Kevin’s HelmetCam: See what I saw at the 2nd WebSG meetup

As most of you know by now, I’ve had the Archos 704 portable DVR for a few days already. Yesterday I took the helmetcam out for its first field run, much to the raised eyebrows of students in the morning COM125 class, and to the delight of geeky folks at the 2nd WebSG meetup held at the National Library.

You can see and read about the meetup from the Rambling Librarian, VanTan and of course, WebSG.org.

Why am I doing this?
In short, I think of this as an organic form of videoblogging. My ultimate goal is to archive my stream of consciousness from real life and share them online as a tangible form of personal experience. If you’ve watched the movie “Strange Days“, you’ll get what I mean. To make this a reality, Preetam Rai mentioned how there are now video search engines, such as Blinkx, which have started to offer automated video transcription services. Once these features gain traction, online videos would increase in utility many folds and allow for people like me to instantly cite videos segments just as we cite text paragraphs today.

Has it worked out?
It’s definitely premature, but I’m excited to see if I can get a workflow going just by using existing technologies on and off the web. The first thing I realized (as seen in the video above) is that it’s difficult to orientate the camera on your head. I tend to end up shooting too high or too low, and even though I might have framed it right from the start, it’s hard to tell what’s really out of frame. I think I’ll either need a laser pointer by the camera, or have a video display always visible to me (LCD glasses anyone?). The second thing involves context. I find that watching a lecture through a helmetcam is very distant and boring (just as in real-life), so having a fixed video camera on the presentation would make for more effective viewing. Just as it’s been used for covering personal action sequences (e.g. motorbiking, skiing, etc), I find that the camera excels in covering personal interactions in social spaces as seen above (e.g. meetups, conferences). It’s less instrusive than carrying a camera and pointing it at someone, so I could imagine it being useful for casual interviews.

So what’s next?
Experiment, even if it means looking stupid. As these video capturing technology start to converge into smaller, mobile devices (e.g. Nokia N93), I’d expect people to be interested in capturing “beyond the moment” and into the broader context of things. While it seems nonsensical to watch the entire day of an individual’s life, finding and watching interesting segments would really be what we want. This train of thought runs similar to how the web consists of immense collections of text, but what we want is to be able to pull out segments that we need.

Interesting Update 1
My academic sensei, Alex Halavais, calls this a form of “panveillance”. You won’t find that word anywhere because it’s a new one. As he explains, “[t]he idea runs back to Mann’s sousveillance or Brin’s reciprocal transparency, though I have to say that the term only gets at a slice of what I think this starts to get at. Really, it remains surveillance, and but with you as the “surveillor” and gateway to other people looking in. That is, the camera is naturally a panoptic device, a one-way mirror, and as such you have to wonder who is or will be observing you”. As Brennan (the young guy in the video) aptly puts it, “it’s actually like 10,000 eyes behind this third eye…”

Interesting Update 2
Apparently the DVR unit I am using is an updated version of the system used by UK Police. It includes the latest firmware for the Archos which allows time/date stamping for use in evidence, as seen in the video above. Interesting how the same time stamping feature adds another layer of authenticity to a video blog post.

5 thoughts on “Kevin’s HelmetCam: See what I saw at the 2nd WebSG meetup

  1. Folks who suffer from motion sickness won’t be able to appreciate video like that. But then again, the millennials have a lot of first-person shooter training. =) I myself was contemplating the N93 since I began blogging. Does the camera record audio in stereo following the sounds you hear left and right? That’ll be really cool. Maybe if the camera was as wide-angled as our native eyes and audio recording was as we listen then we’d have a more viable helmet cam for video blogging.

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