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October 17, 2006

Term Project Blog 2: New Memory Devices

The article “Digital Age May Bring Total Recall In Future” reports on two projects looking to use technology as a way to have a back-up memory. Many people have trouble remembering the name of someone they met or a conversation that happened many years ago. These new devices would give people a kind of back-up brain. At Microsoft, a team is developing software called MyLifeBits. The head researcher, Gordon Bell, records everything from phone calls to home movies and stores them on a computer in digital form. The goal is to record everything that comes to his eyes and ears so that the lifetime library on his computer acts as a surrogate memory. With the software, he can search through what he has stored to find old conversations, photographs, or whatever else a person would want to remember.

Another researcher, Sunil Vemuri, co-founded Q-Tech Inc. to work on similar technology. He hopes to use current devices, such as cell phones, to record daily happenings. The device can sit on a person’s hip and record audio of conversations and other events. The audio is then sent to a computer and translated into searchable text. He feels that cell phones are an optimal choice for the technology because people already carry cell phones with them wherever they go.

The idea behind these two projects is innovative. People do lose their memories as they age, and even young people cannot remember every detail of a conversation. The question is: do people really need every detail of every conversation? Especially with personal issues, people may not want every second of their lives recorded. In addition, having all of this random information on someone’s personal computer could take up a lot of space. If the user has to sort through conversations they want to save and those they want to delete, the person would waste a lot of time. Moreover, users may become stuck in the past if they constantly look back at old photographs and conversations. Their time may be better spent making new memories. Issues with privacy could also limit the success of these projects. Not only does the person using the recorder have to watch out, but the people around who do not know about the recorder are also in danger. Anything they say or do could be recorded without them knowing and later used against them. While these memory projects have good intentions, the researchers will have to get past many obstacles before the product can ever be successful.

Posted by sumorgan at October 17, 2006 01:45 PM

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