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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Camera specs take candid snaps
Soon your sunglasses could help you capture all the important moments of your life.

A prototype pair of sunglasses with a camera built in to them has been created by Hewlett Packard researchers.

"It means you now have a wearable camera which nobody will notice and can take pictures while being involved in events," said Huw Robson from Hewlett Packard.

But experts say there could be privacy implications if this sort of technology becomes part of everyday life.

Frame your shots

The sunglasses developed at the Hewlett Packard labs in Bristol in the west of England sport a camera that constantly takes images of what a wearer sees. The camera also has an off-switch to preserve privacy.

Huw Robson
This is part of the story of electronics becoming smaller and embedded in everything and cheap enough so that people can afford it
Huw Robson, HP Digital Media Lab
"If you are capturing your life as you walk around and you can simply and easily filter through that when you get home and get the important shots, that is going to be of great value to people," said Mr Robson, manager of the Bristol Digital Media Lab.

"Clearly that means that you get a lot of images and part of the problem that we are solving is how do you sort through those images to find the good images among all the junk," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

To tackle image overload, the HP system captures information about images, called metadata, too.

This extra data keeps track of how and where a picture was taken and can spot if a subject was walking or turning.

The system also inspects images to see if people are smiling or looking directly at the camera lens.

"That sort of information can help us with the image processing," said Mr Robson, "to look at pictures and qualify them."

"This lets us judge whether they are good pictures in terms of composition and how well are they framed, but also in terms of the timing," he said, "is it the right sequence of images?"

The images can be processed in a handheld computer attached to the sunglasses or on a conventional home computer.

Disturbing trend

The camera glasses have already been tested in the real world. One triallist used them to take images of their children playing catch, while another wore a pair while playing football.

"This is part of the story of electronics becoming smaller and embedded in everything and cheap enough so that people can afford it," said Mr Robson.

But some are concerned about the notion of people being able to secretly take candid snapshots of the world around them.

"It's a cool piece of technology but frankly the idea of people wandering around wearing sunglasses photographing me all the time is really disturbing," said technology analyst Bill Thompson.

"HP need to look at the implications on privacy and stuff like that before they flood the market with these."

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