MyLifeBits has also provided Bell with a new suite of tools for capturing his interactions with other people and machines. The system records his telephone calls and the programs playing on radio and television. When he is working at his PC, MyLifeBits automatically stores a copy of every Web page he visits and a transcript of every instant message he sends or receives. It also records the files he opens, the songs he plays and the searches he performs. The system even monitors which windows are in the foreground of his screen at any time and how much mouse and keyboard activity is going on. When Bell is on the go, MyLifeBits continually uploads his location from a portable Global Positioning System device, wirelessly transmitting the information to his archive. This geographic tracking allows the software to automatically assign locations to Bell’s photographs, based on the time each is taken.
To obtain a visual record of his day, Bell wears the SenseCam, a camera developed by Microsoft Research that automatically takes pictures when its sensors indicate that the user might want a photograph. For example, if the SenseCam’s passive infrared sensor detects a warm body nearby, it photographs the person. If the light level changes significantly–a sign that the user has probably moved in or out of a room and entered a new setting–the camera takes another snapshot. A recent study led by researchers at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England, showed that a memory-impaired patient who reviewed SenseCam images every night was able to retain memories for more than two months.
How many of you would want this? I wouldn’t. I prefer the memories I choose to keep, and the ones I make up, over the ones I really had. Thanks to Robin Hanson for the pointer.