Periscope: Your Eyes Around the World

June 2015

YouTube is so yesterday. I mean, uploading videos? Today the action is Periscope. If you're gonna do video, do it live.

Take Chris Pirillo, for example. This morning I watched him eat breakfast while he celebrated Star Wars Day by talking about various and sundry trivia. Someone came to the door, he left the table, told the person he was on the phone, and then he was back.

Beginning in late March, Twitter users have had a new option: live video. Periscope is a new app from Twitter that lets you share live video from your mobile phone. The app lets you post a comment to Twitter and includes a link to your live video. Your live video consists of whatever you point your phone at.

I was curious about what sorts of things people would share, so I went to Twitter and did a search on "periscope.tv." Then in the search results, I clicked on any link that began with "periscope.tv." The first time I tried this I saw a couple sitting in an oyster bar having lunch. And a blurry, shaky video that resulted from a guy who was using Periscope while he was jogging.

This morning it was more interesting. I got the hilarious video stream from Chris Pirillo, a well-regarded technology writer. Also, Deepak Chopra was live streaming a press conference, followed by a question-and-answer session with people in recovery. Plus, Cristine Scabbia, a recording artist in Milano, Italy, was sharing her thoughts (in both Italian and English) with her many fans. Also going on was a panel discussion on contemporary landscape photography. Mark Shaw was holding forth on the topic "Great periscopers do these 15 things to get more viewers."

In an interesting article by writer Liz Gannes, she talks about her first experience of using Periscope. She was walking down to the San Francisco Ferry Building for lunch. Some 1,500 people watched her live video (many of them probably being her Twitter followers), including people from Italy, the Philippines, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. They asked her questions such as what was she having for lunch and whether she had seen any sharks in the Bay.

Periscope's biggest moment as of early May was probably the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match. You could pay up to $20,000 to see it in person or $100 to watch it live on per-per-view. Or, for free, you could watch one of the many Periscope streams from the smartphones of people in the arena. Thousands of people watched it this way. (Of course, the company offering the pay-per-view fight isn't happy and says it's intending to take legal action against Twitter and some of those who streamed the fight.)

There are now at least two websites that make it easy for you to sample live Periscope streams by aggregating them on a single web page. (No need to search on Twitter in the manner I described above.) The first may have been Periscope Streams. It simply presents a grid of static images of current streams. Click on one and you'll see the stream.

But on the day I was writing this, Stream by Dextro was launched. It's amazing. The company applies visual recognition to live streaming content — in real time. Their software recognizes what's in the image and then puts the stream in categories such as Talking Heads, Musicians, By the Water, Rooftop, and Dashcam. Plus, it creates an animated gif of a series of frames, giving you a much better picture of what's being streamed.

We've come a long way from the very first webcam, which was famously the Trojan Room coffee pot cam set up in a lab at the University of Cambridge in 1991. This proof-of-concept project let employees track whether there was any coffee left in the coffee pot before they went there to fill their cup.

Periscope essentially uses one's smartphone as a webcam. There were some 1.28 billion smartphone cameras manufactured in 2014, and what was once a novelty is now ubiquitous: billions of smartphones worldwide capable of streaming live video via the Internet.

It's as if we now have the ability to look into every corner of the planet. Some are concerned about privacy issues. Others feel the cameras-everywhere culture is simply one more technological change in our environment that we'll adapt to.

This Month's Hot Tips

Meerkat is an app similar to Periscope. Meerkat Streams aggregates live Meerkat streams. The Maven smartphone app for women offers lives video consultations with a nurse practitioner for a low fee. The Fountain smartphone app offers a live video chat to solve any home or garden issue, including interior design, for as little as $5 for 15 minutes.

© 2015 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen