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Sep 23, 2018

The development of the Awe Experience Scale

Awe is a complex emotion composed of an appraisal of vastness and a need for accommodation. The purpose of this study was to develop a robust state measure of awe, the Awe Experience Scale (AWE-S), based on the extant experimental literature. In study 1, participants (N = 501) wrote about an intense moment of awe that they had experienced and then completed a survey about their experience. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a 6-factor structure, including: altered time perception (F1); self-diminishment (F2); connectedness (F3); perceived vastness (F4); physical sensations (F5); need for accommodation (F6). Internal consistency was strong for each factor (α ≥ .80). Study 2 confirmed the 6-factor structure (N = 636) using fit indices (CFI = .905; RMSEA = .054). Each factor of the AWES is significantly correlated with the awe items of the modified Differential Emotions Scale (mDES) and Dispositional Positive Emotion Scale (D-PES). Triggers, valence, and themes associated with awe experiences are reported.

To cite this research:

Yaden, D.B. Kaufman, S.B., Hyde, E., Chirico, A., Gaggioli, A., Zhang, J.W., Keltner, D. (2018) The development of the Awe Experience Scale (AWE-S): A multifactorial measure for a complex emotion, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2018.1484940

Blockchain technology: living in a decentralized everything

In the last months, there has been a growing interest about blockchain technology, the open and distributed ledger that is at the heart of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This technology is based on a peer-to-peer network that allows storing any type of transaction in a verifiable and trustworthy way.

However, the most important feature of blockchain is that its distributed nature makes any type of centralized control authority superfluous: each transaction is monitored and approved by all the users within the ledger, which ensures the fairness of the process and also guarantees that the data cannot be traced back to an individual (anonymization).

The self-sustainability of this process is based on “mining”, a review process performed on each block of data in a blockchain that is rewarded by means of “tokens” or cryptocurrencies. In other words, the “miners” are incentivized to solve the complex computational problems required for validating the next block of transactions (hence the term “blockchain”) and keeping the system protected.

 

About a decade ago, blockchain technology was first outlined in a brilliant white paper written by Satoshi Nakamoto (which is a pseudonym for the author whose identity is currently unknown) as a way to exchange and store Bitcoins - the first cryptocurrency.

However, it was then soon realized that the potential of this distributed architecture could go far beyond the use of virtual money.

Actually, the decentralized mechanism allowed by blockchain can be applied in a number of different domains, to monitor all the online transactions – such as contracts, tasks, payments etc. - that have become ubiquitous in our everyday life.

As Iansiti and Lakhani explain in the Harvard Business Review:

Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organizations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction. This is the immense potential of blockchain

In the last few years, the number of applications and uses of blockchain has been growing rapidly, including the Internet of Things (IoT). The rapid adoption of IoT solutions by enterprises is generating increasing demands for protecting the complex ecosystem of connected devices from information attacks and physical tampering.

According to analyst firm Gartner, in two years from now more than 25% of identified enterprise attacks will involve IoT, though IoT will account for only 10% of IT security budgets.

Blockchain-based decentralized cryptographic processes can provide effective new and more scalable ways to ensure that the data is legitimate and that the process introducing it is well-defined. In this sense, it can be predicted that blockchain (and its derived technologies) could become soon the very blackbone of IoT.

For example, the IOTA project is a new-generation cryptographic token that has been specifically conceived to meet the needs of IoT. In contrast to existing virtual currencies, the IOTA introduces a new mathematical feature – the Tangle – that reduces the computational complexity of the process and so thus makes it more suitable for addressing the exponential scalability demands associated to the IoT; in addition, unlike existing cryptocurrencies, the IOTA uses quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms, which are almost immune to brute-force attacks.

 

In November 2017, IOTA has partnered with some of the biggest global corporate names led by Microsoft, Volkswagen and Samsung Group to develop a secure marketplace for data, as Reuters reports. The raising interest of economic giants in blockchain technologies is no big surprise, since many analysts regard this technology as one of the few innovations with highest disruptive potential. For example, the World Economic Forum forecasts estimates that by 2025 activities based on distributed ledger technology will account for 10% of global GDP.

The transformative potential of blockchain has not been overlooked by governments and public institutions, too, which see in this technology also a possible mean to develop new solutions for public issues. For example, the European Union has recently launched a blockchain contest dubbed "Blockchains for Social Good", which seeks entries from those who can propose solutions for public issues, leveraging the technology to provide a mix of greater transparency and decentralization. 

May 16, 2017

New Frontiers research topic on Positive Technology (Manuscript submission: 28 Feb 2018)

We are very excited to present this new Frontiers research topic on Positive Technology

Frontiers in Psychology is the #1 largest and the #2 most cited psychology journal in the world. Impact Factor: 2.463 (as accessed May 2017)

Submission Deadlines

30 September 2017 -> Abstract

28 February 2018 -> Manuscript

We look forward to receive your contribution!

6202

About this Research Topic

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the potential role that digital technologies can play in promoting well-being. Smartphones, wearable devices, virtual/augmented reality, social media, and the internet provide a wealth of useful tools and resources to support psychological interventions that facilitate positive emotions, resilience, personal growth, creativity, and social connectedness.

