Wearable Wireless Webcam and Telemetry

Number of computers here to date: 999.

(various versions of rig, leading toward current 'net connected WearCam)

Put yourself in my shoes and see the world from my perspective. Pictured above is an old communications antenna array on copper-lined helmet, not presently used. Now I use the ``visualfilter'' (pictured below). Through the VisualFilter, I perceive my surroundings by "viewing" rather than seeing, and this also means that another person can "view" the world exactly as I do. Closing the loop in this way (e.g. using the visual filter explained below) enables me to record exactly what I experience, as opposed to merely putting a camera on my head (above picture) in the style of Letterman, 60 Minutes, or the like, where the camera would not necessarily record exactly what the viewer was looking at.

Science fiction writers have wondered what it would be like if we could tap into the visual path from eye to brain, routing the visual information elsewhere. I doubt this is possible using today's technology, but using this camera system with radio communications, which I call ``NetCam'' I can presently send my visual field anywhere in the world, using the internet as a communications medium. NetCam together with the World Wide Web, means that others can see the world from my perspective. Go ahead: put yourself in my shoes -- see the world from my point of view. If you have a better net connection, and a faster computer, you can see more of my point of view. . If you have a very slow net connection, you may want to limit your view to a single still image, or wait patiently for the sequence of images or avoid this site altogether.

The visual filter

Sending visual information from my head-mounted cameras to one or more remote processors (like some SGI Reality Engines on the Internet) and then receiving a processed version of the visual information back at my head mounted display, gives rise to what I call the `Visual Filter'. While I can't put a Reality Engine in my backpack, I can still pipe my visual world through one or more such computers and get the same effect. A science fiction writer might envision implanting a computer anywhere in the world between the eye and the brain, but this is a long way off. Right now I'll live with my bulky communications equipment.

Simple processing like turning the image upside-down (like the upside-down prisms that people used to use to see if someone could learn to live in an upside-down world) would be possible, but of course there are far more interesting possibilities.

It's fun being a cyborg.

leading a somewhat nomadic lifestyle.

Applications of VisualFilter and NetCam:

There are other cameras on the Web but as far as I know, right now, this is the only wearable one (please let me know (mann@eecg.toronto.edu) if you find another wearable WebCam somewhere, or if you are interested in building one).

Privacy issues of NetCam and other video cameras:

NetCam has raised some interesting privacy issues. Rather than limit the discussion to privacy issues of NetCam alone, let us look at the big picture -- at the broader societal issues surrounding visual privacy. NetCam has allowed us to see privacy in a different light, and to reconsider the notion of visual privacy. In particular, consider privacy issues of wearable cameras (like NetCam) versus surveillance cameras (like this ceiling dome of wine-dark opacity).

Many advocates of surveillance have dismissed the Orwellian aspects of video surveillance, by suggesting that it just makes the world more like a small town, but if we compare surveillance and small towns on a `symmetry axis' we see that they are quite different. In fact, wearable cameras are more apt to make the world like a small town than surveillance cameras.

What is and is not a violation of privacy? Perhaps the principle of "self ownership" could serve as a guide to answering this question.

Unfortunately, video surveillance is growing out of control, and one almost wonders if privacy is a lost cause. If it is a lost cause, perhaps we can at least have a little bit of fairness on the Surveillance Superhighway. The concept of privacy in cyberspace is quite real and achievable, but in physical space, perhaps symmetry is a more attainable goal.

Other diversions that may appear from time to time, in place of, or in addition to NetCam to further delay my thesis:

``The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers''

--James Baldwin

Wireless WearCam credits and acknowledgements

Other links to Wireless WearCam

Steve's personal Web page

Copyright notice (That circle-C is ASCII 251 in case you were wondering.)