March 9, 2006
The Future of Photos
The iPod Moment: When a technology no one knew they wanted becomes indispensable.
Before the iPod came along, no one was sitting around saying, “You know, it would sure be nice to have a portable library of all the music I could ever hope to listen to.” A year after it first came out, I was still asking what the big deal was. After all, portable CD players that could play MP3s had been around for a while without totally taking off, and they could carry a decent amount of music. Who needs to have every song they own in their pocket?
Then I was given an iPod, and suddenly that need was mine. Yes, Master Jobs, I understand now. It was a fundamental shift in music delivery. I will never question you again. Lead me.
Yesterday, I got into a long conversation with my boss about iPod moments for other technologies, especially photos. And it reminded me that I had to blog about Memory Miner.
But Matt, you say, photos have already had their iPod moment, namely when Apple released the iPod photo.
Yes, but clearly mere enhanced photographic portability is not the killer app. We’ve been carrying around photos forever.
But Matt. What about the advent of the cheap digital camera? Wasn’t that basically an iPod moment?
Not quite. I think digital is to photography what it was to music. MP3’s made music easy and cheap to distribute, so music proliferated. The MP3 moment led to the Napster moment, which led to the iPod moment. I think the JPG moment led to the Flickr moment, which will lead to the non-iPod-photo iPod moment for photos. Make sense? Good. Onto Memory Miner.
Memory Miner allows you to add all kinds of yummy metadata to your photo collections — dates, times, places, people and the relationships between them — so you can make instant Ken Burns slideshows depicting a subject over time/place/etc. Go look at the video demo. Not at all revolutionary, clearly not an iPod moment, but gets your imagination moving.
I wonder if the iPod moment for photos is something like MemoryMiner + Flickr + wifiPod? At any moment, your iPod would connect you to a complex photographic narrative. In the park: Make me a slideshow featuring all the photos in this park since 1915 tagged “kites.” At a wedding: Make me a slideshow showing “happy” images of Ginny from infancy to adulthood with members of her immediate family. Set it to “Heartbeats” by Jose Gonzales.
I realize photos require visual engagement, which is typically reserved for other tasks, so photographs can never be quite as ubiquitous or always-on as audio files can be for us. But could there be a time when we can’t imagine being without a portable library of all the interlinked images we could ever hope to see? I think so.
I found MemoryMiner a few weeks ago on the fantastic blog of local professor John Schott. Subscribe, you won’t regret it.