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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Video bidding in time and space

If you've spent any time on reddit in the past month or two, odds are you've come across one of those Russian car crash videos. Somehow, it seems like half the cars on the road over there now sport front-facing video cameras. They catch all kinds of ridiculous driving disasters.

What really surprised me was that one of these crashes actually had video from multiple angles. There's one car which was involved in the crash, and another one which happened to be going the other direction towards the wreck around the same time.

How, exactly, do these videos find each other? I mean, it's wild enough to have two cameras running at the same time and place before something random happens, but then having them meet up online a couple of days later just blows my mind. How does this even work?

This got me thinking about a potential business opportunity for someone so inclined. You'd put out a "bid" for a set of time/space coordinates because you wanted the video from that area. Maybe you got in an epic car crash and need it to back up your claim that the other guy did something stupid instead of you. Or maybe you want to contest a ticket you got from an automated traffic light camera using independent evidence.

Such a bid would need to include at least one point in space and a radius, with the understanding that you only care about video which captured that area. It might even have multiple points if something happened in separate spots. Imagine road rage where one car bumps another at point A, then two miles down the road at B, it all comes to a grisly end.

A bid would also need a time interval. If it's too early, you get stuff which is not very useful to your case. If it's too late, you only get the emergency responders, or people exchanging insurance information, or whatever.

If this existed, then there would be a reason for other people to set up a bunch of cameras everywhere they could, like in their cars, on their bicycle helmets, or looking out from their residences onto public intersections. Then they'd just need to keep an eye out for interesting bids and see if any of their recordings might fulfill the request.

I would think that eventually, the recording software would get smart about this and would be able to keep track of where you were and what your camera actually saw. Then it would periodically review outstanding bids and look for matches. This is when the magic happens.

Eventually, you'd have people setting up cameras all over the place which would auto-approve a bid at or above a certain value. These would be the cameras which point out into public space and don't need to be reviewed ahead of time. Then they'd also have their personal cameras (car, bike, whatever) which would still be checked for "hits" but would need human approval before being uploaded. This would allow the owner to preserve their own privacy (while exposing whatever someone else did, strangely enough).

Someone would eventually realize that the arrow of time on this system need not point backward. They could set up requests for recordings for times which have not happened yet. Maybe they're going to propose to a special someone in a public place and want to make sure the event is captured. This would be just one way to get that done.

It might even be interesting if the various government entities with their arsenals of cameras got into the video supply business. If you knew that something happened within range of a given camera, you might put out a request knowing they could be the one to fulfill it. This might serve to pump some more money into the strained budgets of public agencies.

Finally, to really make this interesting, the "future bid" site could include a series of unique items which could be placed in a shot by the photographer. This would establish that a picture took place on or after whatever date that unique item was published. It's like including a newspaper in the shot, but this would be something quirky and special just for that site.

Personally, I'd use it as an outlet for humor and create marker items with Onion-ish headlines, like "Giant Beaver Terrorizes National Forest". All of these would be documented and available for later review to establish when a picture had been taken (or, unfortunately, edited).

What can I say? I'm just full of ideas.