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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Outsource Your Memory, With an App

Like GPS units, alarm clocks and watches, scrapbooks are largely things of the past, relics of an era before the smartphone. Mementos we once might have pasted in a scrapbook are now largely stored on our phones and scattered between apps like Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter.

Beginning Wednesday, a new start-up called Memoir wants to take the place of that scrapbook on your iPhone.

“More of our lives is being automatically recorded,” said Lee Hoffman, one of the company’s founders. “But it goes into a box and you never look at it.”

The box Mr. Hoffman is referring to is a smartphone, which often has hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs of friends, events, parties, particularly memorable meals or outings, plus data about where the photos were taken. That box also has a calendar and data from services like Foursquare and contacts, meaning it also has the potential to start assembling a smart scrapbook of a person’s life.

Mr. Hoffman said that Memoir was a “major step towards augmenting memory,” and providing a better way to store and organize the photographs, notes and events stored on a smartphone to be remembered. The application will also automatically remind people of past events by showing them photos and remind them what they did a year ago.

There are already a number of companies working in the same area, including Timehop. But Mr. Hoffman said Memoir would try to distinguish itself by offering users a search function that lets people find all the photos â€" or memories â€" from a particular year, city or with a particular friend. The app connects the dots between photos saved on your camera roll from a big party and the event on your calendar, so that when you search for “Katie’s Wedding,” it should be able to find the correlating photographs, even though you didn’t store them or tag them that way.

Memoir can also let you wirelessly share photos with your friends who are also using the application, so you can round out your memories of shared experiences.

The company has raised $1.2 million to work on Memoir, from venture capitalists including Betaworks, Thrive and SV Angel. (The New York Times Company is an investor in Betaworks.) The application is free for now, but Mr. Hoffman says the company eventually plans to introduce premium features like high-definition videos to make money.

Eventually, Mr. Hoffman said, the hope is that Memoir will work with hardware like Google Glass and be able to use that data and video footage to help people relive their favorite memories, their first dates and a best friend’s wedding or a cross-country trip â€" not unlike gathering in the living room to watch a slide show of a trip to the Grand Canyon.