Sunday, September 27, 2009


I recently heard about a new gadget Microsoft is working on called SenseCam. The basic premise is that it is a small camera that hangs around your neck, which automatically takes photos of people you encounter, or can be set to take photos at specific intervals of time, such as one every 60 seconds. Life Logging, as it is called, is one of many examples of how digital technology is being used to help us remember. More information about the SenseCam and Life Logging can be found here.

Now when I first head about this technology, I was unimpressed. With such an enormous amount of digital information being created every year, how are we going to deal with large amounts of people documenting their entire lives? Just to put this "enormous amount" of information into perspective, in 2002 five exabytes of digital information was produced. To put this into context, this amount of storage space is enough to store all the information in the library of congress, which contains 17 million books, 37,000 times over. If you're interested in these numbers check out Lyman and Varian's "How Much Information".

My opinion of Microsoft's SenseCam was change today, while I was walking through an old neighbourhood looking at the home (one of my favorite pastimes). It struck me how much more I could get out of my hobby of exploring residential architecture if I could easily record everything I saw. It would enable me not only to permanently archive my travels, but I could easily compare and contrast different neighbourhoods within a city, a region, a province, the country, or internationally. This technology would make decisions about heritage conservation and planning easier because you could take conservation boards on virtual tours of the area so they get a better sense of what they are dealing with. You could even perhaps tag buildings as you look at them based on architectural details, materials, style, design, significance and integrity, to name but a few. What's more, the cameras can record GPS information about where the photos were taken, making it easy to trace where the buildings are located.

Although SenseCam is only a research project at the moment, I can't wait for them to become commercially available so I can get one.

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