Total Recall, MyLifeBits and my API

Richard MacManus has few a suggestions on how Microsoft and Google can improve their ‘Personalized Start pages’.

But how far can all this ‘my info’ go?  An IEEE Spectrum Online article gives a taste of a possible future detailing the Microsoft Research project ‘MyLifeBits’:

“For the past two years, MyLifeBits has been capturing real life with an unobtrusive miniature still camera that Bell [left] wears around his neck, pendantlike. Clever sensors detect light, heat, and position. Software tells the SenseCam, as the device is called, whether to snap a picture. At day’s end, MyLifeBits grabs all those images and the sensor readings too. In short, just about everything that is digital, or that can be digitized, goes into the database—and is easily recalled weeks or years later. Researchers elsewhere have been capturing life bits for decades, but until Microsoft got in the game, no one had put so many varieties of them into a searchable and indexable database. The ability to sift so much information is impressive and, to many, intimidating.”

How far into the future are we talking? Not long, at least a start, according to the article:

“Information retrieval is also where MyLifeBits research will first show up in Microsoft Windows Vista (aka Longhorn), the long-awaited major revision of the omnipresent Windows operating system. By all accounts, Vista will put search and retrieval front and center. The metaphor of files and folders—the central way we’ve been interacting with computers for almost 30 years—will be largely hidden from view. Instead, the operating system will index all your documents, try to guess which ones are important to you at the moment, and let you intelligently browse and search through them if it guesses wrong.”

Now we have Windows Live up and running and the ‘Personalized Start pages’ seem to be ‘in’ (some good thinking going on here, and plenty of challenges to solve yet re: Signal / Noise / Attention), is it madness to think that all my digital info could have an online interface – with a ‘my API’, where all the content I generate can be selectively shared then remixed / mashed up by others? I speculate it is only a matter of time and probably sooner than we might think.

Comments (1)

  1. Good to see you mention MyLifeBits – I’ve been following those guys for a while. I think sometime in the future we may be able to record everything in our daily lives (or at least a great deal of it) using always-on miniature video cameras. With the massive growth in storage, that doesn’t seem inconceivable. This content can then be indexed and searched. The motivation to do this would be vanity, a feeling of self-worth and simply the need to remember on a practical level (Hey, honey, where did we put 2010?).

    If this really happens, we’ll need ways to automatically sort and tag this massive amount of content – maybe auto-tagging services like could be extended to video? And of course we’ll no doubt feel the need to share these terabytes of information with the world via blogs.

    Did someone say "information overload"?