A tiny wearable camera called Memoto captures every 30 seconds of your life, which sounded interesting to at least its 2,871 Kickstarter backers, when it took to the crowdfunding platform last year. Sorting through the thousands of random daily snapshots, however, probably lacks the same appeal.
So although it was the camera that drew attention on Kickstarter, that 1.4-inch square may have been the easier half of Memoto’s product development. The more critical puzzle that the Swedish startup must solve before its product ships this summer is what to do with all those images once they’re gathered.
On one hand, says, Niclas Johansson, who leads special projects at the company, "The function of the app and camera is to give you photographic memory." On the other, there’s a reason why most of us aren’t born with photographic memory. Life would quickly become unbearable if we noted and remembered everything. An app that does the same thing would be just as vexing.
In order to make sense of the Memoto camera’s large data output, its accompanying app compromises between these realistic and perfect versions of memory. It mimics the former by automatically breaking days into 20 or 30 activities—as determined by changes in light, color, and GPS coordinates—and picking just one image to represent each of those activities on a timeline. "When we recollect things, that’s how we remember them," Johansson says, "and that’s what the algorithm is designed to replicate." At the same time, users can dive into each of those moments to access all 2,880 images in their original resolution.
Giving users this option requires tremendous storage. Johansson estimates that storing one user’s daily images for a year, in addition to data from the camera’s GPS, accelerator, and 3-D compass, will use 1.4 terabytes of data. The first year comes free with the device, which sells for $279. In each consecutive year it will cost $9 per month.
How Memoto will use this massive photo drawer beyond browsing is something the company still hasn’t set in stone. One idea is to surface memories for users. Perhaps, for instance, you’d be interested in reviewing the week you spent the most time outside or the day when the most people appeared in your photos. Memoto could also, through an upcoming API, pair its images with all sorts of data-tracking tools. Just as Nike+ can tell you the day you ran the farthest, Memoto could do the same. "Photos make sense as contextualizers for all that data [from the quantified self movement]," Johansson says. By saving data like GPS coordinates and which direction the camera is facing along with the photo, Memoto has also positioned itself for possibilities such as putting together all of the photos taken from one place into a 3-D map or allowing users to opt into a photo pool when they’re at the same event.
None of this, however, will be possible unless enough people find the app’s automatic timeline of their lives compelling enough to warrant wearing Memoto in the first place. For that, the company is betting on something akin to an extreme FOMO—or a fear of missing out, not on an experience, but on the opportunity to capture an experience. FOMOOCE, if you will. "This is a way to get to an effective mindfulness by knowing you are not missing out on capturing anything," Johansson says.