I can't agree enough with Mike Arrington on Techcrunch when he writes that "life recorders may be this century's wristwatch". Only I'm tempted to go further and say that they could be a lot bigger than that, not only capable of accelerating this century's obsession with self-broadcasting, but also playing a major role in entertainment, law and order, education and training.
For those that have not heard of this phenomenon in utero, life recorders are wireless gadgets that are worn or attached to users and grab video, snapshots and audio to develop a stream of everyday experiences. Imagine the TV show Big Brother turned inside-out: the user 'pushes' his/her activities to a global, opt-in audience.
Sounds awful, doesn't it, and you don't have to be a genius to imagine that some of the early, money-making applications of the technology will tend towards the nefarious or cheesy. Pornography and the ultimate evolution of fly-on-the-wall 'documentaries' of the Jordandre/Playboy Mansion/Kerry Katona variety are certainties. But just as the web, blogs, Twitter and so on also offered unprecedented levels of access to the rich, famous and powerful, life recorders could provide interesting types of insight into our political leaders, bosses, sporting heroes and so on.
Imagine, for example, following Lance Armstrong's Tour de France progress live on a cycling stage rather than just afterwards on Twitter. Or you could, if so inclined, follow your cat's movements when out of sight, like a personalised version of Springwatch.
In business, executives could provide their putative successors with invaluable insight into how they handle a typical working day. A journalist might post the ultimate rough cut of an interview. An HR chief could show how a successful applicant got the job. A salesman could demonstrate a great pitch and an awful one.
Of course, there will be concerns about privacy and risks of the wrong people viewing the experiences of the young and vulnerable, but every such technology brings with it a certain level of risk to balance reward. Controls will be needed, permisisions granted, good governance maintained and laws will need to be applied. But on the other hand, when the camera is always running -- or can be set to be always running -- then imagine the possibilities for sorting out crimes and providing 'smoking gun' evidence.
I don't suggest that life recorders will become ubiquitous and there will be important questions to be answered about their use in the workplace and elsewhere, just as there have been over the use of USB sticks, PDAs, smartphones and laptops. We also need to have a debate over just how far surveillance can go and there will be a need to self-edit and cull archives of dull 'lifestreams' or else the likes of Cisco and EMC will be come even more unfathomably rich. The challenge will be one of taking advantage of the pluses and containing the minuses but if that challenge can be met, life recorders stand to be a very interesting, hugely popular new category of gadget.