The Vision: Soon, virtually everyone will be able to send live video around the globe from hand-held inexpensive devices. Bar bands, college lectures, theater rehearsals, children showing off their brownie recipe in the kitchen, armchair ranters, live crimes caught by passers by – these are some of the billion of live “channels” people will want to show and others will want to see.
The video will all be tagged and filterable - by keywords, people, location, etc. - and a live search “propagation engine” will enable the most interesting streams to “bubble up” in seconds. A live Bulgarian wrestling match on broadcast television, an animal at a webcam in Africa, and a street performer on mobile video will all be accessible on the same level playing field.
Background: “Liveness,” in the sense of realtime telepresence between two distant locations, is an unprecedented contemporary phenomena. Abraham in Canaan may have imagined his family in Ur, Queen Isabella may have pondered Columbus’ whereabouts in the New World, and Napoleon in Egypt may have wondered what Josephine in Paris was having for breakfast - but undoubtedly not the way we do. We’ve grown up with first-hand (but mediated) experience of remote simultaneity.
“Live” must be distinguished from “fresh” and “canned.” Pre-recorded video as an archive will always have its place, and there’s a special place for recently recorded “fresh” video, e.g., of the past days’ events. But live has its own magic and resonance. Live sports and concerts. Neil Armstrong on the moon. OJ’s car chase. 911. Liveness, whether its global in nature or small and personal, deeply connects people. It is the temporal equivalent of spatial monumentality.
The recent trend that mobile phones have video capabilities cannot be underestimated. Just as webcams and cheap camcorders ultimately resulted in YouTube, live videophones will take us into uncharted territory. With millions of live video streams, will you always be able to find a Broadway musical, perhaps from a high school somewhere? (Hint: “Oklahoma” is performed, on average, eight times a day in the US.) If dozens of videophones stream from a live concert, will an “editor” (or crowd of editors) be able to cut a single live feed, in real time, for everyone else? If a live webcaster knows the number of viewers in real time, could another Rodney King style beating be averted (“14,556 people are watching you right now!”)?
In 1999, anticipating the explosion of live streaming video and other media, an effort launched at Interval Research Corporation proposed a solution to finding live, unscheduled events as they happen. This solution enabled people to alert other people in real time to encourage propagation, and resulted in an Interval spinoff venture called Kundi.com. Kundi was up and running until 2001. Three patents were allowed in 2003 and 2004.
June 2006: USC patent applied for "Source-based alert and feedback system for items of current interest via a network," for live mobile video webcasters.
Feb 2007: 30 second concept video (thank you Cisco).
Apr 2011: USC patent issued (US patent no 7,930,420).
May 2011: Liiive.tv, a NYC-based startup.
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