Camera Viruses!!! OMG!!! (Fear-mongering)


Now that we’re finally starting to see some mainstream cameras that can run apps (see previous discussion here) I suppose it’s time to talk a little bit about one of the potential downsides of such a scenario.

Because as soon as you allow people to download and run third-party software, you’ve got to start thinking about what viruses might come along with those apps. (And I’m using ‘virus’ generically, including any sort of malicious code that might run without your knowledge on the camera).

The first thing that comes to mind are the privacy concerns – because if your camera also features network connectivity that means someone could surreptitiously redirect your photos to a remote server somewhere. Bad enough if you’re being monitored by a spouse or an employer, but there may be even more consequential cameras to infiltrate…


(Keep in mind too that cameras are ALL going to have GPS chips embedded in them soon enough… instant tracking/surveillance device! Even if you’ve got the lens-cap on there’s probably a microphone on your camera too… one that can potentially be remotely activated and then monitored)

Most viruses are of course created for financial gain. Infect a remote computer and then use it as a server for sending out prescription-drug or junk-enhancement advertisements. What’s the photo equivalent?

If we consider the increasingly powerful processors that are coupled with cameras these days – processors that will eventually be able to run real-time photorealistic rendering algorithms – it’s not unreasonable to expect a virus that is capable of actually altering stills or videos while they’re still in camera.

True, that could just be a bit of fun – the so-called Walter White virus, which replaces everybody’s face with Brian Cranston’s:


(Been catching up on Breaking Bad lately…)

But (back to the financial incentives) what about a virus that keeps an eye your photos in order to identify branded objects – someone holding a can of Heineken, someone wearing Nikes, etc. Beyond just providing market research on your personal buying habits, a sophisticated enough algorithm could even REPLACE some of those logos with competing products. Not only does this hijack the unstated endorsement of a brand when you post one of those images to Facebook, it effectively is also altering your memories of the event. Your personal history purchased by the highest ethics-challenged bidder.

What else? Photo forensics (altering the date/time/location of a photo is easy enough, but it also makes it MUCH more difficult to identify photo-retouching if it occurs BEFORE an image is converted to a JPEG and stored to memory).

Financial transactions. My bank allows me to take a photo of a check in order to deposit it. What if that image gets altered before I send it to the bank…???

Security cameras. The movie trope of replacing security camera footage with alternate footage will be more and more of a concern.

Sporting events. There’s a lot of financial incentive to being able to affect the outcome of a major game. Hack the instant-replay camera – the one they go to when reviewing a play?
Any other ideas? What’s your best (or most outlandish) guess for the sort of camera viruses we might see out in the wild?

Using Faceship the Way it Wasn’t Intended

So we’ve got this fun little app called Faceship out there – It is, as the name would imply, very face-centric in the sense that it provides a bunch of effects that are intended to be applied to people’s faces. Stuff like this:

1nzxf5l08tw64wd9uioo.jpg   1p5gcy807uyd9cda3dw8.jpg 9szyqj08a1j5cda6zh4.jpg d6t2j907zx78gda75so.jpg

(These were all done by our users)

But naturally I (and a few other like-minded nonconformist sorts) can’t help but try these effects in other situations too. Here’s a few:

Lubek, Germany2013-02-17 14.43.40.jpg2013-02-17 13.49.14_Tweaked.jpg

While obviously you can use something like Photoshop to do far more sophisticated editing on an image once you get home, I’m finding that there’s definitely a joy to the immediacy of holding the camera up and seeing what the result will be in a live preview. And for that matter I almost always end up adjusting where I’m pointing the camera or where I’m standing in order to create a composition that is better targeted to the effect I’m using… something that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do if this were purely a post-process and I’d already locked-in a specific framing.

At any rate, if you’re inclined, go download the app and give it a shot – I’d love to see some more out-of-the-box photos created with the thing. The basic app is free (OMG FREE!!!) which gets you several of the effects shown above and then you can do an in-app purchase (99¢ – find that under the couch cushions or something) to get all the currently-available effects.

And who knows, if we see enough interest in this sort of thing we might just do an app specifically dedicated to this sort of photography. Whaddya think?

Viral Videos, iPhone Apps… and Politicians with a Tiny Face

I’ve got a longer post coming about this but just wanted to let everybody know that we’ve got a new iPhone app out! It’s called ‘Faceship’ and for this version 1.0 release its one and only purpose in life is to give people Tiny Faces.

Why Tinyfaces? Well, I did this quick video of Mitt Romney with a TinyFace a little while ago: (Go ahead and give it a watch – it’s only a few seconds long).

Somehow it went super-viral, with over 1.75 million views so far. Which is, um, crazy.

So we figured we’d make an app for anybody to give themselves (or their friends) a tinyface. (Photos only – no video… yet)

The app’s called Faceship and it’s FREE. Not even any ads in it. Because we love you :-)

So I’d really really love it if you’d download it, give it a play-with, and most importantly, tell your friends and SHARE TINYFACE PHOTOS around the web. Apps live or die by word of mouth, so any help here would be super-appreciated. Seriously, thanks!