Understanding the full extent of this potential, however, requires an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the scientific principles of well-being into the design of e-experiences that foster positive change. Positive Technology is an emergent field within human-computer interaction that seeks to understand how interactive technologies can be used in evidence-based well-being interventions. It’s focus of analysis is two-fold: at the theoretical level, Positive Technology aims to develop conceptual frameworks and models for understanding how computers can be effectively used to help individuals achieve greater well-being.

At the methodological and applied level, Positive Technology is concerned with the design, development, and validation of digital experiences that promote positive change through pleasure, flow, meaning, competence, and positive relationships.

This Research Topic aims to explore the potential of interactive technology for well-being applications by focusing on the following issues:
- methodological issues in designing and evaluating positive technologies;
- technology-based strategies for promoting positive emotions and fostering eudaimonic and self-actualizing experiences;
- computer-based applications in stress prevention, monitoring, and management;
- online positive interventions;
- interactive technologies and positive change;
- digital tools & strategies for enhancing individual and team creativity;
- videogames and serious games for mental health prevention and promotion;
- technology and spirituality;
- positive technologies for healthy ageing;
- technology-based interventions to promote life skills and social connectedness;
- self-help applications to learn affective regulation strategies (at their multiple levels: e.g., interpersonal, intrapersonal; automatic, explicit; covert, overt).

Keywords: human-media interaction, positive psychology interventions, cyberpsychology, mental health

Apr 11, 2017

New ResearchGate Project on Positive Technology

I have created a new project in ResearchGate for those of you who are interested to get the latest updates in PT research (including full-text access to most of our papers):

https://www.researchgate.net/project/Positive-Technology-...

It is also a useful tool to explore scientific collaboration opportunities, so if you find anything that matches your interests please let us know!

 

 

Apr 06, 2017

Crowdsourcing VR research

If 2016 has been a golden year for virtual reality, there is reason to believe that the coming year may be even better. According to a recent market forecast by International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide revenues for the augmented reality and virtual reality market are projected to grow from $5.2 billion in 2016 to more than $162 billion in 2020.

virtual-reality-goggles-700x341.jpg

With virtual reality becoming a mass product, it becomes crucial to understand its psychological effects on users.

Over the last decade, a growing body of research has been addressing the positive and negative implications of virtual experience for the human mind. Yet many questions still remain unanswered.

Some of these issues are concerned with the defining features of virtual experience, i.e., what it means to be “present” in a computer-simulated reality. Other questions regard the drawbacks of virtual environments, such as cybersickness, addiction and other psychological disorders caused by prolonged exposure to immersive virtual worlds.

For example, in a recent article appeared in The Atlantic, Rebecca Searles wrote that after exploring a virtual environment, some users have reported a feeling of detachment that can last days or even weeks. This effect had been already documented by Frederick Aardema and colleagues in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking some years ago. The team administered a nonclinical sample questionnaires to measures dissociation, sense of presence, and immersion before and after an immersion in a virtual environment. Findings showed that after explosure to virtual reality, participants reported an increase in dissociative experience (depersonalization and derealization), including a lessened sense of presence in objective reality.

However, more research is needed to understand this phenomenon, and other aspects of virtual experience that are still to be uncovered.

Until today, most studies on virtual reality have been mainly conducted in scientific laboratories, because of the relatively high costs of virtual reality hardware and the need of specialist expertise for system setup and maintenance.

However, the increasing diffusion of commercial virtual reality headsets and software could make it possible to move research from the laboratory to private homes. For example, researchers could create online experiments and ask people to participate using their own virtual reality equipment, eventually providing some kind of rewards for their involvement.

An online collaboration platform could be developed to plan studies, create research protocols, collect and share data from participants. This open research strategy may offer several advantages. For example, the platform would offer researchers the opportunity to rapidly get input from large numbers of virtual reality participants. Furthermore, the users themselves could be involved in formulating research questions and co-create experiments with researchers.

98-687-1264940474.png

In the medical field, this approach has been successfully pioneered by online patient communities such as PatientsLikeMe and CureTogether. These social health sites provide a real-time research platform that allow clinical researchers and patients to partner for improving health outcomes. Other examples of internet-based citizen science projects include applications in astronomy, environmental protection, neuroscience to name a few (more examples can be found in Zooniverse, the world’s largest citizen science web portal).

But virtual reality could extend the potential of citizen science even further. For example, virtual reality applications could be developed that are specifically designed for research purposes, i.e., virtual reality games that “manipulate” some variables of interest for researchers, or virtual reality versions of classic experimental paradigms, such as the “Stroop test”. It could be even possible to create virtual reality simulations of whole research laboratories, to allow participants to participate in online experiments using their avatars.

Feb 28, 2017

Bringing more transparency to AI

The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken giant steps during the last decade, to the point that for many experts, including the world-renowned astrophysics Stephen Hawking and hi-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, AI could even destroy our civilization by overtaking humans. However, on the other side, AI may bring about huge benefits for the humankind, some of which may be still beyond our imagination of today. Thus, the scientific community is faced with the challenge of how we can develop powerful AI systems that support our civilization, preventing, at the same time, the potential side effects of an uncontrolled AI evolution.

                                   

To address these challenges, in late September 2016, tech giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM launched a “Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to benefit People and Society”. The new alliance has been established “to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.”

