An Autonomous Camera Picks Its Shots

Do you want a camera deciding when to film you and your family?

1 min read
An Autonomous Camera Picks Its Shots
Photo: LensBricks

I understand the problem LensBricks, a startup company that graduated from the Highway 1 hardware accelerator this month, is trying to solve. After all, I am the one in the family who took all the candid photos as my children grew up; the rare photo I’m actually in was one in which I grabbed a kid, handed a camera to someone, and instructed them to take a picture. They’re not exactly the magic moments. And yes, there are a lot of moments I wished I’d captured, both the classic—first steps—and the only cute in retrospect—tantrums over the silliest problems.

But there are also a lot of moments of family life I’m probably better off not replaying—or perhaps not even knowing about.

That’s why LensBricks' Vidalife camera system has me scratching my head. It’s a friendly looking gadget, containing a video camera and built in smarts that help it sort snippets of video it records and select “interesting moments” to keep. Cofounder Raji Kannan says the system learns who the people and pets are in a household, and prioritizes interactions between people, or people and pets, and moments of high activity and sound. (I’m guessing it’ll save a lot of videos of pets chasing each other around the house and fewer of mom and baby quietly rocking.) It’s got auto zoom and night vision. And it can also work as a security cam, Kannan says. The technology seems pretty impressive.

LensBricks isn’t the only startup to make cameras operate more autonomously; startup Lily recently came out of stealth with a drone camera you can set to follow you around while you’re doing something—skiing, say, or playing with a child—and then forget it for a while. But are we really ready for a camera that decides who, what, and when to film?

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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