What is Lifelogging?

Lifelogging is a form of computing that consists of a digital record of an individual’s experiences, captured multi-modally and stored as a personal multimedia archive. It is a concept that helps capture, store and distribute everyday experiences and information for objects and people and is part of the larger movement of the "Quantified Self", or self-knowledge through self-tracking. Lifelogging offers data-driven insights into the patterns and habits of our lives and helps record the daily activities of human beings in images, video, sound and other data. There are two primary forms of lifelogging: object and user lifelogs. Object lifelogs maintain a narrative of use, environment and condition for physical objects. In contrast, user lifelogs allow people to make similar recordings of their own lives. Similar to web analytics that are conducted to collect website data on who is visiting, from where and how often, lifelogging is a form of data collection and analysis with material that pertains to the human experience.


The History of Lifelogging

The history of lifelogging is complex. Lifelogging began as a concept in the mid 1940s. In 1945, Vannevar Bush introduced the world to the concept of the Memex, a proposal for a hypermedia system which would allow the organization of various forms of knowledge (books, records, images, videos, etc.) that a person might accumulate in a lifetime. The information that was stored in the systems could be left for the person themselves to examine or shared with other people, which inherently created trails or links with the recorded data. Bush described this system as a device to organize a lifetime of knowledge and was regarded by Bush as an "intimate supplement to one’s memory" that very closely resembles a library. One of the reasons why Memax is considered to be the first form of lifelogging is because of the way it let people record their personal experiences and share or link it with others data. It also introduced the concept of wearing a camera to capture photos that were deemed as important or interesting to the user.

Steven Mann started research in the 1980s and began developing increasingly smaller wearable sensing and lifelog capture devices.
He designed and built a wearable computer with video capability and set about recording aspects of his life with his technology which he continued to improve. Through his work, he very heavily emphasized the importance of PoV (Point of View) when gathering lifelogs. Mann has developed many generations of wearable camera technologies and addressed many of the fundamental challenges in wearable lifelogging technologies.


The most influential actor in the area is Gordon Bell, co author of the book Total Recall. He created the software called MyLifeBits, which acted as a lifetime store of everything. The MyLifeBits software supported full-text search, text & audio annotations, hyperlinking, reporting, visualising and clustering between content.

Cathal Gurrin, at Dublin City University, started her own form of lifelogging by creating a SenseCam in mid-2006 to gather a detailed and extensive visual archive of life experience. Gathering data for 16-18 hours per day, the archive consists of almost 14 million automatically-captured images of life-experience, along with time-aligned sensor data.

The Transformation of Lifelogging

While initial lifelogging efforts were very large in scheme, this technology has changed today to track more personalized and specific experiences of a user. In contrast to the efforts of Bell and Mann to capture every aspect of ones day, lifelogging has become much more tangible of idea as people choose to focus on specific aspects of their day to day life that they want to focus on. There a typically 4 types of lifelogging tools that have shaped the way this technology has come to exist today:

  • Mood: People who experience regular emotional fluctuations are turning to mood tracking apps to help them identify when and why they're experiencing low points and changes that can be made in their daily lives to help improve their emotional state.
  • Sleep: Wearable sleep technology and smartphone apps are designed to decode your sleeping schedules, helping people identify how much and the quality of sleep they're getting, as well as possible triggers to avoid.
  • Nutrition: Nutrition applications enable users to input data on what they are eating and how much they are consuming. This technology is particularly for those suffering from chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, etc.
  • Fitness: Monitoring activity and progress provides similar health benefits to nutrition applications. This technology can help identify how much exercise a person is getting, how many calories are being lost, and if improvements are being made in the physical activity the user is engaging in.

What is the Future of Lifelogging?

Lifelogging is planned to improve accuracy in law enforcement, better education, training, counseling, self and social awareness, and conflict resolution. There are also a number of psychological uses of lifelogging that researchers have discussed, such as using the technology for a more detailed capture of the semantics of life, where concepts such as sentiment/mood/emotion could better captured into the lifelog. Some researchers have discussed the creation of the individual in digital form (an avatar) by using the detailed trace from the lifelog as source data. Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor and futurist, stated that “the human is an information processing machine, the memory of which can be replicated/enhanced indefinitely inside of an information processing machine that relies on lifelog data as the source of memory data." Kurzweil highlights the limitless bounds that exist with a technology like lifelogging.

Benefits of Lifelogging

There are a plethora of benefits tied to the usage of this technology. Here are some of the most heavily discussed by current researchers and developers:

  • Record of one’s life: Recording the sights and sounds one encounters throughout the day
  • Enable collaborative sharing and aggregation of life experiences
  • Retention of past experiences
  • More accuracy in law enforcement, better education, training, counseling, self and social awareness, conflict resolution, etc.
  • Public health benefits from monitoring sleep, exercise, diet, etc.
  • Knowledge about how we live our lives/can be used politically, economically, etc.

Challenges of Lifelogging

There are a variety of challenges that exist with the usage of lifelogging. Here are some of the ways in which lifelogging can be improved:

  • Software issues: How does one tag, index, search, and summarize the terabytes of rich media archives of one's own life?
  • Older generations may have some difficulty adjusting
  • Security Issues: Inevitable attempts to hack, game or otherwise manipulate these systems
  • Privacy Issues: The wearable cameras raise questions of permission from the people who are captured, especially if those photos are later published
  • Smartphones and Social Media: Social media and mobile devices is where people dedicate their lifelogging energies. It is where people today think to record and share their lives, where they are tagging, forming groups, and being reminded of memories

Current Examples of Lifelogging

  • Sony Lifelog
    • The Lifelog app is broken down into two sections: The Fitness section which measures information such as calories burnt, step taken, records how many minutes/ hours you ran or walked and how long you slept for. The second section of the Lifelog is a visual representation of your digital life.
  • Fitbit
    • The main purpose of a Fitbit is step tracking and activity tracking. It is a way to measure how much physical activity you have each day and some are worn like watches and others clip onto your clothing.
  • Instant App
    • Instant tracks your entire life automatically and puts it on your dashboard. It helps you lifelog your phone usage time, places, fitness, sleep & travel.
  • Journaly App
    • This app helps you privately journal about your life. You can manually operate it or auto-journal, by allowing your phone to track destinations, weather, fitness, travel and sleep.
  • Sleeply App
    • Sleeply automatically keeps track of your sleep duration. It gives you interesting data like the approximate number of sleep cycles, average time asleep and also how many time you wake up in between

The Failure of Google Clips™

Google Clips™ was a hands-free camera built with Google’s smarts that let users capture and view more of the spontaneous moments with the people and pets who matter to them. Google Clips has machine learning built-in. The camera learns to recognize the people who matter most to users and decides the best moments to capture and keep. The endeavor was essentially a commercial failure, as the camera was not capturing memorable moments, had tons of insignificant footage, and a number of users expressed privacy concerns with the camera consistently being on and in view.

For more information on why this initiative from Google failed, check out this video!



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