As claimed in the mission statement, a specific goal of the initiative is to help improving public awareness of what is happening in the AI field, where a number of players are shaping the future of intelligent services. Also, the Partnership aims at creating a more inclusive discussion, by extending the participation from AI specialists to activists and experts in other disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy, economics, finance, sociology, public policy, and law, to discuss and provide guidance on emerging issues related to the impact of AI on society.

The Partnership on AI to benefit People and Society has the potential to create a greater multidisciplinary understanding of the opportunities and challenges associated with potential breakthroughs in this field; yet, some key players, such as Apple and Elon Musk's OpenAI, - a non-profit AI research project - have not yet joined the club.    

While the goals of the Partnership have been set, the strategy that the alliance intends to put in place to attain these objectives is still unclear. Thus, it is too early to understand how the association will concretely address the challenges that needs to be addressed with the public, i.e., how can AI be safely used to support military activities, or how to deal with the legal responsibilities for any damages caused by AI to humans.

Ping-Pong Robot

Developed by Omron Corporation, FORPHEUS (Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized aUtomation with Sinic Theoretics) has officially been given the Guinness World Records title for being the First robot table tennis tutor for its unique technological intelligence and educational capabilities.

According to the project's lead developer Taku Oya, the goal of FORPHEUS was to harmonise humans and robots, by way of teaching the game of table tennis to human players.

The machine is easily able to act as a coach thanks to cutting edge vision and motion sensors it can use to gage movement during a match. FORPHEUS also features an array of cameras that are situated above the ping pong table which monitors the position of the ball at an impressive rate of 80 times per second. This functionality also allows the robot to show its human student to see a projected image as to where the return ball will land so that they may improve their skills.

                               

23:02 Posted in AI & robotics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feb 22, 2017

The Potential of Virtual Reality for the Investigation of Awe

Alice Chirico, David B. Yaden, Giuseppe Riva and Andrea Gaggioli

Front. Psychol., 09 November 2016 https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01766

Dipartimento di Psicologia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy

The emotion of awe is characterized by the perception of vastness and a need for accommodation, which can include a positive and/or negative valence. While a number of studies have successfully manipulated this emotion, the issue of how to elicit particularly intense awe experiences in laboratory settings remains. We suggest that virtual reality (VR) is a particularly effective mood induction tool for eliciting awe. VR provides three key assets for improving awe. First, VR provides users with immersive and ecological yet controlled environments that can elicit a sense of “presence,” the subjective experience of “being there” in a simulated reality. Further, VR can be used to generate complex, vast stimuli, which can target specific theoretical facets of awe. Finally, VR allows for convenient tracking of participants’ behavior and physiological responses, allowing for more integrated assessment of emotional experience. We discussed the potential and challenges of the proposed approach with an emphasis on VR’s capacity to raise the signal of reactions to emotions such as awe in laboratory settings.

Jan 19, 2017

Facebook Study Finds Introverts Feel More Comfortable with VR Social Interaction

Via RoadToVr

A recent study by Facebook IQ, in which people completed one-on-one conversations in VR, concluded that most people respond positively, and introverts in particular feel more comfortable. Facebook IQ is a team established to assist marketers in understanding the way people communicate online and offline.

Facebook has been exploring the potential of social VR since their famous acquisition of Oculus VR in 2014. More recently, they detailed the results of their social VR avatar experiments and are planning to launch a ‘social VR app’ very soon. A different social experiment was recently completed by Facebook IQ, an internal team who help businesses understand communication trends and advertising effectiveness – asking 60 people to have a one-on-one conversation, half of them being in person, and half being in a VR environment wearing the Oculus Rift.

Interestingly, they didn’t use the VR avatars seen in Facebook’s own demonstrations, nor did they use the Oculus avatars found in the Rift’s menus – instead they used vTime, a popular ‘sociable network’ app available for Rift, Gear VR, Cardboard and Daydream. vTime uses its own full-body avatar system, complete with automatically-animating hands – surprising that these would be used in such an experiment. However, it seems like the main reason for choosing the software was to use its comfortable ‘train cabin’ environment – a familiar and natural place to converse with a stranger – and the focus of the experiment was about vocal communication.

facebook-vr

Applied neuroscience company Neurons Inc was commissioned to assist with the study of cognitive and emotional responses; all participants wore high resolution electroencephalography (EEG) scanners, used to record electrical activity in the brain, and eye trackers. With half the group conducting a normal one-to-one conversation in person, and the other half engaged in vTime, Neurons Inc was able to compare the level of comfort and engagement of a VR conversation compared to a conventional one. The eye trackers helped to determine the user’s level of attention, and the EEG scanners were used to assess motivation and cognitive load, based on the level of brain activity. If the load is too low, it means the person is bored; too high and they’re stressed.

According to the report published on Facebook Insights, the participants, who had mostly never tried VR before, were within the ‘optimal range of cognitive effort’, being neither bored nor overstimulated. The cognitive load decreased over time, meaning that people naturally became more comfortable as the conversation progressed. In the interviews that followed, 93% said that they liked their virtual conversation partner, and those who were identified as more introverted responded ‘particularly positively’, being more engaged by meeting in VR than by meeting in person.

 
 

Jan 02, 2017

Babies exposed to stimulation get brain boost

Source: The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Many new parents still think that babies should develop at their own pace, and that they shouldn't be challenged to do things that they're not yet ready for. Infants should learn to roll around under their own power, without any "helpful" nudges, and they shouldn't support their weight before they can stand or walk on their own. They mustn't be potty trained before they are ready for it.

