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“The important thing that’s going on here is something really radical,” Bove continued. “You’re not doing the edit until the viewer sees it. You’re creating this document that reacts to facts about you and your viewing circumstances and your history right now and turns that into video. The problem has been that there have been no tools to let someone who is a visual thinker create that. So that’s what this is about—the video has a sense of what’s in it.”
Building software that automatically examines the visual data itself to make the presentation smart is another way of considering personalized authoring. By analyzing image properties such as color, light levels, shapes, movement, and changes in the scene, so much can be learned about the images and their relation to one another that a cohesive story can be assembled.
Microsoft’s Craig Mundie described this authoring approach: “In the very near future, you’ll be able to take a movie of your business trip. Let’s say you have an hour’s worth of video, and when you come back you feed it into the computer and you say, ‘I’d like a two-and-a-half-minute executive summary of my trip, please. Here’s all the raw video.’ The software will actually analyze the raw video and figure out where the scene changes by looking for fundamentally different images, what was the relative importance of these based on the total amount of raw footage, and so on. Then it does all of the
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panning and zooming and adds a score, and out pops a two-and-a-half-minute movie. That’s the kind of thing that I think, either for business or personal communication, particularly in the video domain, makes this stuff a lot more usable, because otherwise movies made by average people, whether for business or personal reasons, are pretty much unusable. I saw a demo of some of our research work recently where 30 minutes of video produced a two-minute movie, including adding the score and the cinematography effects in a matter of seconds. That does give essentially on-demand, personalized video capability.”
Over the next three years, the evolution of the imaging ecosystem will provide those who are Going Visual with increasingly richer, more useful tools that are seamlessly integrated into their lives. Images are going to be as commonplace in our personal and professional lives as e-mail has become today. We’re going to be working in a multimedia world and trying to remember what a single-media world was all about.
Afterword: New Challenges Ahead
In the preceding pages, we’ve explored the historic opportunity that businesses large and small have today to harness a historic change in the tool set of communication and, by doing so, to become more productive, efficient, and profitable—in a word, more competitive. In this book, that has been our singular purpose.
We do, however, feel a responsibility to acknowledge that the issues raised by the emergence of visual communication as a mainstream application have vastly broader ramifications than merely offering the opportunity for businesses to become more competitive. The following is our contribution to what we hope will be a thoughtful debate of these broader social and political implications.
In our section on automatic imaging, we touched on the explosive growth in the numbers of observation and surveillance cameras being put into operation, both in space and on the ground. For a dramatic illustration, we quote a New York Times article of September 21, 2004, reporting on the planned installation of 250 new surveillance cameras by the City of Chicago:
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A highly advanced system of video surveillance that Chicago officials plan to install by 2006 will make people here some of the most closely observed in the world. Mayor Richard M. Daley says it will also make them much safer. “Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes,”
Mr. Daley said when he unveiled the new project this month. “They’re the next best thing to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot.” Police specialists here can already monitor live footage from about 2,000 surveillance cameras around the city, so the addition of 250 cameras under the mayor’s new plan is not a great jump. The way these cameras will be used, however, is an extraordinary technological leap. Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the city’s central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to send police officers to the scene immediately.
We are certainly not the first to notice, or to point out, the potential risks of widespread optical surveillance with respect to individual privacy and civil liberties. The notion that Big Brother is watching has raised concern along these lines for more than half a century. The difference is that today, in Mayor Daley’s words, Big Brother has more than 2,000 eyes to watch us in Chicago alone. That is not, intrinsically, a bad thing. People certainly want to be protected against terrorism and street crime, and visual surveillance systems are a powerful tool for doing so. But the very existence of such