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Monday, June 13, 2011

5 Ways Wearable PVRs Will Change Your Life

Wearable personal video recorders, like this one advertised in a London Drug flyer, could go from simple gimmick to part of everyday life - for better and worse. Scan the QR code above for an eye-opening video on how this gadget works or click on the embedded video below.
The gates to the future can turn on small hinges. I spotted one of those hinges in a recent London Drugs flyer.

The Looxcie Bluetooth Video Camera is essentially a personal video recorder you wear on your ear. The camera looks like a typical bluetooth device. Press record once and you begin keeping a running video log of the last five hours of your day in real time. After five hours, it begins recording over the last unsaved portion of video. You manage your settings from an app on your Android or iPhone.

Gimmick or brainwave?
So what exactly does this mean? Well, if your daughter scores that winning goal or your son decides today is the day he'll take his first steps, you've got it on video - without ever pulling out your camcorder or smartphone or putting your eye to a viewfinder.

In fact, you can capture the last 30 seconds of any sudden event you witness and turn it into a separate video with just one on-the-fly click.

Gimmick, right? I mean who would really want to stockpile videos of everything they do throughout the day? You'd likely use this for short periods of time at family events and outings, your kids' games, and maybe to keep your hands free while you pull that fish out of the lake.

But here's why I think this little toy has the potential to dramatically affect our lives - maybe not right now, but as resolution and recording time expand - and attitudes toward privacy become even more liberal.

1) Many people - especially the young - are living their lives more transparently because of the social media that form such a huge part of their identity. As strange as it seems now, the idea of an always-on video journal would not be narcissistic, but simply a convenient way to record and ferret out daily gems from an otherwise unremarkable day. That means we will be in proximity to more video-obsessed folks around us and more opportunities to have our personal interactions captured close-up.

2) People will grow increasingly used to being videotaped in public. It already happens through closed circuit TV, municipal video cameras, built in cameras at bank machines, red-light cameras, and by hundreds of smartphones brandished at concerts, festivals and other public events - none of which we consent to be recorded by. Wide-spread adoption of wearable PVRs could mean that resistance to the idea of being recorded in public will at some point become, know.

3) Traffic cops, parking commissioners, bank tellers and the kid handing you your order at the McDonald's drive-thru might all have bosses who would like to record their interactions with people - up close and personal - for training purposes, evaluation or legal use. Initially, there could be posted or verbal warnings about being recorded on video, but these would likely give way as wearable PVRs make more inroads into the public.

4) It could reach the point where wearable PVRs may be so widespread that the mere act of stepping out of your home will put you on the video record - not of some huge centralized agency, but by the dozens of people you interact with every day. This could push the boundaries of what's public and private into extremely uncomfortable territory. Would there be safe sanctuary for those who want to be free from the prying eyes of mobile videocams?

Already, we have to contend with the double-edged sword of citizen journalism. It can document and even foment revolution; chronicle the human and material devastation of a tornado, flood, nuclear incident; or even bring scene of a local car wreck onto our iPads. But this proliferation of video devices can also be extremely invasive. Ask anyone who's had to fight to remove their images from social networking sites like YouTube.

Also, video recording by private citizens has largely been a deliberate act until now. It involves making a decision to video, pulling your smartphone or Flip out, and recording the action. Because there's usually a viewfinder between you and your subject, it's usually obvious to onlookers that you are videotaping. Theoretically, at least they can remove themselves from your camera's immediate view.

5) None of this applies to wearable PVRs right now. They look like every other innocuous bluetooth device. There's not much to give away the fact that every movement of the wearer's head is grabbing whatever is in the field of vision - whether it's a prairie landscape or your personal interaction with the wearer.

Of course, these concerns could be overwrought. The wearable PVR could be a wash, a non-starting piece of technical ingenuity that doesn't find much use in daily life. But I remember seeing my first black and white video demonstration back in my twenties and wondering what kind of application it could ever have. Now I carry an iPhone for personal use, a Blackberry for work, and sometimes even my Flip - all of which I can use to record video.

If the idea of preserving large parts of your waking life on video does catch on, people will have to make peace with the fact that their lives may not be chronicled by Big Brother or any other surveillance-obsessed overseer. It could simply be captured by the dozens of people we come in contact with every day.

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