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Jan 31, 2007

Many Eyes

Via Pasta and Vinegar 

Many Eyes is a new social computing site launched by IT giant IBM:

IBM (Quote) launched a new social computing site today called Many Eyes, which allows users to upload very large data sets, choose different visual representations for the data sets, and engage in an online discussion of what the data reveals. Each visualization will allow for an active discussion to take place and become a common area to share ideas, add insight and understand the visualization in a group setting.
an attempt to learn whether the principles of crowd-sourcing can be applied to the analysis of visualized data, in the hopes of generating broader and deeper analysis of data.


(source:  Internet News)

17:20 Posted in Social Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: social computing

BuddyCheckService helps seniors

Re-blogged from Textually.org

BuddyCheckService helps seniors that live alone keep their independence.  It uses ASR speech technology to enable overtaxed family caregivers to monitor loved ones on a regular basis, and are alerted by text message or call on their mobile phone if there is an emergency.

17:15 Posted in Wearable & mobile | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: mobile, wearable

Researcher HCI/usability - Oslo, Norway

Via Usability News

Deadine: 17 February 2007

SINTEF ICT, department of Cooperative and trusted systems, is in the process of hiring a new researcher. The position is within the HCI-group, which works with user-centred development of ICT solutions and user interfaces. The group is strong, and keeps developing through national and international research projects. Our projects encompass service and application areas such as new interactive media, mobile solutions, e-Commerce and e-Government.

We will be hiring a person with interest for, and ambitions regarding research within the discipline of Human-Computer Interaction. The applicant should have a drive to create new research missions, a desire to communicate research results in academic and popular arenas, and ability to complete deliverables and projects according to specification. Both younger and more experienced applicants will be considered. In particular we will evaluate applicants against the following competency areas:

- User-centred development method
- Statistical analysis
- Data mining
- User interface design

Applicants should have formal education at university level (MSc, PhD, or similar)

We offer
- Continuous opportunity to develop your areas of interest
- Opportunity for innovative work in national and international projects
- Participation in academic publication arenas
- Competitive terms, pension- and insurance schemes, flexible work hours

For the proposal to be processed, we require that your e-mail has attached comprehensive CV, copy of academic certificates/grade cards, and other relevant documentation.

Please submit your proposal no later than February 17, 2007, as an e-mail to our personnel officer Nora Gibb ( nora.gibb@sintef.no )with copy to HCI group leader Asbjørn Følstad(asbjorn.folstad@sintef.no )

New mobile monitoring system from Loughborough University

Via Medgadget 



Researchers at Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the Loughborough University in the UK are planning to introduce a portable telemedicine technology to the market. The system enables a doctor to observe remotely up to four different medical signals from a freely moving patient. Signals that can be transmitted include the ECG, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and blood glucose level.


Now Professor Woodward has been awarded a grant by the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), enabling him to join forces with experts in India on the project. Working with the Indian Insitute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi), the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University and London's Kingston University, he is hoping to miniaturise the system, designing 'smart' sensors and mini-processors that are small enough to be carried by patients and able to acquire biomedical data from them. The network of sensors will be linked via a modem to mobile networks and the internet, and to a hospital computer. The device would then be used by doctors to remotely monitor patients suffering from chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, which affect millions of people across the world.

"Such a 'Mobile Disease Management System' is long overdue," says Professor Woodward. "Especially in view of the proliferation of applications in mobile data communications. It is also achievable in a three-year time frame and should provide a step-change in improving the quality of life of patients needing expert diagnoses, and for those with pre-diagnosed conditions or undergoing post-operative care.

"In the UK, the project will allow a more patient-driven health service, as promoted by the Government to improve the efficiency of health care delivery. In India, the project will link clinics and regional hospitals in remote areas to centres of excellence. As in the UK, the Indian Government is encouraging the integration of new and existing networks, much needed because of a large population spread over a vast area.


Link at Loughborough University...

00:56 Posted in Wearable & mobile | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: mobile, wearable

Jan 29, 2007

A Wheelchair That Reads Your Mind

From Wired 

Spanish scientists are building a robotic wheelchair controlled by thought, so even completely immobile patients can have some freedom of movement...

read the full story on Wired 

Jan 28, 2007

Mindfulness based stress reduction for smokers

A pilot study on mindfulness based stress reduction for smokers.

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007 Jan 25;7(1):2

Authors: Davis JM, Fleming MF, Bonus KA, Baker TB

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Mindfulness means paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally, without commentary or decision-making. We report results of a pilot study designed to test the feasibility of using Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) (with minor modifications) as a smoking intervention. METHODS: MBSR instructors provided instructions in mindfulness in eight weekly group sessions. Subjects attempted smoking cessation during week seven without pharmacotherapy. Smoking abstinence was tested six weeks after the smoking quit day with carbon monoxide breath test and 7-day smoking calendars. Questionnaires were administered to evaluate changes in stress and affective distress. RESULTS: 18 subjects enrolled in the intervention with an average smoking history of 19.9 cigarettes per day for 26.4 years. At the 6-week post-quit visit, 10 of 18 subjects (56%) achieved biologically confirmed 7-day point-prevalent smoking abstinence. Compliance with meditation was positively associated with smoking abstinence and decreases in stress and affective distress. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that mindfulness training may show promise for smoking cessation and warrants additional study in a larger comparative trial.

Validating the efficacy of neurofeedback for optimising performance

Validating the efficacy of neurofeedback for optimising performance.

Prog Brain Res. 2006;159:421-31

Authors: Gruzelier J, Egner T, Vernon D

The field of neurofeedback training has largely proceeded without validation. Here we review our studies directed at validating SMR, beta and alpha-theta protocols for improving attention, memory, mood and music and dance performance in healthy participants. Important benefits were demonstrable with cognitive and neurophysiological measures which were predicted on the basis of regression models of learning. These are initial steps in providing a much needed scientific basis to neurofeedback, but much remains to be done.

Jan 27, 2007

Brain activity provides novel biometric key

Via New Scientist 

EU researchers have developed a system that uses the electrical activity in a person's brain to provide a hard-to-forge biometric for high-security applications. The system was developed by two companies - Starlab in Spain and Forenap in France - in cooperation with researchers at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, in Greece. 

read more >> 

An Internet virtual world chat room for smoking cessation

Evaluation of an Internet virtual world chat room for adolescent smoking cessation.

Addict Behav. 2006 Dec 19;

Authors: Woodruff SI, Conway TL, Edwards CC, Elliott SP, Crittenden J

The goal of this longitudinal study was to test an innovative approach to smoking cessation that might be particularly attractive to adolescent smokers. The study was a participatory research effort between academic and school partners. The intervention used an Internet-based, virtual reality world combined with motivational interviewing conducted in real-time by a smoking cessation counselor. Participants were 136 adolescent smokers recruited from high schools randomized to the intervention or a measurement-only control condition. Those who participated in the program were significantly more likely than controls to report at the immediate post-intervention assessment that they had abstained from smoking during the past week (p</=.01), smoked fewer days in the past week (p</=.001), smoked fewer cigarettes in the past week (p</=.01), and considered themselves a former smoke (p</=.05). Only the number of times quit was statistically significant at a one-year follow-up assessment (p</=.05). The lack of longer-term results is discussed, as are methodological challenges in conducting a cluster-randomized smoking cessation study.

GPS Sneakers Send SMS to Parents if kids go off limites

From Textually.org



GTX GPS Xplorer Smart Sneakers keep track of your kids and if they wander beyond a delimited area, a GPS signal activates a text message alert to the parents phone.


13:15 Posted in Wearable & mobile | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: mobile, wearable

Jan 25, 2007

Second Life gets virtual mobile operator

From Textually.org






Vodafone is planning to launch itself as a mobile operator in the game Second Life alongside its Vodafone Island area within the popular virtual world, reports TechDigest

"Second Life users will be able to use branded handsets to call each other within the world, as well as send text messages."

