MemoryMemo and LifeLens Imaging:
The Sustained Capture of Memory
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but two techno entrepreneurs in Charlotte want to make them worth a whole lot more. Given the accelerating pace of digital photography and social media, they are about to strike a gold mine. For each, it was merely a matter of solving a problem.
Henry Mummaw was frustrated with having to label photos explaining where they were taken and who was in them. He remembers when he was growing up how much time his mother spent identifying him and his identical twin brother on the backs of photographs.
Greg Robey was frustrated by the sheer number of family photos he had amassed—over 12,000—well above the national average of 3,000 (per adult). And to make matters worse, a lot of those photos were deteriorating from the very chemicals used to create them.
Together, the duo have addressed those issues through the launch of separate, but “related” technology companies—one uses proprietary software to create digital “memos” to photos featuring voice and text, and the other is a proprietary service and technology model for restoring and digitizing photos.
“Henry and I believe that memories matter,” says Robey emphatically. “We have both been blessed with great family memories over the years. We want to protect them, and we believe there are millions of people like us who want to be able to do that. We’ve built some very unique technologies to accomplish that.”
“These are important technologies,” emphasizes Mummaw, “to finally create a methodology by which the entire photographic context—reality and memories—can be digitally preserved in one location.”
Digital Photos with Voice and Text
The pace of digital photography is staggering. More than 11 trillion digital images have been taken in the past 15 years, and the annual pace now exceeds one trillion. Nearly four trillion are on the Internet already, and more than 200,000 are uploaded to Facebook every minute. Constant advances in smart devices and Internet technology are only accelerating the process.
“There are upwards of 10,000 photography apps available on smartphones alone focused on editing images. We wanted to be the first application that focused on ‘the back’ of the photo,” Robey quips.
Together, he and Mummaw have developed MemoryMemo, an app for iPhone, Android and desktop computers, enabling shutterbugs to annotate each snapshot with voice and text. Their proprietary MemoryMemo software automatically collects that information—the universally-recognized “5Ws” of Who, What, When, Where and Why—in a new file extension: .memo.
The Who (the photographer), the When (date and time), and the Where (GPS location), are recorded by the smart devices used to take the photo and are attractively displayed as text in the app and desktop software. The company’s software allows the user to see the 5Ws in the .memo, but more importantly, allows the user to add text and audio to further explain the What and Why.
Users can capture up to 30 seconds of sound, called an MTrack, before and after the shot. Audio comments can also be added later. “This is the first technology to allow you to capture comments made before and after the photo is taken,” says Mummaw.
Being able to add text and actual voice to the photographic memory not only preserves the context, but enhances the meaning for future generations. The photo can actually “speak,” jogging the memories of family and friends, and providing a much more intimate experience.
The user can add information at any time and ask friends to contribute as well. The inventors created a system based on traffic signals that indicates whether the .memo is incomplete (red), in process (yellow), or complete (green). The .memo file includes an image file, text file and a voice commentary audio file. They are archived for free in the company’s cloud, called MCloud where they can be searched by any of the 5Ws.
“We capture all that information and encrypt it into one file that is your property,” Mummaw explains. “You own it. It solves the ownership problem that’s been plaguing photography forever.
“The purpose is to create an easy mechanism by which you can scan and sort through thousands of digital files and find the one you want. When you search a particular date, for example, every photograph you took on that date is found and displayed immediately,” he continues. “Now search engines will be able to create revenue opportunities from digital photos. They will be able to see and read .memo text files. They will know exactly what the photography is about.”
The company’s MWorld is a photography platform where users keep their photos private or share them, including emailing or posting on social media. Eventually users will be able to print their .memos information. By combining text with images in a new unique file extension, MemoryMemo has created a new communications medium.
The technology opens vast creative possibilities for words-and-picture albums that capture the celebration of a wedding ceremony, the hilarity of a child’s birthday party, or even a compiled life story. The company also provides training videos to make such projects easy for users.
“Instead of a high school yearbook photograph with merely a caption,’ Mummaw comments, “imagine one that, in addition to text, has QR codes next to the pictures so that the voice and words of the person could be heard at the same time. Ten years from now, that person’s voice and words will still be there.”
Other people can contribute to the context or memories at any time. For example, Robey’s mother shared old stories of her life and his childhood that he’s added to her images. “It’s amazing what I learned about my mother’s earlier days and my childhood—more than I would ever have known,” he says.
“MemoryMemo is a memory management system,” explains Mummaw, “wherein the photograph is preserved along with its memories to last forever. We want to be a solution that everyone can use and enjoy.”
In addition to the personal and social uses, the MemoryMemo utility technology has a wide range of commercial possibilities for those who use photography in their work.
Preserving Analog Memories Digitally
“For anyone born before 1995, their childhood memories are on analog photographs or slides,” Robey points out. “The chemicals that are used in the production of photos and slides begin to break down from the very beginning. We want to protect the memories on those photos and slides before they, too, begin to fade.”
With LifeLens Imaging, the founders have a process for preserving and enhancing photographs digitally, correcting for color and quality degradation at the same time. Their strategy addresses major barriers to preserving memories—90 percent of people are reluctant to part with their irreplaceable pictures for weeks while they are shipped elsewhere for processing.
