Thursday, November 26, 2009

BeMeBlackBox Released

BeMeBlackBox for the Android operating system is an app for your vehicle.
What it does is simple: It continuously records and deletes video from a windshield mounted phone. When you crash, or when you press the Save button, it saves the last X seconds, and the previous video file just in case. You can set the length of the video file.
If selected, it will also upload the file automatically to YouTube.
No more saying "I wish I had recorded that!".
Now you say "I recorded that with BeMeBlackBox".

All Motorola users (Cliq, Droid, etc...): The Motorola phones have a certain difference that makes them crash with specific video functions, thus making them incompatible with BeMeBlackBox. This behavior can NOT be reproduced in the emulator.
Since the Android Motorola phones are not available in Canada, I will not be able to work around that problem as I do not have any access to the hardware. Hopefully in the near future. My deepest apologies.


BeMeCollective said...

FAQ (questions by T. Beta tester):

How exactly does the timing work?

The maximum recording time is what you set in preferences. For example, if you set 60 seconds, the file will "delete" itself and BeMeBlackBox will start a new file
after 60 seconds of recording. If you press "Save" or crash, the current file will always be less than 60 seconds.
However, there might be a circumstance where you wish to save just after the file refreshed itself. In this case, the current file may be very short, maybe only a few seconds. That is the reason when we save, we save the PREVIOUS 60 seconds as well. Just in case you need the information from the previous file. The segments
can be joined together if necessary in your PC.
Obviously, it would be better if we could record a BUFFER of 60 seconds length, and dump all the 60 seconds into a file when pressing save. In that case, there would be only ONE file and it would ALWAYS be 60 seconds. Unfortunately, the Android operating system does not allow recording video into a buffer (audio yes, video no). So until they allow that, we will use the "create + delete" mechanism.

What is the "M" representing, the "G" is obviously the measure of force, and "T" is the trigger force...but what is that "M"?

M is the maximum G force sensed in this ride. It resets itself when you press Save or crash.

Is there any way to tie in the phones GPS to make it show the speed on the phone? It would be really nice if the speed was shown, maybe in the lower right corner.
Even better yet, is there anyway to have the speed and G force shown on the saved video file? Kind of like a camcorders ability to show the date and time stamp. Can your program stamp the footage with date, time, speed, and G force?

That is a very good question which haunted me for most of the development of BeMeBlackBox. I intended to do that since day one. However, there are very good reasons why it did not go in: The speed recorded by the GPS is not accurate. Let's assume you are driving 100k/h for a few minutes. The GPS will record an average speed of 100k/h. Now you saw a kid crossing the street and slow down to 10 k/h. Immediately henceafter you crash (for whatever reason). The GPS will say 100, your car speedometer will say 10. You wish to use the BeMeBlackBox record in court, but it says you were going 100. Big problem.
My bottom line:
1. Speed measurements from GPS are terribly innacurate and I would definitely keep that info from the user rather than give him the wrong info!
2. G force is similar: I know what G force triggered the crash, but I cannot know what happened in the following milliseconds (as G grows while impacting). It is terribly innacurate for anything beyond "detecting a crash", and even there we see sometimes false positives (that is why T is configurable), so again, I would rather keep that info from the user rather than give him the wrong info!
3. Regarding the timestamp: It's already part of the file itself.

What will happen when a call comes in?

The phone will ring, you will answer, and BeMeBlackBox will stop recording while you are in the call. As soon as you hang up, it will resume automatically.
Actually, I would prefer for the black box to keep recording in the background, but Android does not allow recording without a preview surface. Once (if) they remove this limitation, I will update BeMeBlackBox to work as a service so you don't even need to see it while it's working.

The eye ball in the status bar....when the eye is open does that mean that the program is actively recording? When the eye ball is the program just completely idol?

Yes, open eyeball open means recording, closed means idol.

BeMeCollective said...

Hello the TechGuru!

Thanks for posting. I do have one beta tester for the Droid (definitely need more).
According to his findings, it just does not work on the Droid. He sent me logs and I was able to verify that I can not have one version that works on both 1.5 and 2.0. I delayed the release for one whole month trying to make it work until I gave up and dropped support for the Droid.

I still want to create such a version, but I can't get the phone in Canada and I have no way to develop it without an actual device. Just so you know, on the 2.0 emulator it works fine. It's only on the phone that it breaks.
So for now I have no way to make it work on the Droid. No hardware. Sorry, I hope I'll be able to do something about it in the future!

thetechguru said...

I was trying to get an extra Droid for you (I have some sources, and it might still happen), but in the mean time, a similar app has appeared on the market. not as complete as yours (no crash detection). It also didn't work on the Droid. It created black videos, but in working with the developer, we determined that the Droid can't record using the h.263 codex, but when he added h.254 and mpeg4 it is able to record properly.

That might help you figure out what is going on. If I am not mistaken, mpeg4 format may also allow true buffered video. That is the format used for the buffering in the DVR software I use on my PC, Snapstream BeyondTV (although that is no guarantee that the Droid would be capable of doing it of course).

thetechguru said...

that should have been h.264, not h.254...

BeMeCollective said...

Thank you TechGuru.
I think I know what is causing the problem, it is a bit more complex than video formats (I have read log files from a Droid phone).
But even if I knew for sure, I cannot release a version that I have not tested personally. The market will eat me alive LOL.
By the way - you mention a similar app. Do you know the name?

Coincidentially, the user known as 'dirt4dinner' sent me yesterday a video shot with BeMeBlackBox where a drunk driver clips the mirror of a Police patrol car.
The video was quite dark as it was shot at night, but very satisfactory for me.
I am still trying to get a Droid or a Cliq phone without contract attachement. I am willing to pay 200US$ for it, if you 'connections' are interested.

Happy New Year!

thetechguru said...

The other app is called Daily Roads Voyager. If you can send me your email address (I assume you have access to mine through the blogging software) I can tell you more about my sources. We can't sell the phone, but can give it to friends and be compensated for shipping, I just need to convince one of the group to give theirs up. Shipping to Canada may be a challenge since the Droid is not yet available from a Canadian carrier, so I don't know if it will clear customs, but we can figure that out if I get the device for you.

BeMeCollective said...

Hello TechGuru

My email is (this blog software won't show me your address, I don't know why). Feel free to email me directly if you think we might work something out.

Best regards