In Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash the author writes of the “Gargoyle” - a broadcaster laden with recording gadgets and acting as a human surveillance device. Writes Stephenson, “The payoff for this self-imposed ostracism is that you can be in the Metaverse all the time.”

That was 1992 and lifestreaming is no longer repugnant to the average netizen. In fact, according to a recent TechCrunch article, Justin.TV may be made into a feature film. Although I wasn’t incredibly excited for The Social Network, I believe that the early origins of Justin.TV, coupled with the history of its technology, could make for an incredible story.

Photo Courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

THE EARLY DAYS: THE AUDIENCE AS DRAMA
Live broadcasting his life from a camera attached to a lopsided baseball cap, 23-year-old Kan’s channel programming had a slow start and initially consisted of 4 programmers broadcasting their LAN parties. But within a week of launch, audience members found ways to spoof the JustinTV caller ID and the channel became exceedingly more entertaining.

While the video is no longer available, in one instance the SFPD raided the Justin.TV headquarters with guns drawn after being dispatched to the scene of what they believed to be a stabbing. Shortly after, the fire department was also wrongly dispatched and viewers logged in to see if the action would unfold in real time.

While it was a detriment to his relationship with his landlord, Kan wasn’t so much taking audiences on a journey, as he was crowdsourcing adventures. Whether good or bad, this two-way audience feedback loop was groundbreaking in the way many of us experienced entertainment.

THE TECHNOLOGY: FROM HAT CAMERAS TO EYEBALLS
From a technical perspective, wearable computing was an extremely interesting problem to solve at the time of Justin.TV’s first broadcast. Although it was only 5 years ago, Justin.TV came about in a pre-iPhone era where battery life, processing speed, and network speeds were major concerns.

While Kan is perhaps the best known live broadcaster, enthusiasts like professor Steven Mann have been hooking up television antennas to copper lined helmets since the early 80s. As you can see from Mann’s evolution image, wearable computing has come a long way.



THE FUTURE & BEYOND
Today, wearable computing and live streaming is still definitely on the fringe, but with a feature film behind it, it has the potential to become mainstream. Although most will opt for a basic cellphone camera, there are those who will go to extremes. Case in point: Canadian Rob Spence is already wearing a camera-equipped glass eye.

Eyeborg Phase II from eyeborg on Vimeo.