Life-logging is not a new idea. Steve Mann has been working on it since the 1980s, as has Gordon Bell since the 1990s. Just two months ago, a Microsoft patent application showed how Redmond is trying to capitalize on its years of research in the field of computer-assisted life-recording, and Google clearly has similar applications in mind with Project Glass.
One of the big issues with the concept is the size and wearability of the recording device, which is why an upcoming product from a Swedish company called Memoto is so exciting. They launched a Kickstarter project earlier today and achieved their $50k goal within five hours. At the time of writing they had almost doubled that amount, and are now into a $150k stretch goal phase where backers will get to choose a new colour for the postage-stamp-sized device.
Here’s Memoto’s Kickstarter video:
According to Memoto CEO Martin Källström, who was previously head of the blog search engine Twingly, the company has already benefited from a €500k seed round from Passion Capital and angels such as Amen CEO Felix Petersen. That was enough to start paying the Memoto team – now the Kickstarter cash will see the device become reality.
Not only that: Källström also sees the Kickstarter success as validation for the idea ahead of a Series A round this winter.
How does it work?
The Memoto device measures 36x36x9mm and contains a five-megapixel camera, a GPS unit, an accelerometer and 8GB of storage – enough for two days’ worth of photos, seeing as the device takes a photo every 30 seconds. It will cost $279, or nothing for early backers who give $199 or more.
The user will need to hook the device up to their computer every couple of days, both to upload the photos and recharge the battery. The photos will go onto Memoto’s servers and be made accessible for time-lapse-style playback through smartphone apps.
Crucially for security, the photos will be encrypted and inaccessible even to Memoto’s analytics systems while the user is not logged in. During that log-in time, Memoto’s systems will be able to pick out key frames that represent “moments”, for example the four hours where the user is sitting in front of their computer – these are the frames that will be shown when the user is trying to sift through everything they did on a certain day.
The company reckons each device will generate 1.5TB of data a year (although they will of course be able to delete what they don’t want to remember). Users will pay an annual subscription for the photos’ storage, providing Memoto with a second revenue stream on top of device sales.
“If there weren’t a customized storage service available, it would be a big problem for everyday consumers to keep all the data on-hand in a safe and secure way,” Källström told me.
Keeping memories alive
So, what happens if the user falls on hard times and can’t keep up with their subscription fees? Would that mean the digital equivalent of losing your memory?
“We see that the photos we are storing will be very valuable data and we will do everything to make sure that no mistakes or unfortunate circumstances will cause any data loss,” Källström said. “There will be three ways to get the data down from our storage service: you can download individual images through the app interface in full resolution, you can download in bulk, and there will also be an API where third-party developers can build their own lifelogging apps.”
And what about those patents? Källström reckons the idea of a wearable camera is now well-established enough that there are “no patents hindering new applications in that space”.
Hopefully he’s right. What we’re looking at here is a realization of Microsoft’s old SenseCam project, made realistic – if still a bit pricey – for consumers. Even Gordon Bell is quoted in Memoto’s press release as endorsing the thing.
“A small, wearable, geo-aware camera with pictures going to the cloud is just what we need for life-logging of life’s events. I’m anxious to try the Memoto camera,” Bell said.
High praise indeed – now Memoto just needs to live up to those expectations. We’ll see after the commercial launch early next year.