I don't know about anyone else, but I've been wondering for a while now why modern technology doesn't let me just rewind my day so that I can remember what someone said or how a particular event transpired. Why isn't there some sort of device that simply records everything we do and see?
Enter the uCorder from IRES Technology, a cheap - just $89.99 for the base model - wearable camcorder that users either clip to their clothing or hang around their necks via a lanyard.
Measuring 8.9-by-2.5-by-1.2 millimetres and weighing just 30 grams, it's not much bigger or weightier than a portly USB key, making it easy to forget that you're wearing it. And with up to 2 GB of internal flash memory and a Micro SD memory slot that accommodates cards up to 8 GB in size, it can record seven hours of your life at a time - though you'll need to stop to recharge along the way; I didn't get more than two hours out of the battery.
Of course, the quality of the video and audio isn't exactly great. The AVI files it captures have a resolution of 640-by-480 pixels and muddy monaural sound, putting them about on par with what you might capture with a phone. And since it's attached to your body, any movement results in frenzied-looking shots akin to what you might see taken by running reporters in a war zone. Clipping it to a breast pocket or lapel is your only real option if you plan to have it switched on while moving-letting it swing like a necklace results in unwatchable, nausea-inducing images.
Plus, it's not going to win any design awards. Available in matte black or silver with a couple of flimsy feeling plastic switches for changing from USB to webcam mode or video to audio recording, it's not the sort of sexy gizmo likely to become a fad with style-savvy gadget lovers.
But the uCorder doesn't need to dazzle us with movement stabilized HD video or fashionable looks. You're supposed to simply switch it on and forget about it, accessing the recorded images only if something happens that you'd like to revisit - like an interesting dinner conversation, or that person you rode home with on the subway who sang "Hey Jude" at the top of his lungs to the amusement of everyone on board.
Personally, I couldn't help but think of some of its other uses. For example, it captured a scene in which I almost got into a car accident. The clip showed how an SUV in front of me failed to signal while changing lanes, causing me to yelp and swerve into another lane myself. Had a crash occurred, the camera could have been used as evidence - a kind of personal black box - for what had transpired. I found it strangely reassuring.
Of course, it also opens up a pretty big can of worms in terms of privacy. It's small enough that it could be used in inappropriate situations to record people without their knowledge, like during a confidential business meeting or in a bathroom. This latter scenario actually happened when I forgot to switch it off before entering the men's room at a restaurant (thankfully, all the device captured was me washing my hands and making a funny face as I prodded a pimple in the mirror).
Perhaps even more interesting than privacy concerns is how the uCorder led me to become fascinated by my own doings. I've now spent hours reviewing mundane footage of my life, simply revisiting the places I went and the conversations I had. It was strangely exciting; I felt like I was spying on myself.
In fact, it's made me think: If a person had access to a complete recording of his life, what percentage of the time would he spend living it versus reviewing it? There's the premise for a near-future sci-fi dystopian story in here somewhere, I'm sure.
The uCorder will likely end up being used mostly by students and businesspeople as a substitute for an audio recorder, but one can't help but wonder where the technology may lead.