Virtually every smartphone sold these days comes equipped with cameras on both sides. The one facing the user, of course, has given rise to the now-ubiquitous selfie. (And, for me at least, it’s also given rise to startled moments where I accidentally ended up with an image of myself onscreen while trying to take pics of someone else. Whoa! Other way!)
But for anyone who’s ever wondered, Wouldn’t it be great to use both cameras at the same time to create a split-screen composite image?, well, your smartphone dreams are about to come true. And said image already has an annoyingly catchy name—indeed, perhaps even more annoying than the selfie. It’s called—wait for it—the bothie.
Nokia (yes, the original cool-phone company still exists, though now under new ownership) has just introduced the Nokia 8. Along with most standard-issue smartphone features, the new device enables users to take a split-screen image (still or video) that shows both the user and what’s happening on the other side of the phone—simultaneously.
Writing for Wired, David Pierce summarizes the device’s bothie abilities thusly:
The phone has three cameras: two 13-megapixel sensors on the back, one color and one monochrome, and another 13-megapixel shooter on the front. Even the audio has been tuned for 360-degree sound. You can fire up the camera, switch to dual-sight mode, and either capture or livestream both views from your device. Viewers will see a split-screen live feed on YouTube or Facebook, so make sure you don’t absent-mindedly pick your nose or anything.
Now, for those of us dinosaurs who rarely even take selfies, this might seem a relatively useless feature. Then again, we might have said the same thing about a self-facing camera just a few years ago, a point Pierce makes too: “Crazy idea? Maybe. And yet, if history is any indication, you’ll scoff at the bothie now and then while you’re not looking they will take over the world.”
It’s not hard to brainstorm plenty of applications for this feature, especially for hard-core selfie takers. (One can only imagine what might happens when the Kardashians get their hands on these gizmos, not to mention those “found footage” horror moviemakers. Get ready for The Blair Witch Project: Bothie Version.) If you’ve always wanted to see your elated expression as your favorite band takes the stage, for instance, problem solved. Wanna snap a quick vid of yourself watching kids open birthday presents, well there you go. Mount one to your skateboard or BMX bike to capture epic tricks and spills from every direction? Bingo.
On the most basic level, I have to say that this new phone (available for the moment only in Europe and some places in Asia, but potentially trickling over to American shores in one form or another soon) is pretty cool. It suddenly gives users the possibility of having two perspectives simultaneously in any given image or video.
On a more philosophical level, though, I wonder if it might reinforce an even greater narcissistic focus on self (at least, in half the picture), just as we’ve seen with the bothie’s forerunner, the selfie.
And if selfies have been a health hazard for some, I’d guess that the bothie might further amplify all kinds of risks for those using the feature in potentially risky ways. (Good thing we got to see that guy’s expression just as he realized he was falling off Machu Picchu.)
Finally, we’re pretty connected to our smartphones already. And I suspect the advent of the bothie (assuming it does become a standard feature) will only strengthen that already tight relationship between smartphone users and their cherished devices, for better or worse.