(Getting a nice review doesn’t hurt either – if you’re feeling generous please tell us what you think!)

(Oh, and if you don’t like the fact that the original video featured Romney, I did an Obama one too, and also a couple of other folks.  And a Donald Trump with a Bald Head.  Here’s our YouTube channel if you want a few more minutes of amusement – enjoy!)

Lifelogging – is it time?

I’ve done a bunch of talks lately, in places ranging from Hong Kong to Costa Rica, about the future of cameras and photography. (Here’s one) And one of the things I discuss is this concept of ‘Lifelogging‘ – the idea of wearing an always-on camera constantly, capturing everything you do as you go about your daily life.

At first glance I think a lot of people find the idea to fall somewhere along the line between obtrusive and completely boring. Who wants to record everything they do? Why? But the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m convinced that it’s going to become very very common. Because when it comes down to it, don’t you wish you could call up photos from all the key incidents in your life? Don’t you wish your memories were preserved beyond what the organic is capable of?

So when I saw yesterday’s announcement of a kickstarter for a tiny wearable camera (called ‘Memoto’) that will take a photo every half-minute, I wasn’t even slightly surprised. And after a few minutes of considering it I went ahead and ordered one (in spite of the rather hefty $200 pricetag.)

Is this going to be device that makes the concept mainstream? Doubt it, but it’s an interesting step towards that. I’m sure there will be stories of how it’s being misued, we’re going to hear about someone getting Punched In The Face because they wore it somewhere that’s not appropriate. (And by ‘appropriate’ I include just about anyplace where the photographee doesn’t want to be on camera).

But ultimately I think it’s inevitible that something like this will catch on with a lot of people. Biggest question for me, really, is whether or not it’s going to happen before or after the cameras get small enough to be undetectable by the people you’re interacting with on a daily basis.

For me personally I doubt I’ll wear it on a daily basis – mostly because That Would Be Weird. But as someone who loves to travel, I suspect the first trip I take after I get the device will see me clipping it on as soon as I head for the airport and not removing it again until I’m back home.

As for the device itself? I like a lot of what they’ve done. Small, rugged, decent battery life, and simple.  And they seem to have the expertise to make it happen.

The devil is in the details of course. How’s the low-light capabilities, for example? And It’ll be interesting to see what they decide on for the field of view. (Personally I suspect that the best way to go might be a very wide-angle lens – fisheye even – combined with some software that can rectilinearize it after the fact. With a 5 megapixel image you’ve got some leeway to do this, and ultimately it’s important to remember that for most people the value is going to be in capturing the moment as completely as possible, rather than creating photos that are suitable for wall-hanging).

And, as is to be expected, if you look at the comments on the kickstarter you’ve already got tons of people asking for specific features. But I like the decisions they’ve made so far in terms of keeping it small and simple and hopefully they’ll stay the course.

You can check out the Kickstarter here  (they’ve already reached their funding goal, less than 24 hours after going live) and once mine shows up I’ll definitely be talking about it some more.


…Because their Lips are Moving

One of the earliest posts I did on this blog related to new technologies in truth-detection and as the political season is heating up again I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit some of those points.  (Here’s the original post)

In particular, I’m interested in the variety of non-invasive technologies that are becoming available to tell whether or not a person is consciously lying.  To a greater or lesser extent, most normal (non-sociopathic) people have some sort of physical manifestation whenever they intentionally lie.  This can manifest as micro-expressions, as fluctions in pitch, frequency and intensity of the voice, and even bloodflow to the face (which can be detected by an infrared camera.)

Are these technologies 100% reliable as lie-detectors?  Not even close.  But they’re also not completely without merit and can, particularly if they’re used in conjunction with other techniques, be very effective.

More importantly, they’re only going to get better – probably lots better. And so even though we may not have the technology yet to accurately and consistently detect when someone is lying, we will eventually be able to look back at the video/audio that is being captured today and determine, after the fact, whether or not the speaker was being truthful.   A bit of retroactive truth-checking, if you will.

In other words, even though we may not be able to accurately analyze the data immediately, we can definitely start collecting it. Infrared cameras are readily available, and microexpressions (which may occur over a span of less than 1/25th of a second) should be something that even standard video (at 30fps) would be able to catch and of course we’ve got much higher-speed cameras than that these days. And today’s cameras should also have plenty of resolution to grab the details needed, particularly if you zoom in on the subject and frame the face only.

So it seems to me that someone needs to plan on recording all the Presidential (and vice-presidential) debates with a nice array of infrared, high speed, and high-definition cameras. And they need to do it in a public fashion so that every one of these candidates is very aware of it and of why it is being done.

Or am I just being naïve in thinking that the fear of eventually being identified as a liar would actually cause people (or even politicians) to modify their current behavior? Maybe, but it seems like it’s at least worth a shot.

