Aug 05, 2014

Life's a beach at work for Japanese company

A Japanese company has recreated a tropical beach in the very reception area they also use as their employee meeting space and staff lounge.

Aug 03, 2014

JIBO: The World's First Family Robot

Jibo is a new robot from MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal. It is designed to be a social robot that you interact with like it’s another person in your home. The 28-centimetre, 3-kilogram “sociable robot” snaps family photos, handles video calling and acts as a digital concierge. Connected wirelessly to the Internet, Jibo sifts through messages, organizes your itinerary and orders takeout.

What people say about Jibo:

"JIBO's potential extends far beyond engaging in casual conversation and completing daily tasks." - Katie Couric, Yahoo News

"A Robot with a Little Humanity" - John Markoff, New York Times

"JIBO isn't an appliance, it's a companion, one that can interact and react with its human owners in ways that delight instead of disturb." - Lance Ulanoff, Mashable

"Move over, Siri, the JIBO robot is coming" - Maggie Lake, CNN

"This Friendly Robot Could One Day Be Your Family's Personal Assistant" - Christina Bonnington, WIRED

22:51 Posted in AI & robotics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Detecting awareness in patients with disorders of consciousness using a hybrid brain-computer interface

Detecting awareness in patients with disorders of consciousness using a hybrid brain-computer interface.

J Neural Eng. 2014 Aug 1;11(5):056007

Authors: Pan J, Xie Q, He Y, Wang F, Di H, Laureys S, Yu R, Li Y

Abstract. Objective. The bedside detection of potential awareness in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC) currently relies only on behavioral observations and tests; however, the misdiagnosis rates in this patient group are historically relatively high. In this study, we proposed a visual hybrid brain-computer interface (BCI) combining P300 and steady-state evoked potential (SSVEP) responses to detect awareness in severely brain injured patients. Approach. Four healthy subjects, seven DOC patients who were in a vegetative state (VS, n = 4) or minimally conscious state (MCS, n = 3), and one locked-in syndrome (LIS) patient attempted a command-following experiment. In each experimental trial, two photos were presented to each patient; one was the patient's own photo, and the other photo was unfamiliar. The patients were instructed to focus on their own or the unfamiliar photos. The BCI system determined which photo the patient focused on with both P300 and SSVEP detections. Main results. Four healthy subjects, one of the 4 VS, one of the 3 MCS, and the LIS patient were able to selectively attend to their own or the unfamiliar photos (classification accuracy, 66-100%). Two additional patients (one VS and one MCS) failed to attend the unfamiliar photo (50-52%) but achieved significant accuracies for their own photo (64-68%). All other patients failed to show any significant response to commands (46-55%). Significance. Through the hybrid BCI system, command following was detected in four healthy subjects, two of 7 DOC patients, and one LIS patient. We suggest that the hybrid BCI system could be used as a supportive bedside tool to detect awareness in patients with DOC.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Stress Management Intervention for Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Stress Management Intervention for Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review.

J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2014 Jul 22; Authors: Sharma M, Rush SE

Stress is a global public health problem with several negative health consequences, including anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, and suicide. Mindfulness-based stress reduction offers an effective way of reducing stress by combining mindfulness meditation and yoga in an 8-week training program. The purpose of this study was to look at studies from January 2009 to January 2014 and examine whether mindfulness-based stress reduction is a potentially viable method for managing stress. A systematic search from Medline, CINAHL, and Alt HealthWatch databases was conducted for all types of quantitative articles involving mindfulness-based stress reduction. A total of 17 articles met the inclusion criteria. Of the 17 studies, 16 demonstrated positive changes in psychological or physiological outcomes related to anxiety and/or stress. Despite the limitations of not all studies using randomized controlled design, having smaller sample sizes, and having different outcomes, mindfulness-based stress reduction appears to be a promising modality for stress management.

Modulation of functional network with real-time fMRI feedback training of right premotor cortex activity

Modulation of functional network with real-time fMRI feedback training of right premotor cortex activity.

Neuropsychologia. 2014 Jul 21;

Authors: Hui M, Zhang H, Ge R, Yao L, Long Z

Abstract. Although the neurofeedback of real-time fMRI can reportedly enable people to gain control of the activity in the premotor cortex (PMA) during motor imagery, it is unclear how the neurofeedback training of PMA affect the motor network engaged in the motor execution (ME) and imagery (MI) task. In this study, we investigated the changes in the motor network engaged in both ME and MI task induced by real-time neurofeedback training of the right PMA. The neurofeedback training induced changes in activity of the ME-related motor network as well as alterations in the functional connectivity of both the ME-related and MI-related motor networks. Especially, the percent signal change of the right PMA in the last training run was found to be significantly correlated with the connectivity between the right PMA and the left posterior parietal lobe (PPL) during the pre-training MI run, post-training MI run and the last training run. Moreover, the increase in the tapping frequency was significantly correlated with the increase of connectivity between the right cerebellum and the primary motor area / primary sensory area (M1/S1) of the ME-related motor network after neurofeedback training. These findings show the importance of the connectivity between the right PMA and left PPL of the MI network for the up-regulation of the right PMA as well as the critical role of connectivity between the right cerebellum and M1/S1 of the ME network in improving the behavioral performance.

Fly like a Birdly

Birdly is a full body, fully immersive, Virtual Reality flight simulator developed at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). With Birdly, you can embody an avian creature, the Red Kite, visualized through Oculus Rift, as it soars over the 3D virtual city of San Francisco, heightened by sonic, olfactory, and wind feedback.

Aug 02, 2014

Avoidance

A short animation film by Erica Rotberg, about people's emotional detachment from reality, and how easy it, especially today, to escape to more comfortable, flat and fake alternate realities.

 

22:28 Posted in Technostress | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jul 30, 2014

A virtual rehabilitation program after amputation: a phenomenological exploration

A virtual rehabilitation program after amputation: a phenomenological exploration.

Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2013 Nov;8(6):511-5

Authors: Moraal M, Slatman J, Pieters T, Mert A, Widdershoven G

Abstract. PURPOSE: This study provides an analysis of bodily experiences of a man with a lower leg amputation who used a virtual rehabilitation program. METHOD: The study reports data from semi-structured interviews with a 32-year veteran who used a virtual environment during rehabilitation. The interviews were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). RESULTS: During this rehabilitation program, he initially experienced his body as an object, which he had to handle carefully. As he went along with the training sessions, however, he was more stimulated to react directly without being aware of the body's position. In order to allow himself to react spontaneously, he needed to gain trust in the device. This was fostered by his narrative, in which he stressed how the device mechanically interacts with his movements. CONCLUSION: The use of a virtual environment facilitated the process of re-inserting one's body into the flow of one's experience in two opposite, but complementary ways: (1) it invited this person to move automatically without taking into account his body; (2) it invited him to take an instrumental or rational view on his body. Both processes fostered his trust in the device, and ultimately in his body. IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION: Providing (more) technological explanation of the technological device (i.e. the virtual environment), may facilitate a rehabilitation process. Providing (more) explicit technological feedback, during training sessions in a virtual environment, may facilitate a rehabilitation process.

Characteristics of Successful Technological Interventions in Mental Resilience Training

Characteristics of Successful Technological Interventions in Mental Resilience Training.

J Med Syst. 2014 Sep;38(9):113

Authors: Vakili V, Brinkman WP, Morina N, Neerincx MA

Abstract. In the last two decades, several effective virtual reality-based interventions for anxiety disorders have been developed. Virtual reality interventions can also be used to build resilience to psychopathology for populations at risk of exposure to traumatic experiences and developing mental disorders as a result, such as for people working in vulnerable professions. Despite the interest among mental health professionals and researchers in applying new technology-supported interventions for pre-trauma mental resilience training, there is a lack of recommendations about what constitutes potentially effective technology-supported resilience training. This article analyses the role of technology in the field of stress-resilience training. It presents lessons learned from technology developers currently working in the area, and it identifies some key clinical requirements for the supported resilience interventions. Two processes made up this research: 1) developers of technology-assisted resilience programs were interviewed regarding human-computer interaction and system development; 2) discussions with clinicians were prompted using technology-centered concept storyboards to elicit feedback, and to refine, validate and extend the initial concepts. A qualitative analysis of the interviews produced a set of development guidelines that engineers should follow and a list of intervention requirements that the technology should fulfill. These recommendations can help bridge the gap between engineers and clinicians when generating novel resilience interventions for people in vulnerable professions.

21:35 Posted in Cybertherapy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jul 29, 2014

1st Place Video at 2014 Princeton University Art of Science competition

And the winner is... Sabine Petry and co-workers, Petry Lab, Princeton Department of Molecular Biology.

Description: Microtubules are hollow filaments that serve as the skeleton of the cell. They were thought to grow linearly, but this movie shows that they can branch: microtubules (red with growing tips in green) grow off the wall of existing microtubules. In addition, microtubules are moved along the glass surface by molecular motors. Microtubule branching amplifies the microtubules while preserving their polarity and explains how microtubules can cause the mitotic spindle of a dividing cell to reliably segregate chromosomes (Petry et al., Cell 2013).

