Colour of Life Wall

Cathal Gurrin & DCU (IE)

Colour of Life Wall

Sensing the Colour of Life, 2006 - 2015

What if we could see exactly what lights up our lives, and explore the colours that comprise our everyday experience? Wearable cameras can create a detailed visual archive of a person’s life, activities and experiences. The INSIGHT Centre for Data Analytics have developed a visualisation technique that can capture how a person’s lifestyle varies with changing days, weeks, or years. 

This incorporates their Colour of Life algorithms, which can represent an overview of millions of images within a single visualisation. The algorithms focus on the relationship between lifestyle and colour, by capturing the colours to which we are exposed in our lives (and captured by images), collating similar colours for specific time periods and depicting how those colours change over time with a flowing timeline.

Dublin City University has been actively involved in lifelogging research since 2006. Their work has used a variety of wearable sensors, from the Microsoft Sensecam wearable camera to Google Glass. The DCU lifelogging lab, at the INSIGHT Centre for Data Analytics, is continuing to develop state-of-the-art lifelogging technologies seeking interdisciplinary partners to apply their technologies to solve real-world problems.

About Cathal
I’m a lecturer at the School of Computing at Dublin City University, leads the lifelogging research group, and is a Funded Investigator in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. My research interest is personal analytics and lifelogging, or ‘a search engine for the self’. I also have an interest in information retrieval and a particular interest in how people access information from mobile devices. I have gathered a digital memory since 2006 that includes over 15 million lifelog images, and hundreds of millions of other sensor readings. I  regularly contribute to international media outlets.

How did you get started lifelogging/analysing data?
It has been a research focus of mine since 2006. I actually began logging my location in 2005, but augmented that with visual lifelogging in 2006. My research interests have centred on searching through vast lifelog archives ever since.

Why do you find lifelogging so interesting?
It is the ultimate challenge for a search engine scientist. How to capture all of life’s experience digitally and make any moment available in an omnipresent manner.

How do people in your life react when they discover the extent of your lifelogging?
They naturally find it interesting and are curious about the motivations and the privacy implications.

What's your favourite time of day and why?
6am. Time to be productive.

Do you remember the first electronic device you owned?
A small yellow portable radio.

What do you want done with your data after you die?
Undecided. Depends on whether I get to go through it first.

Is there anything about yourself that you would absolutely never like tracked?

What insights on your life has tracking your data revealed?
This is not my focus. It is not a self-observation exercise. I am designing the next generation of search engine: that which operates over a lifetime of personally-sensed data.

What websites, magazines or other resources inspire, confound, amuse or irritate you?
All lifelogging hardware is not up to requirements yet. We are currently designing a more suitable personal sensing technology.

What is your go-to piece of tech or software for lifelogging?
It is software, but also books, press and nearly a decade of experience.

We're creating a speculative timeline of the possible future of lifelogging. We're asking everyone to make one prediction for a future date. What's yours? Feel free to think big!
By 2020, the average person will wear a camera and will capture random life experiences into their personal archive. This wearable camera will be head mounted (e.g. on glasses) and will provide immediate contextually-aware assistance in all situations.


Cathal Gurrin wishes to thank Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland for supporting his ongoing research.