Memories of a different kind: Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch

There is something amazing happening all around us. Technology is becoming ubiquitous, accessible, cheap, connected, and always available. Our mobile phones are probably the best example of the ubiquity of sensor/data/communication platforms. Onboard sensors are able to capture the sight, sounds, location etc of what these phones are pointed at. And we have seen amazing companies like Youtube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc form to enable us to do more with that captured data.

Human beings in general have 5 senses. Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch. Of course, as my friend Jeremy Conrad pointed out to me, we continue to discover additional senses as well, and in fact one of our portfolio company founders, Todd Huffman, has actively worked to enable a 6th sense in his body. We experience our lives through our senses. The importance of these senses are probably best understood by people who lose one or more of these along way.

However, the reality is the the vast majority of what we sense using our sensory networks is lost almost immediately in the next instant. Very little, if any, is retained in our minds. We take tons of photos and videos, and used to write diaries, to try and ‘record’ our memories: kids growing up, favorite moments at vacations, sights in far-off places, smells in exotic locations, feel of new surfaces and materials. But its still a tiny tiny portion of what we sense.

Imagine if we were able to record everything that we sensed during our life. Imagine all of that was immediately recordable, indexed, searchable, replay-able and share-able. Imagine if I could share with my mom in Pakistan not only a photo of the delicious food I might be enjoying in San Francisco, but also the taste and the smell? Imagine doing so instantaneously. Now imagine reliving an experience, like reminiscing food my mom cooked by actually using data stored from when I actually got to enjoy it in person? Would that not be awesome?

Physical sensors for all the above are now becoming available (optical sensors are obvious but smell, for example, may be not so obvious – Lux interested in this space so help us find the best tech). But technology is moving fast and digitization of everything we sense is clearly on the horizon. More importantly, these sensors will only become cheaper and can be with us at all times: woven into our clothes and wearables etc, and connected to the cloud for long term storage and analytics. They will record not only what we sense, but perhaps also what the world around us was sensing…and storing the complete ‘view’ for us to use at a later time, including recreating more complete experiences.

Is it not possible to imagine a world where above would be possible? I believe not only will this be possible, in fact it will be the future. We won’t be limited to storing fractured, half-captured data on our lives and our experiences. We will be able to tap into the ‘whole view’. Everything we are able to sense with our bodies will be captured using physical sensors, and not used in some George Orwellian 1984 manner, but used to augment our memories, our lives, and to allow us to live in the past, present and future perhaps simultaneously. The dividends will be huge in not just our entertainment and augmentation of human experience, but also in helping people that lack certain senses to potentially experience the world via others’ experiences in a more engaged way, help people deal with psychological illnesses, depression etc. Amazing science, research and invention…and also amazing entrepreneurship opportunities possible in this area. I am obviously ahead of myself, but I am excited about such a future.