The future can often arrive sooner and more mundanely than we expect.
In the afternoon, I learned that Google now has a patent for indexing videos of your real-world experiences and making them searchable. As Mike Murphy reported for QZ, this patent, paired with the next version of Google Glass, could make forgetting a thing of the past. Essentially, users would be able to record video through a wearable computer and store it remotely for a later search.
In the patent, the wearable [device] would send its video to a user’s paired phone, which would in turn send the video to a server. A user could then head to an online repository to check all their recordings in the cloud, and use keywords to search for specific instances they want to re-watch. It would essentially be like exporting one’s memories to the cloud.
Murphy reports that in future Google hardware or software, video recording could be triggered by specific events or locations, and videos could be automatically tagged with the time and place they're recorded and shared to social networks, including Google Photos.
You can read the full text of the patent here, which describes a process that includes "transmitting a query of the user to the server computer system to initiate a search of the history or real-world experiences, and receiving results relevant to the query."
This sounds like a fairly basic process, and I can't help but find it disappointing that Google was able to patent such a thing. This is a company that states, in big, bold letters, that its "mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful." Rewarding the company with a patent gives it a lot of power.
Plus, the idea of lifelogging isn't exactly new. We're already capturing this new kind of "home movie" on video recorders, smartphones and GoPros today, but managing all of that raw video data is challenging enough for pros, much less the average consumer.
In 2013, a startup called Memoto introduced a lapel camera that photographs everything the user sees in 30-second intervals. But the scale, vision and resources that Google has at its disposal to pursue this concept makes its new patent different.
It's not hard to see how a black market for memories could emerge, like the one depicted in the 1995 film "Strange Days." In that science fiction film, an advanced headgear enables people to record their experiences for later playback -- including by other individuals -- at a deep sensory level, going far beyond video.
It's going to be some time before Google's hardware or the Oculus Rift catches up to that vision, but this sort of patent hints at the future yet to come.
It's also easy to see how a searchable archive of your life could be useful to many people -- from those suffering from memory problems due to brain injury, disease or lack of sleep to someone inspecting vast amounts of products or interviewing people.
How this technology is used -- for good or for evil -- remains to be seen.