Scale: A microtubule has a diameter of 25 nanometer and is the largest cytosekeletal filament in the cell.

More on the Princeton University Art of Science competition: http://artofsci.princeton.edu/

Will city-dwellers actually use a no-cellphones lane on the sidewalk?

Via Textually.org

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 9.20.00 AM.png

Sidewalk collisions involving pedestrians engrossed in their electronic devices have become an irritating (and sometimes dangerous) fact of city life. To prevent them, what about just creating a “no cellphones” lane on the sidewalk? Would people follow the signs? That’s what a TV crew decided to find out on a Washington, D.C., street Thursday, as part of a behavioral science experiment for a new National Geographic TV series. [via Quartz]

As expected, some pedestrians ignored the chalk markings designating a no-cellphones lane and a lane that warned pedestrians to walk “at your own risk.” Others didn’t even see them because they were too busy staring at their phones. But others stopped, took pictures and posted them—from their phones, of course.

Real-time functional MRI neurofeedback: a tool for psychiatry

Real-time functional MRI neurofeedback: a tool for psychiatry.

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 14;

Authors: Kim S, Birbaumer N

Abstract. PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The aim of this review is to provide a critical overview of recent research in the field of neuroscientific and clinical application of real-time functional MRI neurofeedback (rtfMRI-nf).
RECENT FINDINGS: RtfMRI-nf allows self-regulating activity in circumscribed brain areas and brain systems. Furthermore, the learned regulation of brain activity has an influence on specific behaviors organized by the regulated brain regions. Patients with mental disorders show abnormal activity in certain regions, and simultaneous control of these regions using rtfMRI-nf may affect the symptoms of related behavioral disorders. SUMMARY: The promising results in clinical application indicate that rtfMRI-nf and other metabolic neurofeedback, such as near-infrared spectroscopy, might become a potential therapeutic tool. Further research is still required to examine whether rtfMRI-nf is a useful tool for psychiatry because there is still lack of knowledge about the neural function of certain brain systems and about neuronal markers for specific mental illnesses.

Combining Google Glass with consumer oriented BCI headsets

MindRDR connects Google Glass with a device to monitor brain activity, allowing users to take pictures and socialise them on Twitter or Facebook.

Once a user has decided to share an image, we analyse their brain data and provide an evaluation of their ability to control the interface with their mind. This information is attached to every shared image.

The current version of MindRDR uses commercially available brain monitor Neurosky MindWave Mobile to extract core metrics from the mind.

Ekso bionic suit

Ekso is an exoskeleton bionic suit or a "wearable robot" designed to enable individuals with lower extremity paralysis to stand up and walk over ground with a weight bearing, four point reciprocal gait. Walking is achieved by the user’s forward lateral weight shift to initiate a step. Battery-powered motors drive the legs and replace neuromuscular function.

Ekso Bionics http://eksobionics.com/

 

Jul 13, 2014

An atomic view of brain activity

Jul 09, 2014

Experiential Virtual Scenarios With Real-Time Monitoring (Interreality) for the Management of Psychological Stress: A Block Randomized Controlled Trial

Gaggioli, A., Pallavicini, F., Morganti, L. et al. (2014) Journal of Medical Internet Research. 16(7):e167. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.3235

The recent convergence between technology and medicine is offering innovative methods and tools for behavioral health care. Among these, an emerging approach is the use of virtual reality (VR) within exposure-based protocols for anxiety disorders, and in particular posttraumatic stress disorder. However, no systematically tested VR protocols are available for the management of psychological stress. Objective: Our goal was to evaluate the efficacy of a new technological paradigm, Interreality, for the management and prevention of psychological stress. The main feature of Interreality is a twofold link between the virtual and the real world achieved through experiential virtual scenarios (fully controlled by the therapist, used to learn coping skills and improve self-efficacy) with real-time monitoring and support (identifying critical situations and assessing clinical change) using advanced technologies (virtual worlds, wearable biosensors, and smartphones).

Full text paper available at: http://www.jmir.org/2014/7/e167/

Jun 30, 2014

Never do a Tango with an Eskimo

Jun 29, 2014

Impact, funding, and Nasruddin's key

Cybersightings, Sept. 2013

In his Science editorial (A perverted view of 'impact,' Science, 2013 Jun 14, p. 1265), cell biologist and biochemist Marc Kirschner warns against National Institute of Health's recent introduction of ''impact and significance'' as an explicit criterion to funding decisions.

