Early Adopter: Video App Lifelapse Aims to Give Your Whole Day an Instant Replay

Sometimes life needs a do-over.

Lifelapse doesn’t go quite that far, but it might give yours an instant-replay button.

The app, built for Apple’s iPhone and currently in beta, is made to be switched on, and then left alone to create a video from images it captures every 30 seconds.

It was designed to be paired with a companion item called the Lifepouch–a fabric iPhone case with a neck strap that keeps the camera pointed at the world in front of the user while the app runs.

While it seems pretty simple, why would I want to capture a stop-motion video of my day–especially if it isn’t easily turned off?

I spoke with the one of the app’s creators, Glenn Wolters, a multimedia design student at NHT University in The Netherlands, to see what I might be missing about always-on video capture.

He explained that Lifelapse started out as a plan to design a type of life-capture different from the photo and video apps and services that have become common.

“We called it unconscious moment creation, it objectively documents your life.” Wolters said.

The point, it seems, is to take the conscious mind of the wearer out of the equation. Users can’t crop out an old boyfriend, or add a filter to make the sunset look nice.

It is an attempt to add visual data to the growing list of data types that most people already stream constantly into the world from their phones, wallets, computers and, thanks to products like Fitbit, their very bodies.

The concern with academic, design school-born products is that they often remain curiosities rather than achieving profitability–eventually dissolving into the vaporware ether.

Wolters did acknowledge the risk.

“We aren’t really sure about applications for people in real life–we want to provide people with the tools to capture their life,” he said. “Then we will see what they do with it.”

Beyond a lack of use cases and the need to find a market, Lifelapse has a few significant technical hurdles to overcome if it is ever to be more than beta.

The current iteration runs the camera constantly, which drops the iPhone 4 battery life down below four hours.

Forget the app store’s notoriously stringent acceptance policies–such a hit to battery life might put off even the most interested user.

But Wolters insisted that he is coming at this project as an entrepreneur first, and a designer second.

He said Lifelapse is investigating business applications for its products, such as redesigning the Lifepouch as a conference name-badge that would allow people to capture that experience to share with others, or be aggregated by the event organizer.

That idea seems less far-fetched as our always-at-hand smartphones slowly replace items like wallets and keys. The same technology that could enable payments via a mobile device could just as easily put them at the center of event ticketing, or store a meal preference.

The whole notion of the constantly-on camera might seem like an app too far, but Facebook claims that half a billion people have gotten comfortable enough with the concept of online sharing to log in regularly.

Lifelapse isn’t even the only entrant into this strange new space of passive video capture.

Ear-mounted camera maker Looxcie already makes a stand-alone product that looks like a cross between a late-90s Bluetooth earpiece and something the Borg from “Star Trek” would wear.

And, as was announced on Wednesday, the soon to be released iPad 2 will feature two cameras and several video sharing apps.

What’s most interesting is that there are now rumblings of investigation and investment in this space, and with higher quality cameras and higher data-transfer speeds coming to smartphones, video capture and sharing may be the mobile-social Web’s next major growth area.

Is Lifelapse the solution you’ll see on every smartphone in two years?

Probably not.

But Wolters, and folks like him who are interested in living what they call a “quantitative life,” are already developing and using tools to capture all that they are, and use that data however they see fit.

As for where Lifelapse and passive video might fit in to the data-driven future, Wolters said:

“If I go somewhere and then tell you about it, how is that different from actually showing you what it was like to be there? We don’t know yet, but we might start to, in a few months or years. It could be like Twitter has been to the revolutions in the Middle East–a deeper way of telling a story, but without the potential bias of writing.”