Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Dissident Camera that Can't Be Confiscated?

The rise in the use of cell phone cameras and cheap, high-quality video gear has been a really interesting development for journalism. Citizens routinely video or photo monitor the behavior of police at protests, for instance, and upload them to the Internet.

One problem with this is that the camera or digital media can be confiscated as the the police in Portland allegedly did (and this is apparently common, as noted here, here, here, here, and here).

But with the combination of cheap, high quality cameras with cheap, portable WiFi devices, this social problem can be overcome with a technical solution. It should be pretty easy to build a camera device which uploads video via wifi directly to a site like youtube or a server outside of repressive countries.

A simple solution that could work almost right now without any hardware modification would be to write some shell scripts for the Nokia N810 or similar. These devices have everything you need: A built-in video camera, a wifi card, and it's based on Linux, so you can program for it, and there are already ssh clients available.

Here are a few problems with that: Internet is not available everywhere in most cities (but cell phone connections are), and the Nokia doesn't have a very high quality camera.

A more complex but flexible solution would be to add a bluetooth card to an existing high quality camera (here's a video camera and a still camera that already have bluetooth). The Bluetooth card could transmit photos to an Internet-enabled cell phone in your pocket like the Palm Treo, which could upload it to youtube or what-have-you. Similarly, a video-enabled cell phone like that Treo could upload the video directly to youtube.

Remember, you don't have to stream the video at viewable speed, just fast enough so that if it gets confiscated you will have already uploaded it.

One problem with that approach is that Bluetooth is kinda slow. It also requires three devices (camera, phone, and Internet server), and the camera and phone would require specific programming which isn't necessarily that easy to do since they're often based on proprietary platforms.

Anyway, this is bound to happen eventually, and maybe has already? Does anyone sell a digital video camera with an "upload to youtube" feature built-in?

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