Project Runway Designer Diana Eng Wins Top Prize at Yahoo Hack Day

Project Runway season two designer Diana Eng took the top prize at Yahoo Hack Day as part of an all women team who also included Emily Albinski and Audrey Roy. Their winning project, called “Blogging in Motion”, combined a camera, a pedometer, a handbag, and the Flickr API to create a device that would snap a picture after every few steps and then automatically upload those pictures to a Flickr blog. The hidden camera portion is not original. Afterall, perverts have been making these for years to create upskirt pictures and take voyeur pictures at the beach. But the concept of combining a hidden camera with a pedometer and uploading it to a blog is quite original. As a proof of concept, this project works but I doubt if this device will ever find a market as using it will open the user up to all kinds of invasion of privacy lawsuits.

In the United States, as in many countries, individuals have an expectation of privacy when not in public view. So any user of this device will have to remember to turn it off once they walk out of pubic view. It’s not as simple as remembering to turn if off upon entering someones house. There are many place in public where it is illegal to photograph and distribute. It is important to distinguish between the taking of a picture and the distribution of a picture. Different laws govern these two areas. Even in the distribution of pictures, there is a distintion between editorial use and commercial use. You could be walking on the street one minute and five minutes later, you could be entering a dressing room where it is obviously illegal to shoot pictures. In this post 911 era, there are also many places which are illegal to photograph such as certain bridges and tunnels in New York, nuclear power plants, military installations, etc. There are also restrictions against publishing copyrighted content so a picture of an original work of art may violate the copyright of the original artist. Carrying around this device along with the ability to automatically upload the pictures without user review is an invitation for a lawsuit.

Privacy and legality issues aside, it is a fairly original concept. This latest win is consistent with Diana’s history of combining fashion with technology. Her biography for Project Runway states in part:

Diana Eng strives to integrate fashion and technology. She hopes to make the fashion-minded more interested in the research process and the scientific-minded more interested in fashion as a form of self-expression. Diana is currently co-creating an online show called “SWITCHit.tv,” a do-it-yourself fashion Web site designed to switch girls onto technology by teaching them how to make accessories and apparel with embedded electronics from everyday supplies.

In an interview, she once stated that her ultimate design gig would be designing for Apple’s Steve Jobs saying “I would have a lot of fun designing an outfit for Steve that incorporates elements of technology, math and science so that he can better express himself through the clothes he wears.” Diana’s life is well documented in her blogs going back to 2003 and much of it includes pictures of herself and her projects. So carrying around a live camera purse is not so unexpected of her. But if you have ever watched Big Brother or checked out random videos of people on YouTube, you know that the documentation of someones daily life is utterly boring and mundane as witnessed by these sample shots from the “Blogging In Motion” hidden camera.

While there are very few compact digital cameras with built-in wifi, the team chose a Nokia 6682 which offers 640×480, 0.3 megapixel VGA resolution. Obviously, there are better camera phones on the market but even 1 mp camera phones suffer from poor image quality and the shots from this phone is nothing to write home about. Despite its lower image quality, using a camera phone is a more logical choice since mobile signals have a much larger coverage area than wifi.

Black Box Nation

Diana Eng and Emily Albinski collaborate to form the brand Black Box Nation. The duo first made headlines in October 2005 when their concept Inflatable Dress made the cover of I.D. magazine. Black Box Nation featured the dress in their runway show back in May 2006. You can view the Quicktime video here.
Here’s a gallery of images from the Yahoo Hack Day on Flickr

Picture of the “Blogging In Motion” components
Further reading regarding taking pictures in public.