Saturday, October 10, 2015

Better tools for everyday capture and sharing

With the near ubiquity of GoPro cameras, this feels like a solved problem. But I don't think we are quite there yet. I think that what people most want is a way to record and share their own experiences without having to think about technology at all. This would require not only capture devices and software capable of taking high quality shots, but also automated filtering and rendering algorithms (either pre- or post-capture). The tool should also focus on photos, quick videos, and animated PNGs.

20th century critiques of photography often centered on its unnaturalness. As Sontag and others wrote, it has a way of freezing something in time so that the photographer can gain control of the moment. There may be some truth in this, but we now know that these type of critiques are largely beside the point, which is that the network is at least as important, if not more so, than the photograph itself. This is because the value of a photograph is more about providing others with some context about your situation than it is documenting moments for one's own sake. It is for this reason that longer video is not as useful: it is harder for others to consume (and, again, harder on the network). This also implies that volume can quickly make photographs useless because, again, a recipient can't be expected to sift through a massive archive.

If the main focus is on sharing, then this also implies that quality is somewhat less important. At least, it implies that the bar might be low enough for automated techniques to have a chance.

One key problem is the capture device itself. Drones are problematic for many reasons, not the last of which is that they are likely to be illegal in many outdoor (and indoor) settings. GoPros are close, but are probably too cumbersome for most activities. We need something like a panoramic camera that can be attached flexibly to equipment or clothing that will take photos at an extremely high resolution, and coupled with an automated editing process that will create a personalized and relatively terse archive of photos and animations selected from portions of the panorama at key moments.

Finally, many automated techniques focus on creating a narrative of an event, I doubt this is necessary. I think people just want to feel like they've captured and communicated the gist of an event (in a way that makes them look good, if possible ;)

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