According to neuroscientist Audrey van der Meer, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) this mindset can be traced back to the early 1900s, when professionals were convinced that our genes determine who we are, and that child development occurred independently of the stimulation that a baby is exposed to. They believed it was harmful to hasten development, because development would and should happen naturally.

Early stimulation in the form of baby gym activities and early potty training play a central role in Asia and Africa. The old development theory also contrasts with modern brain research that shows that early stimulation contributes to brain development gains even in the wee ones among us.

Using the body and senses

Van der Meer is a professor of neuropsychology and has used advanced EEG technology for many years to study the brain activity of hundreds of babies.

The results show that the neurons in the brains of young children quickly increase in both number and specialization as the baby learns new skills and becomes more mobile. Neurons in very young children form up to a thousand new connections per second.

Van der Meer's research also shows that the development of our brain, sensory perception and motor skills happen in sync. She believes that even the smallest babies must be challenged and stimulated at their level from birth onward. They need to engage their entire body and senses by exploring their world and different materials, both indoors and out and in all types of weather. She emphasizes that the experiences must be self-produced; it is not enough for children merely to be carried or pushed in a stroller.

Unused brain synapses disappear

"Many people believe that children up to three years old only need cuddles and nappy changes, but studies show that rats raised in cages have less dendritic branching in the brain than rats raised in an environment with climbing and hiding places and tunnels. Research also shows that children born into cultures where early stimulation is considered important, develop earlier than Western children do," van der Meer says.

She adds that the brains of young children are very malleable, and can therefore adapt to what is happening around them. If the new synapses that are formed in the brain are not being used, they disappear as the child grows up and the brain loses some of its plasticity.

Van der Meer mentions the fact that Chinese babies hear a difference between the R and L sounds when they are four months old, but not when they get older. Since Chinese children do not need to distinguish between these sounds to learn their mother tongue, the brain synapses that carry this knowledge disappear when they are not used.

Loses the ability to distinguish between sounds

Babies actually manage to distinguish between the sounds of any language in the world when they are four months old, but by the time they are eight months old they have lost this ability, according to van der Meer.

In the 1970s, it was believed that children could only learn one language properly. Foreign parents were advised not to speak their native language to their children, because it could impede the child's language development. Today we think completely differently, and there are examples of children who speak three, four or five languages fluently without suffering language confusion or delays.

Brain research suggests that in these cases the native language area in the brain is activated when children speak the languages. If we study a foreign language after the age of seven, other areas of the brain are used when we speak the language, explains Van der Meer.

She adds that it is important that children learn languages by interacting with real people.

"Research shows that children don't learn language by watching someone talk on a screen, it has to be real people who expose them to the language," says van der Meer.

Early intervention with the very young

Since a lot is happening in the brain during the first years of life, van der Meer says that it is easier to promote learning and prevent problems when children are very young.

The term "early intervention" keeps popping up in discussions of kindergartens and schools, teaching and learning. Early intervention is about helping children as early as possible to ensure that as many children as possible succeed in their education and on into adulthood - precisely because the brain has the greatest ability to change under the influence of the ambient conditions early in life.

"When I talk about early intervention, I'm not thinking of six-year-olds, but even younger children from newborns to age three. Today, 98 per cent of Norwegian children attend kindergarten, so the quality of the time that children spend there is especially important. I believe that kindergarten should be more than just a holding place -- it should be a learning arena - and by that I mean that play is learning," says van der Meer.

Too many untrained staff

She adds that a two-year old can easily learn to read or swim, as long as the child has access to letters or water. However, she does not want kindergarten to be a preschool, but rather a place where children can have varied experiences through play.

"This applies to both healthy children and those with different challenges. When it comes to children with motor challenges or children with impaired vision and hearing, we have to really work to bring the world to them," says van der Meer.

"One-year-olds can't be responsible for their own learning, so it's up to the adults to see to it. Today untrained temporary staff tend to be assigned to the infant and toddler rooms, because it's 'less dangerous' with the youngest ones since they only need cuddles and nappy changes. I believe that all children deserve teachers who understand how the brains of young children work. Today, Norway is the only one of 25 surveyed OECD countries where kindergarten teachers do not constitute 50 per cent of kindergarten staffing," she said.

More children with special needs

Lars Adde is a specialist in paediatric physical therapy at St. Olavs Hospital and a researcher at NTNU's Department of Laboratory Medicine, Children's and Women's Health. He works with young children who have special needs, in both his clinical practice and research.

He believes it is important that all children are stimulated and get to explore the world, but this is especially important for children who have special challenges. He points out that a greater proportion of children that are now coming into the world in Norway have special needs.

"This is due to the rapid development in medical technology, which enables us to save many more children -- like extremely premature babies and infants who get cancer. These children would have died 50 years ago, and today they survive -- but often with a number of subsequent difficulties," says Adde.

New knowledge offers better treatment

Adde says that the new understanding of brain development that has been established since the 1970s has given these children far better treatment and care options.

For example, the knowledge that some synapses in the brain are strengthened while others disappear has led to the understanding that we have to work at what we want to be good at - like walking. According to the old mindset, any general movement would provide good general motor function.