Second Life Cell Phones can SMS real world Phones


Prospero - A "Visual Commons" Framework for Community-Aware Public Displays

Re-blogged from Networked Performance




Information about the community as a commons and about commons in the community can be useful for promoting a sense of shared fate and shared identity. In addition, as mobility increases, information about how a community moves into, out of, and through its spaces (such as public commons) can be a useful source of community feedback. A new project at the University of Michigan investigates using public displays to understand and represent community dynamics and preferences:

Prospero is an infrastructure to enable public displays to reflect evolving public participation. The objectives of the Prospero project arise from two primary motivations: one descriptive, the other normative. First, technologies that foster cooperation enhance our relationship to our surroundings. Many of these technologies incorporate user feedback in real-time.

Second, our team members believe that a society in which collective decision-making is based on participatory democracy and public resources should be allocated not by top-down or centrally-controlled mechanisms, but on the basis of the expressed desires and needs of participants. As cooperation increases, we have seen a resurgence of "the commons," i.e. that public sphere in which community values are expressed.

In our project, we shall explore this theme through its instantiation in the specific domain area of public displays. In much of modern life, public spaces, public media and public art are designed to send us messages that we passively receive, process and absorb. However, we believe that in a democracy, citizens must actively shape the public sphere. This necessitates "talking back" to the elements that constitute the public sphere. Public displays, that is, displays located in public spaces and accessible to a public, constitute an increasingly important element of the public sphere. We will develop an infrastructure for community-aware public displays that are controlled by users' expressed needs and preferences; we see our endeavor as part of an ongoing, democratic reclaiming, by citizens, of control over an increasing number of aspects of the public sphere in general.

Thus, by making a public display that is attentive to its community of users, a Visual Commons, it becomes possible for the community to escape the present hegemony of one-way communication, or "broadcast," of generic information (such as the time, or stock prices) or the barrage of mass-media advertising (such as occurs in New York City's Times Square). In effect, dynamic processing of community feedback regarding the contents of the display enables it to become more than just a billboard.


Annotation: Neurofeedback - train your brain to train behaviour.

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007 Jan;48(1):3-16

Authors: Heinrich H, Gevensleben H, Strehl U

Background: Neurofeedback (NF) is a form of behavioural training aimed at developing skills for self-regulation of brain activity. Within the past decade, several NF studies have been published that tend to overcome the methodological shortcomings of earlier studies. This annotation describes the methodical basis of NF and reviews the evidence base for its clinical efficacy and effectiveness in neuropsychiatric disorders. Methods: In NF training, self-regulation of specific aspects of electrical brain activity is acquired by means of immediate feedback and positive reinforcement. In frequency training, activity in different EEG frequency bands has to be decreased or increased. Training of slow cortical potentials (SCPs) addresses the regulation of cortical excitability. Results: NF studies revealed paradigm-specific effects on, e.g., attention and memory processes and performance improvements in real-life conditions, in healthy subjects as well as in patients. In several studies it was shown that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) improved behavioural and cognitive variables after frequency (e.g., theta/beta) training or SCP training. Neurophysiological effects could also be measured. However, specific and unspecific training effects could not be disentangled in these studies. For drug-resistant patients with epilepsy, significant and long-lasting decreases of seizure frequency and intensity through SCP training were documented in a series of studies. For other child psychiatric disorders (e.g., tic disorders, anxiety, and autism) only preliminary investigations are available. Conclusions: There is growing evidence for NF as a valuable treatment module in neuropsychiatric disorders. Further, controlled studies are necessary to establish clinical efficacy and effectiveness and to learn more about the mechanisms underlying successful training.

Jan 24, 2007

A second life for educators?

Re-blogged from 3Dpoint

The New Media Consortium has announced that it has established a new services unit, NMC Virtual Worlds, to cater to “educational institutions wishing to explore, build, or establish a presence in a range of virtual worlds.” NMC itself is a non-profit consortium of more than 225 research and educational institutions, so it will be interesting to see what kind of virtual world educational initiatives the organization can catalyze both within its own ranks and in the broader educational realm. While there’s only one project on their portfolio page at the moment, NMC is apparently working with Second Life creator Linden Lab to create a specialized new-user experience for educators, and is already working with a number of groups within SL.

23:07 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

Robotics and virtual reality

Robotics and virtual reality: a perfect marriage for motor control research and rehabilitation.

