Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Personal Life Recorders Are Around the Corner

With terabyte (TB) hard-drives becoming cheaper (I actually saw an external 2TB HD for under $180 today), I was curious about memory in general and even more curious about how fast we're advancing in that space. Then I remembered reading about holographic memory & storage by IBM; and also remembered reading about storing data in thin air and retrieving it several (100 or so, I believe) miles away off of an island or something like that. Unfortunately, I cannot re-find the latter despite some serious googling on the topic.

So I asked myself? With memory & storage getting smaller, cheaper and possibly faster, what's next? After a small amount of research into the topic, I came across personal life recorders (PLRs). Needless to say my eyes became wider thinking about the possibilities.

MRAM - The future of memory
Magnetic RAM

A USA Today article back in 2004 (5 years ago!) captured my undivided attention. In short, the report spoke of a MRAM or magnetic random access memory along with its co-inventor Stuart Parkin with IBM.

Further research showed that Don Norman speculated about a "Personal Life Recorder" (PLR) type of device back in his 1992 book "Turn Signals Are The Facial Expression of Automobiles." He theorized that these PLR’s would start out as a device given to young children, called the "Teddy". The "Teddy" would be given to us as children and record all of our personal life moments, and as we mature, the data could be transferred to new devices that matched out maturity level.

Life recording device by NEC
NEC's concept dew Life Recording Interface

Prior to USA Today's report, Jakob Nielsen, web usability guru, has written a speculative article on what the next 25 years (from today, that is) in computing will bring (found on Slashdot). He suggests that, in about 20 years (again from today; and not from the post's date), a personal computer will have enough hard disk space to record every second of your life and possibly in HDTV-quality video.

With so much being recorded (pictures, video & audio), with the convergence & widespread of technology in the home, in automobiles, mobile devices, TV's, home networks, security and even fridges, adding a PLR will inevitably mean the need ... likely, the requirement ... to have software that will sort, organize, tag, etc. all this data. Some, whom I've come across while researching this topic, have labeled such software as Digital Life Aggregators (DLAs). For me, however, they're not much of an aggregator per se; instead, they're more like Digital Life Managers (DLM), or when bundled Digital Life Suites (DLS).

Momento Personal Life Recording Device
The Momenta neck-worn PC

Whether they're called Digital Life Recorders (DLRs) or Personal Life Recorders, and whether the sure-to-be-needed software to manage it along with the slew of many other technologies is called Digital Life Aggregators or Digital Life Managers/Suites is all negligible in comparison to the enormous number of applications for which this will be used. Aside from making a Psychiatrist's life easier, future generations will be able to re-enact events of our current generation in much the same way some today like to re-enact the Civil War. Future generations will have better visibility into their ancestral culture, life, etc.

I can easily see great advancements in the medical field because of such devices. In addition to the mental insight, we will be able to decipher symptoms based on what we consume. Similar advancements in law enforcement and security are sure to be realized from Life Recorders and MRAM. The applications, as I previously mentioned, are numerous. I can't even wrap my head around them all.

We're already headed in that direction. We tweet about our daily life & news the instant things happen. We share perhaps even more on the likes of Facebook. We post videos on sites like Vimeo and YouTube. We share photos on Dailybooth and Flickr. Among many (hundreds, if not thousands) other social media platforms & sites. The difference, one that I like ... being the control-freak I am, is that these are all explicit actions. But again, as little as a decade ago, we would not have fathomed sharing as much as we do today. In the meantime, it's not just IBM that's working this angle. Take a look at Microsoft's MyLifeBits project, or even their SenseCam one. I wonder what Google is cooking up in that arena! Other companies already have products out there ready to jump right in the middle of all of this. Take a look at this, this (the classiest of the bunch), this one or my favorite the Momenta "neck-worn PC."

The prospect of one's entire life being recorded does not appeal to many; and understandably so. After all, the privacy implications alone are sure to be a nightmare. Rest assured, however, it is coming. It's just around the corner. What remains beg the questions "are YOU ready for it? Will you be amongst the adopters?" Let us know in the comments. ▣

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