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Life Logging

Life Logging
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
0 Comments :: Article Rating :: Artifical Intelligence, Gadgets, Society, Media, Human-Machine Interface

1. What is it about

There was a lot of excitement. It was your wedding day. The guests were all dressed up and ready to go. You had a very tight schedule today and you wanted to enjoy every minute of it. You didn’t want to miss anything and wanted to keep it recorded for future. Almost everyone had a camera. They also didn’t want to miss anything. After all they were your immediate family and have been anticipating this day for a long time. They were just as happy as you were. When you arrived in the registry office, everyone was ultra-excited. Almost simultaneously everyone started to take pictures of you and your partner. They didn’t want to miss the great shot. The problem was that now everyone was engaged in photography rather than paying attention to the event itself. You and your partner didn’t know where to look as everyone was pointing a camera at you. When the pictures came out, they didn't look as elegant as you hoped for. People were posing for a picture, but not everyone was looking at the camera. Everyone wanted to log the event, but they had to sacrifice their participation. You wished that there would come a day that you didn’t have to worry about logging your life or events, that something would automatically log them for you while you enjoyed the especial moment.

2. Where is the fun

  • You no longer need to worry about forgetting anything. Everything is recorded and catalogued. A simple search will get you the audio and visual data for the relevant event that you are looking for.
  • You saw a fantastic dress in the shopping centre three weeks ago, but can’t remember where it was. You know you spent sometime looking at it. So you can quickly search what you saw in that session and find where you saw the dress.
  • Ability to solve the problem once and for all for the hero of Memento so he doesn’t have to keep records on his body or make notes on little papers scattered around the place.
  • There will be no need to take notes in conferences, workshops, classrooms, meetings, anything that may require note taking. Most presenters don’t want to give their presentations away, while you may simply feel you want to have a record of the whole presentation because you cannot remember everything. The solution is to record everything you see automatically.

3. What are its Applications

Life logging can be used in a variety of industries where information capture is critical.

  • A nurse or a medical doctor can use life-logging to capture a variety of information when a patient visits them.
  • An engineer can log all of his or her daily activities while working in the lab with a selection of machines.
  • A chemist or a biologist would be relieved to know that every little detail of her experiments are recorded and archived digitally so nothing is ever lost. She can always go back to the experiment she did three years ago and compare its results with what she gets now and make appropriate conclusions.
  • A tourist visiting an exotic country doesn’t have to continuously look at everything from behind a lens. Instead she can participate in all events and get herself absorbed in the environment knowing that everything is recorded. Of course, you always have the options to log events the way you want them to be logged, i.e. different angles, light conditions, etc. as well as adding annotations.
  • Law enforcement professionals can use the system to protect themselves from abuse and to protect the public from miss-treatments. Everyone will benefit from the system. Overall, more information is always better for everyone.
  • Insurance claims will be easier than ever before. But of course if it was your fault, and the event is recorded, then you will not be able to get away with it. Deleting digital content may not mean much in the future as several copies of the digital content might be left on a variety of servers, just as emails are left on servers today.

4. How developed is it

There are already attempts in developing life loggers. Systems such as Nokia LifeBlog are geared towards manual life logging and blogging. In effect these systems nicely present the data you have captured and usually show it to you chronologically. You can easily zoom back to a particular day and see what you did in that day. With these systems you use your mobile phone actively to capture and log the data.

Future Converged: Life Logging

Future Converged: Life Logging

Other projects such as Microsoft MyLifeBits project are looking into automatic capture and storage of data. This is a much more promising approach as life-logging should have minimal impact on your own behaviour. They use a SenseCam to automatically record images, temperature and location. When you enter each room, the SenseCam can detect the light change and take images of the new environment you just entered.

5. How can it be improved

A true life-logging system should use passive capture, so that you don’t have to worry about the mechanism itself. For example, the camera used in front of you should have 180 degrees filed of view so that you don’t have to point to a particular direction to make sure you have captured everything. You should just act as you would and expect the system not to miss anything significant. We are still far away from being able to trust a life-logging system in this way.

As projected, the cost of digital storage is falling rapidly and there will come a time that storing one’s entire life will be cheap and practical. The question is how to organise this vast amount of information so you can get to what you want quickly and efficiently. As always, search will be the most critical part of the system. In addition to textual search that we perform today we need to be able to perform audio and visual search as well. “I saw that guy the other day who was wearing a black jacket. I can’t remember his name. Let’s see if I find it in my life-logger: Show me all the people I saw in the last week that I talked to, who wore a black jacket.

The next big thing for search is not more efficient search of text as we know today, but is about searching rich media with fuzzy queries like a “black jacket”. Google, we are counting on you …

6. What does it lead to

As a minimum, life-logging may help us to remember the past more efficiently.

Two very critical issues exist against the mass development and adoption of life-logging systems:

  • Are we ready to be on somebody else’s camera at all times? Just look at people’s reaction as soon as you want to take a picture of them. Invariably people become more aware of the photographer and want to be captured when they are behaving well or looking their best (ladies are in particular sensitive to this).
  • Not all events should be captured. For example, you may not want to go back to a disturbing experience in the past. As the saying is, “Some things are best left forgotten.”

Life-logging may bring more efficiency into our lives, but it also has great social implications if it is mass-adopted. It is similar to the hype developed for video-phones which never took off because people didn’t feel comfortable to use it as the main type of communication. Similarly life-logging may be treated the same way. Consider a doctor or a dentist who has been sued by a life-logging patient who recorded his conversation with the doctor and it turned out that the doctor miss-treated him. Doctor’s won’t be happy. Or look at it another way, imagine a life-logging doctor who records everything about their patients. What happens if the videos of a life-logging cosmetic surgeon are stolen? It can lead to many political implications and ruin people’s image. In short, popularity of this technology is more constrained by its social acceptance than by technological progress. Technically, most of the ingredients are already here and it’s just a matter of putting it together in a nice practical package. Social acceptance however is a whole different beast.


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