Million dollar idea #2: co-locating the lens and the monitor

Sooner or later, televisions and monitors, big ones, will be so cheap that everyone, even the holdouts like me, will have one.

Right now, webcams and monitors are fairly primitive. When engineers solve the problem of framerate at a high-enough definition at a low-enough price, sooner or later (and there’s no reason why it won’t be sooner), monitors will become gigantic and just like televisions in their ubiquity.

Then, some other engineers will co-locate the camera lens with the monitor. The camera will capture a scene from the middle of the image that the person is watching on his big tv. In other words, the life-size image I see of the other person will be looking right at me as I look at it.

One more reason to leave the house will be gone. I will leave it only for food or work or sanity.

As technology stands right now, people with webcams can’t stare at the lens without stopping all other action. And the camera lens contains zero information; it’s inherently dull to look at. To do work or interact, a person with a webcam has to look away from the lens to his monitor. So most of the time, the people he’s interacting with see a profile of his face. That’s not only awkward, it’s disconcerting and a little bizarre.

With a lens embedded in the monitor itself, the normal view of a person on a webcam would be from the front, just like in normal life.

It’s gonna happen, and it’s gonna make the instigator very rich. It won’t be me, because I’m not a capitalist, and I can’t be bothered. My job in these situations is to point at it when it happens and say “SHIT! I could’ve made a million dollars!”

I’m comfortable with that.

update: Carole seems to think she’s heard this idea before. I seem to think she’s taking a page from the Man and is bent on harshing my buzz, for her own inscrutable ends.

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7 Responses to Million dollar idea #2: co-locating the lens and the monitor

  1. Drew Bixcube says:

    Google “Interrotron”. Not exactly the same but it goes for the same kind of effect, I think.

  2. ectostan says:

    Wow. Yeah, it’s not the same thing, but it’s close. It’s kind of clunky, though, right? I checked out one of the sites, and the diagram was involved, to say the least. I’m thinking more of a tiny wand-type camera lens embedded in the center of a monitor. Something an engineer could easily do now, although probably couldn’t have done (cheaply) when this Interrotron was cobbled together.

    It bears the same relationship to my idea as zeppelins bear to airplanes. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it makes me think that I’ll be saying “SHIT! I could’ve made a million dollars!” sooner than I thought.

  3. Drew Bixcube says:

    The challenge, as you know, is making the camera invisible so that it doesn’t impede the monitor at all. What’s cool about the Interrotron is that someone thought it was important enough to have people look *directly* at the camera, in order to achieve an effect, that they cobbled this clunky mess together. The difference between looking just slightly above, or to the left or right of the camera, and looking straight at it, is important enough to warrant all that effort. That’s why someone will make a million from your idea.

  4. Phineas says:

    a little more from sci-fi land, but…

    how about eye-phones? You put these contact lenses on which are able to create visual illusions in the same manner that headphones create audio illusions (the illusion of being in a room with a band playing the song you are hearing…). Only the visual illusion is the digital recreation of a human form overlayed onto your real visual field. So there’s no TV monitor at all, just the image out there — you sitting on my sofa, and vice versa.

  5. ectostan says:

    Not only is the challenge to make the lens invisible–which I think is possible now via fiber optics, and at the very least a projector-type monitor, where the wand could be behind the surface, totally unnoticed—but also there’s the challenge of making the lens automatically directable, so that its point of view is always located near the eyes of whoever’s image is being projected. I’ve tried to imagine if that would make the interaction bizarre or more natural; I’m not sure. I mean, it would definitely allow the viewer to peer into the other person’s eyes, just like reality, but it would also make the background shift in an odd way, in order to keep the eyes and the head centered in the monitor. Maybe it could be a feature that could be turned off if it became disconcerting.

    I know it sounds kind of involved, but I think people with engineering and software expertise, right now, could say “yeah, I could do that” if someone with money asked them to do it.

    Eyephones would be terrific, but I have no feeling for how an engineer would respond if asked to do it. If it’s not possible now, though, there’s no reason it won’t be possible in the future. At the rate computers are improving the speed at which they can pump ones and zeros in and out of themselves—and in and out of the net—both these things are likely to exist when people with money think to make more money by creating them.

    Regardless, I want both of these things. Mine now, David’s in the future.

  6. Phineas says:

    The term “eyephones is starting to bug me. It’s intended to suggest, “sorta like headphones, only eyephones…” except headphones makes more sense etymylogically. The phonic device is attached to one’s head, hence headphones. IN the case of eye phones, the video device is attached to one’s eyes, so something like eye-vis would be etymylogically more correct. BUt that would be stupid, and eyephones sounds cool.

    eyephones.com is registered to a domain squatter, I noticed.

  7. mrs. George McFern says:

    i’m thinking… nostril-cam. and you should all just be given a million dollars anyway, because you continue to display the same cool factor you have since you were … lets just say younger.

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