According to Kirschner, overemphasis on short-term impact (especially in fundamental research) can lead applicants to overstate potential benefits of their proposals. Moreover, as Kirschner notes, scientists working in fundamental research can rarely anticipate future applications of their eventual discoveries. A further risk related to the introduction of this criterion is that increasing investments in areas that are considered impactful will in-evitably decrease resources for other fields. As a result, diversity in science will be reduced as well as productivity.

Although I tend to resonate with Kirschner's general argument, I also believe that there are compelling reasons in favor of introducing (maintaining) impact as a criterion in funding decisions.

First, at least some scientists, if not all of them, might have a clear view about the significance of their research.

Second, resources for science are scarce. Since choices need to be made, concentrating funding on research that has more promising applications is meaningful. As in the popular Nasruddin's tale, no matter where we may have lost the key, we all prefer to begin under the street light where we can see—and so it is for funding bodies.

Third, however, this strategy does not prevent the fact that some resources are dedicated to high risk/high impact projects; see, as an example, the European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Flagships' initiatives.

Fourth, the growing gap between science and the public could be reduced if researchers would better explain the significance of their work for society. This is especially true in times of economic depression: early evidence suggests that citizens of regions more affected by crisis are more likely to express support for increases in government investments in research (L. Sanz-Menéndez, G. G. Van Ryzin, Economic crisis and public attitudes toward science: a study of regional differences in Spain. Public Underst Sci. 2013 Jun 21).

We are aware that impact and significance are ill-defined concepts. However, researchers are good at measuring things. They could put more effort in trying to define better indicators for these issues, making impact review a less arbitrary system.

 

Apr 29, 2014

Evidence, Enactment, Engagement: The three 'nEEEds' of mental mHealth

Originally posted on Digital Agenda for Europe
 
As a researcher in the field of mHealth & mental health, I welcome the "Green Paper on Mobile Health" recently published by the European Commission. I believe that this document can provide a useful platform for discussing key issues related to the deployment of mHealth, thereby contributing to bridge the gap between policy, research and practice.

Actually, according to my experience, citizens and public stakeholders are not well-informed or educated about mHealth. For example, to many people the idea of using phones to deliver mental health programs still sounds weird.

Yet the number of mental health apps is rapidly growing: a recent survey identified 200 unique mobile tools specifically associated with behavioral health.

These applications now cover a wide array of clinical areas including developmental disorders, cognitive disorders, substance-related disorders, as well as psychotic and mood disorders.

I think that the increasing "applification" of mental health is explained by three potential benefits of this approach:

  • First, mobile apps can be integrated in different stages of treatment: from promoting awareness of disease, to increasing treatment compliance, to preventing relapse.
  • Furthermore, mobile tools can be used to monitor behavioural and psychological symptoms in everyday life: self-reported data can be complemented with readings from inbuilt or wearable sensors to fine-tune treatment according to the individual patient’s needs.
  • Last - but not least - mobile applications can help patients to stay on top of current research, facilitating access to evidence-based care. For example, in the EC-funded INTERSTRESS project, we investigated these potentials in the assessment and management of psychological stress, by developing different mobile applications (including the award-winning Positive Technology app) for helping people to monitor stress levels “on the go” and learn new relaxation skills.

In short, I believe that mental mHealth has the potential to provide the right care, at the right time, at the right place. However, from my personal experience I have identified three key challenges that must be faced in order to realize the potential of this approach.

I call them the three "nEEEds" of mental mHealth: evidence, engagement, enactment.

  • Evidence refers to the need of clinical proof of efficacy or effectiveness to be provided using randomised trials.
  • Engagement is related to the need of ensuring usability and accessibility for mobile interfaces: this goes beyond reducing use errors that may generate risks of psychological discomfort for the patient, to include the creation of a compelling and engaging user experience.
  • Finally, enactment concerns the need that appropriate regulations enacted by competent authorities catch up with mHealth technology development.

Being myself a beneficiary of EC-funded grants, I can recognize that R&D investments on mHealth made by EC across FP6 and FP7 have contributed to position Europe at the forefront of this revolution. And the return of this investment could be strong: it has been predicted that full exploitation of mHealth solutions could lead to nearly 100 billion EUR savings in total annual EU healthcare spend in 2017.

I believe that a progressively larger portion of these savings may be generated by the adoption of mobile solutions in the mental health sector: actually, in the WHO European Region, mental ill health accounts for almost 20% of the burden of disease.

For this prediction to be fulfilled, however, many barriers must be overcome: thethree "nEEEds" of mental mHealth are probably only the start of the list. Hopefully, the Green Paper consultation will help to identify further opportunities and concerns that may be facing mental mHealth, in order to ensure a successful implementation of this approach.

Commodore 64 commercial (1985)

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