Babies who are born very prematurely at St. Olavs Hospital receive follow-up by an interdisciplinary team at the hospital and a municipal physiotherapist in their early years. Kindergarten staff where the child attends receive training in exactly how this child should be stimulated and challenged at the appropriate level. The follow-up enables a child with developmental delays to catch up quickly, so that measures can be implemented early -- while the child's brain is still very plastic.

A child may, for example, have a small brain injury that causes him to use his arms differently. Now we know that the brain connections that govern this arm become weaker when it is used less, which reinforces the reduced function.

"Parents may then be asked to put a sock on the "good" hand when their child uses his hands to play. Then the child is stimulated and the brain is challenged to start using the other arm," says Adde.

Shouldn't always rush development

Adde stresses that it is not always advisable to speed up the development of children with special needs who initially struggle with their motor skills.

A one-year old learning to walk first has to learn to find her balance. If the child is helped to standing position, she will eventually learn to stand - but before she has learned how to sit down again. If the child loses her balance, she'll fall like a stiff cane, which can be both scary and counterproductive.

In that situation, "we might then ask the parents to instead help their child up to kneeling position while it holds onto something. Then the child will learn to stand up on its own. If the child falls, it will bend in the legs and tumble on its bum. Healthy children figure this out on their own, but children with special challenges don't necessarily do this," says Adde.


Story Source:

Materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Mind-controlled toys: The next generation of Christmas presents?

Source: University of Warwick 

The next generation of toys could be controlled by the power of the mind, thanks to research by the University of Warwick.

make-way-for-mind-controlled-toys-the-future-gifts.png

Led by Professor Christopher James, Director of Warwick Engineering in Biomedicine at the School of Engineering, technology has been developed which allows electronic devices to be activated using electrical impulses from brain waves, by connecting our thoughts to computerised systems. Some of the most popular toys on children's lists to Santa - such as remote-controlled cars and helicopters, toy robots and Scalextric racing sets - could all be controlled via a headset, using 'the power of thought'.

This could be based on levels of concentration - thinking of your favourite colour or stroking your dog, for example. Instead of a hand-held controller, a headset is used to create a brain-computer interface - a communication link between the human brain and the computerised device.

Sensors in the headset measure the electrical impulses from brain at various different frequencies - each frequency can be somewhat controlled, under special circumstances. This activity is then processed by a computer, amplified and fed into the electrical circuit of the electronic toy. Professor James comments on the future potential for this technology: "Whilst brain-computer interfaces already exist - there are already a few gaming headsets on the market - their functionality has been quite limited.

New research is making the headsets now read cleaner and stronger signals than ever before - this means stronger links to the toy, game or action thus making it a very immersive experience. "The exciting bit is what comes next - how long before we start unlocking the front door or answering the phone through brain-computer interfaces?"

 

The Potential of Virtual Reality for the Investigation of Awe

The Potential of Virtual Reality for the Investigation of Awe

Alice Chirico, David B. Yaden, Giuseppe Riva and Andrea Gaggioli

Front. Psychol., 09 November 2016 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01766

The emotion of awe is characterized by the perception of vastness and a need for accommodation, which can include a positive and/or negative valence. While a number of studies have successfully manipulated this emotion, the issue of how to elicit particularly intense awe experiences in laboratory settings remains. We suggest that virtual reality (VR) is a particularly effective mood induction tool for eliciting awe. VR provides three key assets for improving awe. First, VR provides users with immersive and ecological yet controlled environments that can elicit a sense of “presence,” the subjective experience of “being there” in a simulated reality. Further, VR can be used to generate complex, vast stimuli, which can target specific theoretical facets of awe. Finally, VR allows for convenient tracking of participants’ behavior and physiological responses, allowing for more integrated assessment of emotional experience. We discussed the potential and challenges of the proposed approach with an emphasis on VR’s capacity to raise the signal of reactions to emotions such as awe in laboratory settings.

Why we should fix inequalities in science

Science is a source of progress and the best hope for the future of mankind. With a world population reaching seven billion individuals and a growing consumption of (increasingly scarce) natural resources, the only chance that we have to avoid the collapse of civilization caused by our own expansion is to find new strategies for sustainable development. But addressing this challenge will be impossible without the support of scientific and technological innovation.

Thanks to scientific research, we have conquered space, developed therapies for devastating pathologies, and explored the mysteries of matter. Science is illuminating our understanding of the most complex object in nature—the brain—and expanding our knowledge of the universe. But today, science is suffering from several diseases.

In most countries, researchers strive to find the economic resources to carry out their research and keep their jobs. Since research funding is scarce, scientists are forced to compete with peers in order to obtain them. The odds of winning this hard competition, however, are increasingly more dependent upon the scientific impact and productivity of grant seekers than they are on the excellence of the research proposals. As a consequence, researchers who are not able to produce a decent number of publications on sufficiently prestigious outlets have almost no chance of receiving funding and realizing their ideas. This is why the notorious motto, publish or perish, has become the #1 concern of most researchers in the world.

