Crowd @ gigabit
This is another fine mesh we’re getting into.
It’s 2017 and this year’s riot is in San Diego. It involves pandas, profit-driven zoo executives, and a Weight Watchers sponsorship. Doesn’t matter. People are massing in the streets and it’s heading toward a confrontation.
You first hear about this on Twitter. The embedded link takes you to FlyEye, a site that is unrelated to whatever sites and companies own trademarks like it in 2014. (Stand down, lawyers! This is all made up!)
Thankfully, San Diego in 2017 provides gigabit connectivity. In fact, the entire nation has gigabit, thanks to a personal appearance by Jesus H. Christ in Comcast headquarters in late 2015.
At the FlyEye site you scan a huge video wall that shows you a feed from every person out in the streets who is sporting a meshed GoPro or Google Glass wearable video camera. Thousands of them. All 4K, of course.
There’s something interesting going on in one of the feeds. It fills your screen. If you’d like, it’s annotated with street names, points of interest, and the most recent tweets of people in your field of view. (It’s also annotated with names thanks to face recognition, but the ubiquitous surveillance cameras and police drones have already removed any hope of anonymity.)
Off on the left there’s a protester holding a sign you can’t quite make out. So, you click on one of the people in the crowd who has a blue dot over her that means she, too, is wearing a meshed video camera. Now you see through that camera. The protester’s sign isn’t as interesting as you thought. So you video surf through the crowd, hopping from camera to camera.
You’re in the middle of the pack (as the map at FlyEye tells you — or you simply pop up to one of the protester’s drone’s cameras) when you hear an odd roar. FlyEye provides a “Twitch Plays Pokemon” sort of interface that lets the remote crowd ask participating meshed camera-wearers to turn this way or that. You click furiously asking the person with the camera you’re “riding” to look backwards. No luck. So you hop to someone further back. (By coincidence, that person turns out to be Verner Vinge. No time for a fan call now, though.) The roar gets louder. He responds to the request to turn around.
Good lord! The crowd is being beset from behind by a hoard of escaped zoo animals! It’s gone full Jumanji! Notifications start pouring into the crowd from the observers who are surfing the cameras. Watch out! Mammals led by flamingos are on the attack!
Repeat this, substituting any event with more than few people. Sports matches. Classrooms. Weddings. Conferences. Inevitably, group sex. Wherever there’s a broadband of brothers and sisters, the ol’ Panopticon will be inverted.
For this we need a generation of GoPros and Google Glasses that can form mesh networks with one another simply by being within range. Mesh networks are happening. Automobiles are going to mesh with one another. Mesh technology is creating bottom-up networks in cities around the world.
But most important, we need gigabit connectivity. When we have that, this sort of multi-presence is possible and thus will happen.
From this will arise the software necessary to make sense of the aggregated feeds. In the FlyEye example, the software enables a user to choose which camera to ride, as well as the sorts of services that would make it easier to choose which cameras to surf to. Plus some chat capabilities of some sort. With Nathan Freita’s Gilgamesh app, we’re getting related functionality today.
One can imagine FlyEye going beyond letting us camera hop or browse a wall of streams to choose from. It’s been seven years since were were first amazed by Microsoft PhotoSynth’s ability to create high resolution images of landmarks by computationally pasting together thousands of snapshots casually taken by tourists. FlyEye could perhaps build 3D models for us on the fly. Or do something far more amazing, especially if these streams are made available via an open protocol so that the 14-year-olds of the world can blow our minds with what they can accomplish.
But first, we need ourselves some damn gigabit. Jesus H. Christ, what are we waiting for?