Future of Web is here Now

I just bought a camera – EXILIM S500 made by Casio. I am very excited by this camera. Is it a video camera or a photocamera? Well, it is both. It does amazing job with both. It takes 5.25M pixels and can take dvd quality video with MPEG4 compression. The quality is amazing. I like both the photographs and videos equally well. First time that I saw a camera that can do equally good job with both photos and videos. This is a step towards removing the distinction between photos and videos. Fundamentally a video captures a microcosm visually over a period of time while a photo captures the microcosm over a moment. In that sense, photos are the limiting case of a video.

Some people believe that as the technology progresses, a new type of photos will become very common – even may replace the current photos. These will be videos captured over a short period like 1 second. These will retain the dynamic nature, the activity and emotions that people try to capture while will not be long like videos. And I see that starting to happen. I have already started capturing short videos using this camera.

I am very excited about this camera because to me this camera shows clearly what the society is moving towards and what are things likely to be in a few years now. Let me explain.

This camera is the smallest camera that I saw – size of a credit card and about half in thickness – maybe less – than my wallet. That means that I can carry this camera very easily in my pocket. I have 256M memory card with it, but I can get one of 1G today and possibly several G in the next year. One can easily put several thousand pictures or more than I hour of video in 1G. Today this camera is not connected to internet. But given its technology and what you are hearing from Samsung in phones, it is a matter of months when such quality will be available with your phones. Now consider that soon there will be 3G or always connected infrastructure in which you may be paying flat monthly rates for any amount of connectivity and data transfer. When you combine these with even conservative progress in audio and video processing technology and infrastructure related to this, it becomes clear that finally the time has come when more information will be produced and consumed in non-textual visual and audio form than in text form.

Text is just a visual representation of spoken audio. It represents a small subset of what humans can share with other humans. Historically this is the first time that technology has evolved to allow this sharing using audio-visual storage, access, processing, distribution, and presentation. Until recently, only text could be used easily in all these modes. Now it is clear that it is going to be easier to use audio-visual mechanisms than textual mechanism. And this does have serious implication for technologists and for the society.

This camera that I started using is very interesting because it makes taking photographs and video very easy. It is easier to carry than pen and paper. It is easier to capture and store information than any other means that we have. It makes these tasks easier by providing special modes for taking pictures – I can set it to take pictures of a page of paper as well as a night scene and can do this effortlessly using a simple selection mechanism.

Some phones already allow basic image processing and video editing functionality. So when you project what we will be carrying in our pocket in very near future – and I mean really near future that may be in months rather than years – then it is clear that for the first time in the history of civilization we will be able to take audio-visual notes, capture our environments in its natural form, edit it, store it, upload it to a central location, access similar content created by others, distribute our content to specific people or post it at locations for access by anybody who cares about it.

But this is the beginning of something that maybe significantly more powerful than what the current Web is because the current Web is just a subset of this new Web of information that is going to emerge.

3 thoughts on “Future of Web is here Now

  1. Sean Mulholland

    Very interesting observations – I tend to agree with you! Especially the part about the increased use of photo and video due to the ease of use and integration with other technologies. I have in fact shot video on the spot with my phone and put it online. It’s surprisingly functional and worth watching despite the poor quality, but like you said in time it will improve. The best part: my phone is under 6 oz. and half the size of my wallet – sure beats lugging around a DV cam!

    Cell Phone Video

    –Sean

  2. Joe

    I might have to look into this camera. I just started playing golf, so to avoid expensive lessons I’m filming myself swinging the club and then comparing my videos to examples of good swings available on the internet. The camera provides the feedback of a coach. My problem is that I only have a very old VHS camcorder, which makes digital transfer to a computer where I can analyze my swing frame by frame very difficult. I have an older digital camera, but it can only film for 3 min. at a time at 15 frames per second at 320×240, not fast enough to capture club movement, whereas this camera can do 1 hour of 30 fps at 640×480, which is very impressive. The cost of this camera is about the same as for a real mini-DV camera and I get a good digital camera out of it, which is perfect for the majority of users. Easy to use video cameras will have many valid uses. As for convergence with a phone or some other appliance, that will be dependent on battery life. While a digital camera and a video camera both have similar functions, meaning that if the battery dies I can no longer take pictures, on a phone if I’m using battery draining video, if the battery dies I can no longer use my phone to make calls, which may be critically important if I’m a lost tourist. The same applies to phones that can play and record mp3s, so perhaps if this camera could play mp3s as old exilims could, then we would carry only a phone/pda hybrid and the camera/video camera/music player/game player hybrid so that essential functions aren’t lost if one thing consumes all of the battery life. The two hybrids won’t converge into a single device, but with a personal area network the phone provides the networking ability to upload everything the other device captures to the world.

  3. Andy Tai

    Maybe another form of visual media between video and photo is low frame rate snap shots, say 1 frame per 30 seconds. For many applications, say, a presentation for New York tourism, such a “clip” or photo sequence can be taken on a ride around the city and it will give a very good idea of how New York looks like without taking the size of a video clip.

    Or even better, real time image sequence segmentation in the camera so the camera only takes a picture when scene changes significantly…

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