The pressure to publish has several negative implications. First, it pushes conflicts of interest and risks of scientific misconduct, for example falsification or fabrication of data. Furthermore, the spasmodic need to increase one’s h-index (a way to measure academic impact) leads researchers (and especially younger scholars) to focus on topics that are currently more mainstream or fashionable, and thus more likely to attract a greater number of citations from other authors. And last - but not least - while the rush to publish can generate more papers, it also increases the volume of poor scientific work. It could be argued that only a competitive system, such as the current one, can make it possible to select the best talents and ideas, thus ensuring the highest return on investment for society. But in reality, there is no evidence that the increase in scientific productivity is associated with better research outcomes.

Furthermore, as recently shown by University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie, science is becoming more and more a ‘‘winner takes all’’ field, in which a few talented scientists receive much greater recognition and rewards than lesser-known scientists for comparable contributions. As a consequence, many young researchers, although brilliant, have little chance of being recognized at all because most of the available resources are taken by the ‘‘giants’’ of their scientific disciplines. But in addition to diminishing integrity, lowering scientific quality, and spreading frustration among younger scholars, the current system may also threaten the very driving forces behind science: the passion to invent and discover. As noted by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, two prominent experts of innovation, ‘‘what doesn’t motivate creativity can kill it.’’

22:16 Posted in Blue sky | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Impact of Virtual Reality on Chronic Pain

The Impact of Virtual Reality on Chronic Pain.

PLoS One. 2016;11(12):e0167523

Authors: Jones T, Moore T, Choo J

Abstract. The treatment of chronic pain could benefit from additional non-opioid interventions. Virtual reality (VR) has been shown to be effective in decreasing pain for procedural or acute pain but to date there have been few studies on its use in chronic pain. The present study was an investigation of the impact of a virtual reality application for chronic pain. Thirty (30) participants with various chronic pain conditions were offered a five-minute session using a virtual reality application called Cool! Participants were asked about their pain using a 0-10 visual analog scale rating before the VR session, during the session and immediately after the session. They were also asked about immersion into the VR world and about possible side effects. Pain was reduced from pre-session to post-session by 33%. Pain was reduced from pre-session during the VR session by 60%. These changes were both statistically significant at the p < .001 level. Three participants (10%) reported no change between pre and post pain ratings. Ten participants (33%) reported complete pain relief while doing the virtual reality session. All participants (100%) reported a decrease in pain to some degree between pre-session pain and during-session pain. The virtual reality experience was found here to provide a significant amount of pain relief. A head mounted display (HMD) was used with all subjects and no discomfort was experienced. Only one participant noted any side effects. VR seems to have promise as a non-opioid treatment for chronic pain and further investigation is warranted.

22:12 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0)

Effects of Smart-Tablet-Based Neurofeedback Training on Cognitive Function in Children with Attention Problems

Effects of Smart-Tablet-Based Neurofeedback Training on Cognitive Function in Children with Attention Problems

J Child Neurol. 2016 May;31(6):750-60 Authors: Shin MS, Jeon H, Kim M, Hwang T, Oh SJ, Hwangbo M, Kim KJ

Abstract We sought to determine whether smart-tablet-based neurofeedback could improve executive function-including attention, working memory, and self-regulation-in children with attention problems. Forty children (10-12 years old) with attention problems, as determined by ratings on the Conners Parent Rating Scale, were assigned to either a neurofeedback group that received 16 sessions or a control group. A comprehensive test battery that assessed general intelligence, visual and auditory attention, attentional shifting, response inhibition and behavior rating scales were administered to both groups before neurofeedback training. Several neuropsychological tests were conducted at posttraining and follow-up assessment. Scores on several neuropsychological tests and parent behavior rating scales showed significant improvement in the training group but not in the controls. The improvements remained through the follow-up assessment. This study suggests that the smart-tablet-based neurofeedback training program might improve cognitive function in children with attention problems.

Oct 15, 2016

Transforming Experience: The Potential of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality for Enhancing Personal and Clinical Change

Front. Psychiatry, 30 September 2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00164

Giuseppe Riva, Rosa M. Baños, Cristina Botella, Fabrizia Mantovani and Andrea Gaggioli

During life, many personal changes occur. These include changing house, school, work, and even friends and partners. However, the daily experience shows clearly that, in some situations, subjects are unable to change even if they want to. The recent advances in psychology and neuroscience are now providing a better view of personal change, the change affecting our assumptive world: (a) the focus of personal change is reducing the distance between self and reality (conflict); (b) this reduction is achieved through (1) an intense focus on the particular experience creating the conflict or (2) an internal or external reorganization of this experience; (c) personal change requires a progression through a series of different stages that however happen in discontinuous and non-linear ways; and (d) clinical psychology is often used to facilitate personal change when subjects are unable to move forward. Starting from these premises, the aim of this paper is to review the potential of virtuality for enhancing the processes of personal and clinical change. First, the paper focuses on the two leading virtual technologies – augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – exploring their current uses in behavioral health and the outcomes of the 28 available systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Then the paper discusses the added value provided by VR and AR in transforming our external experience by focusing on the high level of personal efficacy and self-reflectiveness generated by their sense of presence and emotional engagement. Finally, it outlines the potential future use of virtuality for transforming our inner experience by structuring, altering, and/ or replacing our bodily self-consciousness. The final outcome may be a new generation of transformative experiences that provide knowledge that is epistemically inaccessible to the individual until he or she has that experience, while at the same time transforming the individual's worldview.

