Shane BarnhillSunday,14 October 2012

Helium Balloon

My expectations are over-inflated too

The Snap

Felix Baumgartner broke a world record on Sunday by jumping from a capsule over 128,000 feet above Earth’s surface, freefalling for approximately  4 minutes and 22 seconds before parachuting safely to the ground in New Mexico. The jump follows years of preparation by Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team, which sponsored the historic event. Over 8 million people tuned in live to watch the event online, the highest number ever for live stream on YouTube (see video embedded below).

The Download

BFD. Seriously. I (unfortunately) felt the same way watching Baumgartner’s jump as I did while watching the broadcast of the Mars Curiosity landing on the Red Planet’s surface. In a word: underwhelmed. Baumgartner’s jump, like the Curiosity landing, is no doubt an impressive feat from a group of talented engineers and technologists. But clearly, technology has inflated my expectations. I hoped — no, expected — a live helmet camera stream of Baumgartner’s fall, just as I assumed Curiosity would stream live video of a rapidly-approaching surface of Mars during its descent. A tiny, fuzzy image of a white dot moving quickly downward across a blue-grey sky wasn’t what I was hoping for.

And before you start: yes, I realize there are limitations associated with transferring data — especially video — live and wirelessly from great distances. Simple data transfers between Earth and Mars take between 3 and 21 minutes, for example, so my Curiosity expectations were obviously over-inflated. I have no idea whether similar technical difficulties, or a simple desire to edit video prior to releasing it for public consumption, is to blame for the lack of a live stream from Baumgartner’s helmet (or suit) during his freefall. I only know that as technology improves the ability of ordinary citizens to collaborate and share in real-time, our expectations about the production quality of live content will continue to rise. Hopefully, new technological breakthroughs are on the horizon that will enable content producers to create live broadcasts that will live up to my — and I expect many others’ — expectations. What do you think: Were my expectations just plain crazy? Or were you as underwhelmed as me?

Hat Tips

Washington Post, All Things D, NASA, Red Bull Stratos on YouTube, Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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