Before photography became widespread, the average person had no way of knowing what their ancestors from just a few generations past looked like, say the founders of Yourbot.
Yourbot aims to help users record not just their pictures but their personalities, using a mix of video and sound recording and profile questions to create digital archives users can share with their families now and after their passing, says founder Ekim Kaya.
"You can think of this as a digital time capsule," he says, pointing to a prototype Android-powered device that will let Yourbot customers access recordings of their loved ones. A projector and mirror inside the handheld device help create a three-dimensional image, Kaya says.
"We didn’t want to use an LED screen," he says. "We decided to go with a projector that makes it look a little bit from the past."
Users will be able to answer questions about their personal histories—their childhood neighborhoods, their lifelong relationships toward money and career, their thoughts on the keys to happiness—and about current events, says Kaya.
"Let’s say there is a conflict going in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine—we’ll send them a question about the solution to this debate," he says. "We will be curating up-to-date questions so that we will extract more information."
Yourbot started as a project of Kaya's company Botego, which builds automated conversation agents for automated customer service, he says. And the tool will let users record their answers as video, or as audio, or as plain text; should they choose audio or text, Botego's technology will create an animated video for them to share, he says.
The same technology will also let them create representations of historical figures based on their writings and public statements, he says.
"This would be amazing for children, or visitors in a museum," he says.
Users will be able to store their recordings in Kaya's cloud and choose between making their responses public or private, he says.
"We will be using encryption to keep all data private on the cloud," he says. "If you choose to share your persona publicly, I’m sure many interesting things would happen."
The company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in September to fund mass production of the devices, which the company plans to ship by the middle of 2015, and aims to set up a foundation that will pledge to help users and their families preserve their recordings for the next 200 years, Kaya says.
"Once the Kickstarter project ends, we will be able to offer user accounts to our backers, and they will be able to start building their personas," he says.
The company's already had positive feedback from users who want to preserve their memories, or those of their loved ones, he says.
"There is a lady who says, 'My mother is losing her memory,'" he says. "This is so important to her. I want her to be one of the testers."