Sep 19, 2016

Pfizer Launches New "Moodivator" App to Help Support, Encourage and Motivate People with Depression

has launched a new app, Moodivator, to help motivate and encourage the millions of adults who experience depression. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, as an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) experience at least one major depressive episode in any given year.
Living with depression can feel isolating, overwhelming and impact all aspects of a person's life. An increasing number of patients, especially those who suffer from chronic conditions like depression, are turning to their smartphones to supplement treatment they receive. The new app aims to provide ongoing motivation in a simple and portable way. Moodivator is designed to help complement the treatment patients receive by allowing them to track their mood, set goals and establish routines that can help support them in their daily life. The Moodivator app is free and available to download for iPhones from the Apple App Store

Treatment for depression often includes a number of approaches such as talk therapy, medication, peer support and a personal wellness plan - however, it may be challenging for some patients to adhere to their treatment. Fortunately, advances in technology like Moodivator are offering new ways to approach health management, encouraging them to take a more active role in managing their condition. In fact, a 2014 survey found that 70% of patients being treated for a mental health disorder say they want to use a mobile application to monitor their mental health on a daily basis.

"As awareness of the magnitude and severity of depression continues to mount, technology like the Moodivator app represents a new and exciting frontier for helping people with depression. The option to set, track and achieve personal goals in the Moodivator app ties in nicely with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that I use often with my patients," said Susan Kornstein, MD, professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, who helped consult on the app's design. "The opportunity for patients to track and export their mood and goal progress in easy-to-read charts is also very useful, because the progress can then be shared with doctors to help inform care decisions."

Mobile apps offer the potential to help address key barriers to accessing real-time support for depression. Designed to fit into patients' schedules and lifestyles, the Moodivator app uses a simple and accessible interface with customizable features. Patients also receive encouraging and inspirational messages in the app to help motivate them as they work to manage their depression. This app includes a number of simple features that leverage some best principles in managing depression:

  • Goal setting: Ability to create customizable, manageable goals with clear action steps to help patients achieve them, which can be made across one or more categories, including work, home and family or social activities. Goals can be adjusted over time and turned into helpful habits as part of an ongoing routine.
  • Mood tracking: A simple scale lets patients track how they are feeling when it is convenient for them, whether multiple times a day or sporadically. Mood tracking is an important tool for improving patients' emotional self-awareness. Tracking mood through a mobile app also offers the convenience of real-time reporting, which can make it easier to identify long-term patterns with their care team.
  • Sharing results: Opportunity for patients to share their goal progress with their care team, showcasing their progress through clear charts.


The Moodivator app is not a treatment for depression. All patients should work with their doctor to determine which course of treatment is right for them, and even when patients start to feel better, they should continue their therapy and work closely with their doctor until they reach an agreement to conclude the treatment plan. This app includes information about a prescription treatment option for depression.

15:32 Posted in Positive App | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jun 21, 2016

New book on Human Computer Confluence - FREE PDF!

Two good news for Positive Technology followers.

1) Our new book on Human Computer Confluence is out!

2) It can be downloaded for free here

9783110471137.jpg

Human-computer confluence refers to an invisible, implicit, embodied or even implanted interaction between humans and system components. New classes of user interfaces are emerging that make use of several sensors and are able to adapt their physical properties to the current situational context of users.

A key aspect of human-computer confluence is its potential for transforming human experience in the sense of bending, breaking and blending the barriers between the real, the virtual and the augmented, to allow users to experience their body and their world in new ways. Research on Presence, Embodiment and Brain-Computer Interface is already exploring these boundaries and asking questions such as: Can we seamlessly move between the virtual and the real? Can we assimilate fundamentally new senses through confluence?

The aim of this book is to explore the boundaries and intersections of the multidisciplinary field of HCC and discuss its potential applications in different domains, including healthcare, education, training and even arts.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL BOOK HERE AS OPEN ACCESS

Please cite as follows:

Andrea Gaggioli, Alois Ferscha, Giuseppe Riva, Stephen Dunne, Isabell Viaud-Delmon (2016). Human computer confluence: transforming human experience through symbiotic technologies. Warsaw: De Gruyter. ISBN 9783110471120.

 

May 26, 2016

From User Experience (UX) to Transformative User Experience (T-UX)

In 1999, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote a seminal book titled “The Experience Economy” (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA) that theorized the shift from a service-based economy to an experience-based economy.

According to these authors, in the new experience economy the goal of the purchase is no longer to own a product (be it a good or service), but to use it in order to enjoy a compelling experience. An experience, thus, is a whole-new type of offer: in contrast to commodities, goods and services, it is designed to be as personal and memorable as possible. Just as in a theatrical representation, companies stage meaningful events to engage customers in a memorable and personal way, by offering activities that provide engaging and rewarding experiences.

Indeed, if one looks back at the past ten years, the concept of experience has become more central to several fields, including tourism, architecture, and – perhaps more relevant for this column – to human-computer interaction, with the rise of “User Experience” (UX).

