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What Is Lifelogging and Why Do People Do It?

October 15, 2019
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  • 3 min

How much do you know about yourself? How many of your daily events do you forget? Human memory is not very reliable, is it?  For anyone who doesn’t want to miss anything from their everyday life, lifelogging is the way. Lifelogging is the collection of your life’s data using technical tools and services, and then analyzing them.

To do this, lifeloggers use devices that capture everything that happens around them, like smart glasses (Google Glass, Vuzix, EyeTap) or wearable cameras (Memoto, Microsoft SenceCam).

How Did It All Begin?

The first person to use the term “lifelogging” was Gordon Bell, an engineer at Microsoft Research. He started his experiment in 2001 and named it MyLifeBits. But the concept was invented much earlier. It was first described in 1945 by Vannevar Bush in an article titled “As We May Think”. It was about a device, Memex, that compressed and stored all of an individual’s books, records, and communications – an automated diary that acts as an extension to one’s memory. In fact, Gordon Bell, with his project, was an attempt to fulfill the same concept as Memeх.

A non-tech example is that of the Reverend Robert Shields, who manually recorded 25 years of his life in 5 minutes intervals. He left behind the longest diary ever written, with more than 35 million words. In 1981, Steve Mann became the first person to capture continuous physiological data along with a live video from a wearable camera that he designed and built himself.

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What Lifelogging Is Like Now

Today, with smart wearable devices and lifelogging smartphone applications, you don’t need to write down every single thing that happens to you to log your life. And it’s not just about Google Glass or Memoto cameras, but also Apple Watch and heart rate monitors. But even with all those possibilities, lifelogging is now in decline. Gordon Bell has given up his blog, and another famous lifelogging experimenter, Chris Anderson, decided that tracking everything is pointless.

The opposite viewpoint was expressed by Stephen Wolfram, the longest serving lifelogger of all. His position was that everyone will soon lifelog and use the information to improve their lives. Everyday tracking, indeed, can make life better when it comes to health and mindfulness. On the other hand, we don’t have the technology as yet which makes it easy and effortless enough for people to keep doing it. Now we have to use different apps and devices to get a complete picture but, once we have a device or software that delivers more benefits for less effort, lifelogging could become much more popular. And in this regard changes coming to the market are quite promising. Take, for example, the latest iterations of smartwatches or smart glasses, synchronizing your every move with your smartphone and creating a gigantic database about your life.

To better understand what lifelogging is and to see what it could be in the future, watch this great documentary made by Memoto: 

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