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Real Time Omniscience

Our survey of live video services last week proved that there's plenty of content out there, but the bottleneck seemed to be a lack of discoverability in the interface. None of the sites we looked at really gave the sense of how much was happening at one, or provided a way to sift through the piles of live video to find something of relevance or interest. The major live webcam sites seem stuck in the YouTube / catalog approach. Luckily for us, JustinTV hosts an API that makes building experimental interfaces relatively painless. (Ustream offers a similar but slightly less robust API.)

I wanted to see whether bandwidth / API terms-of-service / human perception would allow for a massive grid of live feeds. The answer turns out to be "sort of." I wrote some code to take the most active JustinTV channels in the "lifecasting" category, and dump them into a grid.

The results are available here.

In case the system breaks, or I run through my API allocation, a video of the system in action is available below:

A few other re-workings of the catalog approach are of interest.

5000 Webcams places live feeds in geographical context on a google map. (Also available as a grid view.)

November 19 2009 at 12 PM