The Okawa Foundation asked me to say a few words,
on behalf of this year's recipients of the Okawa Research
Grants, and comment on technology trends and their affect
First, on behalf of all the recipients, I would like to thank
the Okawa foundation for their generous support of technological
research and of our research efforts; this support gives us
more freedom to pursue our long term research goals.
I believe that technology's long term goal and its ultimate
purpose is to improve people's quality of life.
One of the things I'm working on, to this end, is something
I call personal information systems (with the word
Personal being key here).
One aspect of improving quality of life is to be able to
substitute for abilities that are missing or are diminishing
or otherwise require help or improvement.
Memory is one such ability.
I think it would be great if I could remember every
conversation I ever had, every place I visited ... and
be able to play it back (or recall it) for myself or for others.
My colleagues and I are working on a system called Total
Recall. The idea of Total Recall is to be able to remember
when an event happened, where it happened, who was there, why it
happened, and how we felt.
It starts with the use of personal sensors, like a microphone
array in my glasses or a camera in my necklace (which I could
have been wearing) and other sensors, all used to record *my*
version of the world.
Some people's first reaction, when they hear about a system
that records everything, every moment, and everywhere you
go, is fear. After all, who knows who else might get their
hands on this information.
But, the reality is that this is already starting to happen
around us. For instance, there are cameras (webcams) everywhere;
on traffic lights, on highways, in buildings. So, I think a world
that is constantly recording will come sooner or later. And, it is
up to us, researchers and technology developers, to make
sure that it is done right, with proper security, privacy, and
There are always scary uses of technology, but I believe this
technology can result in a lot of good, if done right
We have enhanced our eye-site with glasses, our time keeping
ability with watches, so why not enhance our memories as well?
But, Total Recall is not simply a memory enhancer, it has many
other applications in health-care, education, support of elderly
and people with disabilities. For instance ...
A microphone array placed on a hearing impaired person's
glasses can collect audio which gets converted to text and
displayed on their PDA in near real time.
To be able to recall a patient's food intake and environments
they've been in can help with discovery of allergies.
Monitoring food intake of diabetics can provide automatic
warning signals when appropriate.
Or being able to review a patient's state before and after
a serious health problem, like a heart attack, can help
doctors arrive at a more accurate diagnosis, in an
Total Recall presents many research challenges.
Real-time collection of data from millions of personal sensors
simultaneously is no small task. A campus like USC has at least
20,000 students, collecting that amount of information from small
wireless mobile devices would certainly be a challenge.
Imagine what it would be like to do this for a city like SF or LA.
Such a system might also change the way the Internet operates,
with millions of simultaneous uploads, not just downloads.
A lot of research has gone into designing the Internet to
handle massive downloads.
To be useful, scalable, and widely accessible, such a system
must operate over the untrusted public Internet. However,
people's privacy must be protected absolutely. There must
be absolutely no way to get to the data unless access is
explicitly granted by its owner.
There are also challenges in signal processing, for example,
due to noisy environments; in spite of these noisy environments,
we must be able to segment audio and video, and be
able to transform this data into forms useful for information
processing, such as indexing, searching, and querying.
All this must be done under the same stringent privacy
And, there are many more challenges, such as in natural language
processing, voice recognition, image understanding, and on and on ...
Our first application of Total Recall will be in education; we'll
experiment with a better learning environment for students
at USC, to enhance all aspects of learning, not just a lecture
We hope to first improve the students' quality of life since
they are a captive audience. And I hope this will pave the
way for a wider acceptance of such technology in our
society because, ultimately, I believe that this technology
will improve quality of life for a large number of people.
Thank you for listening ...
And, thank you again to the Okawa Foundation
for their generous support.