Do digital diaries mess up your brain?
Posted by Xeno on November 4, 2009
The meal you ate the first day you started working. The first exam you aced in high school. The shoes you wore to the prom.
These minute details of life often fade into the abyss of memory, which is not a perfect scrapbook of every experience. Over time, we forget details of events that happened long ago or even mis-remember them.
But today’s technology creates opportunities for greater, moment-by-moment record-keeping. Archives of your blog, Facebook or Twitter feed — both in text and in pictures — might reveal exactly what you ate on important occasions, the papers you were proud of and the outfits you wore.
Microsoft is developing a camera that takes this further: SenseCam, which automatically captures photos of everything you see and do all day. There are even people, such as Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell, who go around with audio and video equipment to create a more complete supplement to biological memory.
If we rely on technology for documenting, sorting and storing information — creating digital diaries, or “lifestreaming” — what will become of our minds? …
More on the SenseCam:
SenseCam is a wearable digital camera that is designed to take photographs passively, without user intervention, while it is being worn. Unlike a regular digital camera or a cameraphone, SenseCam does not have a viewfinder or a display that can be used to frame photos. Instead, it is fitted with a wide-angle (fish-eye) lens that maximizes its field-of-view. This ensures that nearly everything in the wearer’s view is captured by the camera, which is important because a regular wearable camera would likely produce many uninteresting images.
SenseCam also contains a number of different electronic sensors. These include light-intensity and light-color sensors, a passive infrared (body heat) detector, a temperature sensor, and a multiple-axis accelerometer. These sensors are monitored by the camera’s microprocessor, and certain changes in sensor readings can be used to automatically trigger a photograph to be taken.
For example, a significant change in light level, or the detection of body heat in front of the camera can cause the camera to take a picture. Alternatively, the user may elect to set SenseCam to operate on a timer, for example taking a picture every 30 seconds. We have also experimented with the incorporation of audio level detection, audio recording and GPS location sensing into SenseCam although these do not feature in the current hardware.