Snapshot of A Selfie: Technology, History and Patents

Jan 16, 2015

sel·fie
/ˈselfē/

noun
informal

           a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and
           shared via social media

                                             --Oxford Dictionary


We see them everyday.  A variety of close-ups and face-shots littering the web as social media sites like Facebook and Instagram continue to serve as a generous platform for posting "selfies."  People all over the world are snapping photos of themselves, framing and filtering until they're perfect enough to share with the virtual world, but did you know that the first selfie can be traced all the way back to 1839? 


It all started with photographer and chemist Robert Cornelius, who used his camera more than 175 years ago to take a photo of himself outside his family's small Philadelphia shop.  Cornelius used a process known as daguerreotypy, in which an image is exposed on a piece of mirrored silver using natural light, and after several minutes was relieved to find that he had created what he notes as "the first light picture ever taken," and with it the world's first selfie. 


Since then, the selfie has been significantly transformed, so much so that we can snap a quick picture of ourselves with our cell phone, edit the image to our liking and send it to a friend or upload it to the web- all in a matter of minutes. In fact, there are even devices that were created solely to enhance our selfie experience, like the selfie stick.  Made popular by GoPro, this innovative addition to cameras and iPhones allows users to take pictures of themselves from an extended perspective, capturing even more people and/or scenery in the image. (A similar product was allegedly first patented by a man named Wane Fromm back in 2005- US patent #7,684,694 for an “Apparatus for supporting a camera and method for using the apparatus.”)

Even Apple is working to get into the selfie game with a number of patents that surfaced online Tuesday.  One of the patents describes a system which would allow users to take pictures with a mounted camera controlled by a remote device, like a watch. That being said, it seems that the selfie isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and that we'll only get more creative with how we share our smiling selves with the world. 









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