In fifty years or sooner (fifty is just a wide guess) we will be wearing cameras 24/7. Beginnings of that are already observable with GoPros and similar cameras in niche applications (sports, festivals…) or body cams worn by the police. Furthermore, a few wearable cameras came out recently. Shonin, a camera you clip to your clothes, started August 1st on Kickstarter. FrontRow was announced on 13th of August and is a round camera you hang around your neck. Whereas Shonin is easily identifiable as a camera, FrontRow has a necklace-like design and blends very inconspicuously with your clothes.
However, all day-cameras have been along for quite some time (see Memoto or Panasonic, for instance) but have only reached the mainstream in the aforementioned niches. There are four reasons why all day cameras are still used only in niches.
- Wearable cameras are expensive (relative to the smartphone): The newly introduced FrontRow, for example, costs $399.00 That is a lot, especially as you still will want to own a smartphone.
- Wearable cameras are unfashionable: Even the quite unintrusive looking FrontRow looks to “gadgety” to be worn all day. People’s looks are precious to them (consider how much time and money flows into outfits) and adding tech to that will only work if it is considered “fashionable” (whatever that might be).
- Wearable cameras are perceived as a threat to rivacy: In a recent survey about Google Home I found that (German) people’s main aversion against it was rooted in privacy concerns (Google Home was considered a surveillance device). Furthermore, reactions to Google Glass painted a similar picture when it was introduced. Although with Snap’s Spectacles the reaction was not hostile in regards to privacy, I still believe that the thought of being surveilled 24/7 by people with no public authority is threatening.
- No use case.
Well, not exactly, but I have the impression that for most people a worn camera means recording everything throughout the day. And I further have the feeling that people do not see a need for that (except in special scenarios such as parents with small children). However, there are a few more applications, which admittedly are only way of reducing friction. One example are image-based tasks. With image-based tasks, I refer to activities where we use images to initiate a process. Consider image-based todos. Instead of writing down that you have to clean your kitchen you take a picture of it. An AI system could further extract meaning from that picture and translate it into a written task or add a description. Another example is “ discovery buying”. When you see an object you desire you could capture it and inquiry more about it through image recognition. Similar to Amazon’s Dash (a button you use to buy an item specified to that one button) or Amazon’s one click-buying image-based buying could drastically remove friction from our lives.
Cameras everywhere as part of a bigger transformation
However, although all these applications have some value, I doubt that they will be enough to lead to a mainstream adoption of wearable cameras. I assume that wearable cameras will stay in niches (the above-mentioned GoPros or body cams, for instance) until they get integrated into a bigger system. Thus, wearable cameras must not be considered a product but rather a part of a wider transformation. One such transformation is Ubiquitous Learning. I have defined Ubiquitous Learning here as an all day learning environment supported by technology (such as wearables or augmented reality) which goes beyond book knowledge into the improvement of everyday activities such as having a conversation. Here, a camera would capture the other person’s reactions and give your recommendations on how to adapt your speaking, if, for example, it sees you annoying the other person.
Besides that, wearing a camera 24/7 means that you obtain a digital copy of your life. The consequences of this are intriguing. If everything you see is recorded and obtainable at any time, what would you have to remember? Could a 24/7 live stream of your life be of interest to anybody? How could you use it as evidence in court?