Periscope phone app gives millions a way to live-stream their lives

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Never accuse the British of not loving a good gadget.

Last week a new app, Periscope, was launched for Apple’s iPhone – in direct competition with a similar app, Meerkat, which had been making waves in the United States. Now stand by for the accessories …

Both Periscope, owned by Twitter, and Meerkat allow users to live-stream personal videos. Cue footage of comedians washing their hair and families going for a bicycle ride – trending in Germany last week. However, Periscope has already proved itself invaluable for citizen journalists, according to Jeff Howe, a journalism professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and was used to great effect during the fire that broke out in New York’s East Village last week. “The crowd is great at being at the right place at the right time and happening to have a smartphone,” said Howe.

Users are still trying to see what works, Jeetendr Sehdev of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles told New Scientist. “No one really knows what sort of live streams are going to catch on.”

Neither Meerkat nor Periscope are the first apps to offer live streaming. In the US, the protests in and around Ferguson, Missouri, over police racism last year and the 2011 Occupy Wall Street were aired live through sites such as Livestream and Ustream.

But now live-streaming is booming and businesses are muscling in. Last year there was the selfie stick – to help tourists and teenagers take those all-important vanity photographs at a more flattering distance and with more stability. Now the emerging live-stream-friendly accessory range is bewildering. At the top end is the handy motorised phone stabiliser, the Fly-X3, which retails at several hundred pounds and turns an iPhone into something with “gyroscope technology”. Then there are kits whose sole job is to “seamlessly upgrade your iPhone into a handheld video rig”, as one advertiser puts it.

The MightyMic claims to improve the sound of your fascinating video. There is also an Action Mount chest mount, permitting hands-free filming, aimed at the sports market, with several football clubs looking at streaming training sessions to fans. And there are tripods in aluminium and plastic to suit every budget and turn the old-fashioned family video into a professional-looking film.

If live-streaming becomes the phenomenon that its Silicon Valley developers hope for, we may have to get used to seeing people with their phones attached to “video kit” gadgets.

This month the app will also see its first major co-ordinated use as authors give live tours of the areas they write in. The series, called #WhereIWrite, will run through the whole of this month. The Periscope project is run by publisher Hachette and will feature its authors, including Jenny Colgan, Amitav Ghosh and science fiction writer Pierce Brown.

Powered by article was written by Tracy McVeigh, for The Observer on Saturday 4th April 2015 22.21 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010