HopCam is line-of-sight camera system that allows spectators to journey by through a live network of broadcasting hosts.
Catherine Jou, Hyun Kim, Xiao Yan, Janet Kim
The overall design space for this project was to come up with a line-of-sight camera of the future. My group decided to approach this topic through the lens of the catchphrase “your eyes are my eyes”- in other words, the idea of a human using another human’s eyesight for their own means. Each member of our team generated our own takes on the idea -- my idea was an “experience delivery service” where you could rent another human being to experience a remote event -- then came together to discuss our ideas together:
A big challenge that many of the ideas we generated in our design space faced was that the product needed to be adopted by society at large. In order for these systems to work, we needed to make a product that would be useful to many kinds of people in order to build a wide enough network of voluntary broadcasters.
We identified two main human motives - the desire to share our own experiences, as well as our desire to stick our noses into the lives of others - as incentives for users across the globe to want to participate as both broadcasters and spectators in our system.
The HopCam journey is like a live version of a choose-your-own-adventure book.
The spectator goes around collecting experiences of people's adventures, one hop at a time. There is no way to predict what might happen in a live stream but it’s the unpredictable nature of the journey that makes the experience fun.
Hosts are people who share their live point of view as they go about their day. Anyone can become a host by wearing the device, turning it on, and sharing the live recording with the web.
Spectators are voyeurs who hop from host to host, observing life through the eyes of the broadcasters Each viewer starts their journey through a unique video entry point. From there, they can choose to stay with their host, or hop into other cameras that happen to enter into the line-of-sight of their current host.
The spectator clicks on a link to a HopCam stream, which opens up a video with an overlay. This overlay includes information pertinent to the journey experience, including: current location, local time, number of other viewers on the same host, time elapsed on current host,
total distance travelled, and total number of hops. When another HopCam is within view, an icon shows up that can be clicked to hop to the view of another host.
The camera is a simple device that can be clipped onto a collar or other location near the host’s line of sight. The camera has a simple on/off switch that starts and stops the live-stream broadcast. It also is programmed to send and pick up signals from other HopCams that enter the host’s line of sight, and relay this information back to the computer interface to display.
The body of the host acts as an interface that physically moves the camera to different viewpoints and locations. The spectators never directly interact with the host aside from being ferried around in the host’s point of view. The host is simply a human vehicle that gives the viewer access to other HopCams that may come into view.
Our group made a video prototype in order to showcase the UI of the system. While planning our video prototype, we blocked out a basic sequence of interactions we wanted to film, but also left some room to film on the fly in order to capture an authentic example of a user journey. One of our team members laser cut a physical prototype of the camera out of acrylic to use as a prop during filming. We filmed in several locations around Seattle in order to showcase that a user journey can be local, or jump distances as well. After we finished getting all our footage, our team divided up the task of editing the film. My role was to be in charge of editing the initial sequence of cuts, as well as manually handling the motion tracking and animation for all the icons in Adobe AfterEffects.
The HopCam interface that we overlaid over the video footage, went through several iterations of design with varying fonts, colors, logo designs, and display types before settling on our final design. We went with a semiopaque flat overlay, using the fonts Slim Jim and Big John. The UI contains host stats, spectator stats, as well as user icons. We settled on a minimalist aesthetic because we wanted the UI to be a component that the user is able to switch into the background when their attention is on the video.
The goal of our design was to make the information about the host and the journey available but not distract from the video watching experience, and our video prototype demonstrated relative success of that goal. Some features that would be worth considering for future iterations include streaks that show other users jumping between hosts, and a number inside the icon to indicate the spectator count of other hosts. Additionally, the HopCam has many other potential uses: it can be used as a boredom pasttime, an escape from reality, a way to vicariously live life through others, a way to to remotely observe an event or location of interest, a way to travel the world, a way to monitor persons of interest, and last but not least, a way to gain empathy into the viewpoints of others.