Watching Movies on the iPhone 5

I’ll admit it… I have, on occasion, actually watched a movie or two on my iPhone.  Forgive me David Lynch

(Hell, I’ll even condemn myself to a deeper circle of hell by admitting that I actually watched one of the most glorious wide-screen movies ever – Lawrence of Arabia* – on an iPhone while flying to Jordan earlier this year.   Of course I’ve seen it more than a few times already, but still…)

So even though it’s far from my preferred viewing scenario, all this talk about the alleged size-change of the next-generation iPhone got me to thinking about how that extra real-estate would affect movie-watching on such a device.

The rumormongers all seem to have hit consensus that the next iPhone will keep the same width of 640 pixels, but will extend the height from the current 4S value of 960 up to 1137 pixels.  Do the math on that and you’ll find that the screen is about 18% bigger.  ( i.e. [640*1136]/[640*960] = 1.18333 times larger.)

But there’s more to the story when you actually sit down to watch a movie, because every movie has a specific aspect-ratio  that will be fit into the screen you’re viewing it on.  So if we’re looking at something like The Godfather on our iPhone 4S (assuming our digital file is in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio that the original movie was shot in), it will be scaled to be the maximum width of the display and then ‘letterboxed’ top and bottom with black.  Here’s an example of what this looks like (only instead of letterboxing with black bars I’ve made them a dark gray so you can see them better).

Now let’s look at the same movie on a taller (which, when we turn it sideways becomes wider) new device.

The aspect ratio of the movie stays the same but because the aspect ratio of the phone is much wider the image fits much better into the space we’ve got.  And thus the letterbox bars on top and bottom are much smaller.

Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Much nicer, eh?  In fact, even though the display is only 18% bigger, the fact that our widescreen movies fit so much nicer into the frame actually means that they’re a whopping 40% bigger.

Of course if you’re watching Gilligan’s island – a show that was shot in the typical television aspect ratio of 1:33:1 (i.e. 4:3) it doesn’t buy you anything because the other dimension is the limiting factor.

(Not to denigrate 4:3 by associating it only with Gilligan, by the way. Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Wizard of Oz… all 4:3)

But for the most part this new aspect ratio is a really nice perk for the movie-watcher.  Here’s one more example using Game of Thrones which was shot with the HDTV standard aspect ratio of 16:9.  This is almost exactly the aspect ratio of the alleged new iPhone and so it will now fit perfectly (i.e. without any letterboxing at all).

Personally, I’m looking forward to it.  Just don’t tell David Lynch.

(Caveat:  It’s worth noting that, depending on where you get your movies from, you might find different aspect ratios than what I’ve mentioned above.  Many movies are remastered to different aspect ratios depending on their intended release platform – DVD, iTunes, whatever.  If you’re watching a rip of a DVD from 1990, all bets are off)

Also, completely unrelated to this article, feel free to go grab a copy of my FreezePaint iPhone app, which is already tonz o’ fun and which will be at least 40% MORE FUN on the iPhone 5.  Guaranteed.

(*speaking of Lawrence of Arabia, while I was grabbing some images for this blogpost I came across this, which is completely unrelated to aspect ratios or iphones but was just too awesome not to post.  Click to make bigger.  Didn’t find it with any attribution so if anybody knows who did it I’ll be happy to credit them).

Apple Tablet Prototype


Just saw this article on AppleInsider where a photo of one of the original apple tablets prototypes is shown. Quick story about my very brief interaction with this thing.

Although the article says that it may have been developed sometime between 2002 and 2004, I’m almost positive that the date I saw it would have been late 2004 at the earliest and more likely 2005.

They brought a few of us from the pro-apps group – UI- and Product-Designer types – into this little windowless room in Cupertino and there was a cardboard box sitting on the table. Once they were sure the door was locked and they made it very clear that everything we were going to see would not be discussed outside of this room, they lifted the box off to reveal something that looked very much like what’s shown in the photo above. Pretty much the same footprint as the then-current 12″ Aluminum PowerBook G4 but thinner and with the white polycarbonate case.

The reason we were being brought in to talk about it was because they wanted to get people coming up with a variety of multi-touch gestures that might be useful. One of the guys in our group (whom I won’t mention by name since he still works there) spent a bunch of time generating cool ideas that were then fed back into the secret machine.

It was only a few years later when the phone was announced that I realized this was, yet again, a bit of masterful misdirection by Apple – something they do even within the company. By this point they were almost certainly already working on the phone but rather than show us that they put the prototype tablet in front of us instead, thereby limiting the number of people who had the real story. (Being a part of pro-apps rather than one of the more core groups meant we were by definition a bit more on the periphery so this wasn’t a suprise.)

It also shows how they were already in the process of generating patents on multi-touch gestures. Interesting to note that this must have been right around the same time that Apple acquired Fingerworks.