The concept of UX was introduced by Donald Norman in a 1995 article published on the CHI proceedings (D. Norman, J. Miller, A. Henderson: What You See, Some of What's in the Future, And How We Go About Doing It: HI at Apple Computer. Proceedings of CHI 1995, Denver, Colorado, USA). Norman argued that focusing exclusively on usability attribute (i.e. easy of use, efficacy, effectiveness) when designing an interactive product is not enough; one should take into account the whole experience of the user with the system, including users’ emotional and contextual needs. Since then, the UX concept has assumed an increasing importance in HCI. As McCarthy and Wright emphasized in their book “Technology as Experience” (MIT Press, 2004):

“In order to do justice to the wide range of influences that technology has in our lives, we should try to interpret the relationship between people and technology in terms of the felt life and the felt or emotional quality of action and interaction.” (p. 12).

However, according to Pine and Gilmore experience may not be the last step of what they call as “Progression of Economic Value”. They speculated further into the future, by identifying the “Transformation Economy” as the likely next phase. In their view, while experiences are essentially memorable events which stimulate the sensorial and emotional levels, transformations go much further in that they are the result of a series of experiences staged by companies to guide customers learning, taking action and eventually achieving their aspirations and goals.

In Pine and Gilmore terms, an aspirant is the individual who seeks advice for personal change (i.e. a better figure, a new career, and so forth), while the provider of this change (a dietist, a university) is an elictor. The elictor guide the aspirant through a series of experiences which are designed with certain purpose and goals. According to Pine and Gilmore, the main difference between an experience and a transformation is that the latter occurs when an experience is customized:

“When you customize an experience to make it just right for an individual - providing exactly what he needs right now - you cannot help changing that individual. When you customize an experience, you automatically turn it into a transformation, which companies create on top of experiences (recall that phrase: “a life-transforming experience”), just as they create experiences on top of services and so forth” (p. 244).

A further key difference between experiences and transformations concerns their effects: because an experience is inherently personal, no two people can have the same one. Likewise, no individual can undergo the same transformation twice: the second time it’s attempted, the individual would no longer be the same person (p. 254-255).

But what will be the impact of this upcoming, “transformation economy” on how people relate with technology? If in the experience economy the buzzword is “User Experience”, in the next stage the new buzzword might be “User Transformation”.

Indeed, we can see some initial signs of this shift. For example, FitBit and similar self-tracking gadgets are starting to offer personalized advices to foster enduring changes in users’ lifestyle; another example is from the fields of ambient intelligence and domotics, where there is an increasing focus towards designing systems that are able to learn from the user’s behaviour (i.e. by tracking the movement of an elderly in his home) to provide context-aware adaptive services (i.e. sending an alert when the user is at risk of falling).

But likely, the most important ICT step towards the transformation economy could take place with the introduction of next-generation immersive virtual reality systems. Since these new systems are based on mobile devices (an example is the recent partnership between Oculus and Samsung), they are able to deliver VR experiences that incorporate information on the external/internal context of the user (i.e. time, location, temperature, mood etc) by using the sensors incapsulated in the mobile phone.

By personalizing the immersive experience with context-based information, it might be possibile to induce higher levels of involvement and presence in the virtual environment. In case of cyber-therapeutic applications, this could translate into the development of more effective, transformative virtual healing experiences.

Furthermore, the emergence of "symbiotic technologies", such as neuroprosthetic devices and neuro-biofeedback, is enabling a direct connection between the computer and the brain. Increasingly, these neural interfaces are moving from the biomedical domain to become consumer products. But unlike existing digital experiential products, symbiotic technologies have the potential to transform more radically basic human experiences.

Brain-computer interfaces, immersive virtual reality and augmented reality and their various combinations will allow users to create “personalized alterations” of experience. Just as nowadays we can download and install a number of “plug-ins”, i.e. apps to personalize our experience with hardware and software products, so very soon we may download and install new “extensions of the self”, or “experiential plug-ins” which will provide us with a number of options for altering/replacing/simulating our sensorial, emotional and cognitive processes.

Such mediated recombinations of human experience will result from of the application of existing neuro-technologies in completely new domains. Although virtual reality and brain-computer interface were originally developed for applications in specific domains (i.e. military simulations, neurorehabilitation, etc), today the use of these technologies has been extended to other fields of application, ranging from entertainment to education.

In the field of biology, Stephen Jay Gould and Elizabeth Vrba (Paleobiology, 8, 4-15, 1982) have defined “exaptation” the process in which a feature acquires a function that was not acquired through natural selection. Likewise, the exaptation of neurotechnologies to the digital consumer market may lead to the rise of a novel “neuro-experience economy”, in which technology-mediated transformation of experience is the main product.

Just as a Genetically-Modified Organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material is altered using genetic-engineering techniques, so we could define aTechnologically-Modified Experience (ETM) a re-engineered experience resulting from the artificial manipulation of neurobiological bases of sensorial, affective, and cognitive processes.

Clearly, the emergence of the transformative neuro-experience economy will not happen in weeks or months but rather in years. It will take some time before people will find brain-computer devices on the shelves of electronic stores: most of these tools are still in the pre-commercial phase at best, and some are found only in laboratories.

Nevertheless, the mere possibility that such scenario will sooner or later come to pass, raises important questions that should be addressed before symbiotic technologies will enter our lives: does technological alteration of human experience threaten the autonomy of individuals, or the authenticity of their lives? How can we help individuals decide which transformations are good or bad for them?

Answering these important issues will require the collaboration of many disciplines, including philosophy, computer ethics and, of course, cyberpsychology.

May 24, 2016

Virtual reality painting tool

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