a thing of the past, replaced by technology which enables a summary of your day to be achieved automatically.