LifeLens Imaging transforms paper photographs and slides into enhanced digital images with the latest Kodak Perfect Touch technology, providing unprecedented convenience and economy. Customers simply drop off the originals at their local Walgreen’s store and, at low cost and within a short period of time, their irreplaceable memories are transformed into digital photos—and even restored in the process. Walgreen’s national footprint couldn’t be more convenient, and the photos never leave the community.
LifeLens Imaging uses barcodes to track the pictures and return them to the local store in about a week after pickup. The fast, reliable service costs less while attracting more traffic to partner retailers since the LifeLens uses a proprietary marketing program called Community Partners to produce incremental traffic for their participating retailers.
In addition, LifeLens Imaging permanently archives the images at no cost to their customers to protect them against future loss.
The market for these solutions is enormous. Around the world, some 3.5 trillion analog photographs and slides are awaiting conversion to digital format. Advances in scanner technology in the past five years have enabled enhancements that correct for the effects of aging. The effect can be so dramatic and vibrant that some people replace the original in the frame with the scanned and printed copy.
The founders have completed a pilot launch of LifeLens Imaging with select Walgreen’s locations in Charlotte and plan expansion to surrounding counties and other locations nationwide in 2016. They are partnering with several civic, nonprofit and charitable organizations who earn 15 percent of revenue from their referrals.
They will roll out seven additional processing labs in 2016 that will each serve up to 300 retail stores using a hub-and-spoke system of pickup and delivery. By the end of 2017, they expect to be in all Walgreen’s stores nationwide.
Agreements with some 8,200 Walgreen’s stores, along with other major retailers, will provide access to 70 percent of the retail photo centers in the United States, and the 95 percent of Americans living within five miles of one of these stores.
To serve them, LifeLens Imaging expects first to establish 52 laboratories nationwide, with plans for up to 150. The offices will be about 2,000 square feet with scanning technicians, logistics drivers, and at least one sales manager to work with Community Partners who help attract customers and share in the revenue.
Both Mummaw and Robey share the photographic passion. Both have amassed significant experience that has helped them in their formulation of this new technology.
Mummaw has a 34-year senior management career in professional photography, including a nine-year stint with PCA International, Inc., at the time the nation’s largest portrait photography company serving most nationally known retailers. His extensive photography experience includes a long-standing relationship with Eastman Kodak, now Kodak Alaris, the world’s largest provider of photographic equipment.
Robey held numerous business development, sales and ecommerce positions for FedEx in the U.S. and Europe over a 23-year career. He was also vice president of sales operations for AmeriGas, the nation’s largest propane company for six years.
Together they launched LifeLens Imaging in 2012, and MemoryMemo the following year. Scott McNealy, the cofounder of Sun Microsystems, advises the partners in positioning both the companies for global markets. “Scott believes these are disruptive technologies,” Mummaw comments.
Charlotte connections have been central to the launch, beginning with Thurston Investments LLC, which backed the venture—rare support for a technology startup outside of Silicon Valley.
The patent law firm Trego, Hines & Ladenheim handles intellectual property issues. BGW CPA PLLC handles accounting. CC Communications, Inc. partnered with Mummaw and Robey in technology development and marketing for MemoryMemo. Vintage Marketing, Inc. in Davidson handles the website creative and marketing for LifeLens Imaging.
The complementary businesses reflect the founders’ personal interest in preserving memories by safeguarding and annotating the rich photographic record.
“That’s what we began with—a mission to help people understand that if they don’t do something, their photographic memories are going to be lost. It’s not if; it’s when,” Mummaw says, pointing out that while no one would dispose of those cherished memories, fewer than 5 percent have taken the steps necessary to protect them.
“I was shocked when I looked at my faded family’s photographs,” adds Robey. “Now that I have scanned and enhanced these images, they are preserved and protected forever, and I can share them and their memories through MemoryMemo, social media or email.”
“MemoryMemo is much more than just an application,” Mummaw states, “It’s an integrated platform that combines our MWorld technology and desktop computer software to capture and maintain memories. This memory management system is designed to be easily used by all.
Both MemoryMemo and LifeLens Imaging present the opportunity to collect and preserve family histories, passing memories from one generation to the next. The applications on a commercial basis are without limits, documenting actual facts and circumstances surrounding the photo that was taken and the entire experience.
“LifeLens Imaging helps you preserve and protect your images and MemoryMemo helps you capture and preserve the reasons why you took the photo, or in our case, the 5Ws associated with that memory,” concludes Robey.
“These are solutions to a significant problem—the sustained capture of memory,” says Mummaw. “We want them to be perceived as a solution whose time has come. We want people to identify both solutions as fun and meaningful.”
LifeLens Imaging LLC
9506 Monroe Rd., Ste. AB
Charlotte, N.C. 28270
Principals: Henry H. Mummaw and
William G. “Greg” Robey, Chairmen
Rights: MemoryMemo produces proprietary integration software to capture the entire context of a digital photo—the 5Ws of Who, What, When, Where and Why—incorporating voice and text in a proprietary .memo file through integration technology with Apple and Google Android smartphones; LifeLens Imaging preserves and enhances analog photographs and slides digitally.