Assist Technol. 2006;18(2):181-95

Authors: Patton J, Dawe G, Scharver C, Mussa-Ivaldi F, Kenyon R

This article's goal is to outline the motivations, progress, and future objectives for the development of a state-of-the-art device that allows humans to visualize and feel synthetic objects superimposed on the physical world. The programming flexibility of these devices allows for a variety of scientific questions to be answered in psychology, neurophysiology, rehabilitation, haptics, and automatic control. The benefits are most probable in rehabilitation of brain-injured patients, for whom the costs are high, therapist time is limited, and repetitive practice of movements has been shown to be beneficial. Moreover, beyond simple therapy that guides, strengthens, or stretches, the technology affords a variety of exciting potential techniques that can combine our knowledge of the nervous system with the tireless, precise, and swift capabilities of a robot. Because this is a prototype, the system will also guide new experimental methods by probing the levels of quality that are necessary for future design cycles and related technology. Very important to the project is the early and intimate involvement of therapists and other clinicians in the design of software and its user interface. Inevitably, it should also lead the way to new modes of practice and to the commercialization of haptic/graphic systems.

Enactive 2007

Via VRoot  
(from the conference website) Enactive / 07 is an international scientific and cultural event, promoted by the European Network of Excellence ENACTIVE and organized by the ACROE-ICA group, from INP-G. It will be held in Grenoble (France) on November 19-22, 2007.

Seizing the opportunity of its welcome to Grenoble, an historical place in France for innovation in Arts, the 4th International Conference on Enactive Interfaces will be exceptionally extended by an intellectual and artistic event: Enaction_in_Arts.
  • 4th International Conference on Enactive Interfaces
    In the continuation of previous editions (2004, Villard-de-Lans, France; 2005, Genoa, Italy; 2006, Montpellier, France), Enactive / 07 aims at promoting the concept of Enaction in the field of Information and Communication Technologies. Creative researchers, innovative engineers and producers are invited to confront their last theoretical, experimental, technological and applicated advances during various talk, demo and poster sessions.

  • Enaction_in_Arts
    Arts and Culture is one of the main fields that are intimately linked with contemporary concepts and technologies. Enaction_in_Arts sessions aim at promoting innovative artistic creations, theories and technologies for the Future of Arts. It will be a unique meeting at the crossing point of Art – Science – Technology and will offer to researchers, engineers and artists the opportunity to discover in the same place, at the same time, cutting-edge research, technologies and artworks centered around Enaction and Enactive Systems.
Special attention will be accorded to situations allowing rich interactions between participants through Ateliers, hands-on demonstrations and experimental open spaces. Moreover, Concerts and Exhibitions will be open to the general public.

Deadline for preliminary submission to Enaction_in_Arts extended to January 31, 2007.
Deadline for scientific papers and posters: July 20, 2007

Biofeedback for robotic gait rehabilitation

Biofeedback for robotic gait rehabilitation

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation

By Lars Lunenburger, Gery Colombo and Robert Riener

Background: Development and increasing acceptance of rehabilitation robots as well as advances in technology allow new forms of therapy for patients with neurological disorders. Robot-assisted gait therapy can increase the training duration and the intensity for the patients while reducing the physical strain for the therapist. Optimal training effects during gait therapy generally depend on appropriate feedback about performance. Compared to manual treadmill therapy, there is a loss of physical interaction between therapist and patient with robotic gait retraining. Thus, it is difficult for the therapist to assess the necessary feedback and instructions. The aim of this study was to define a biofeedback system for a gait training robot and test its usability in subjects without neurological disorders. Methods: To provide an overview of biofeedback and motivation methods applied in gait rehabilitation, previous publications and results from our own research are reviewed. A biofeedback method is presented showing how a rehabilitation robot can assess the patients' performance and deliver augmented feedback. For validation, three subjects without neurological disorders walked in a rehabilitation robot for treadmill training. Several training parameters, such as body weight support and treadmill speed, were varied to assess the robustness of the biofeedback calculation to confounding factors. Results: The biofeedback values correlated well with the different activity levels of the subjects. Changes in body weight support and treadmill velocity had a minor effect on the biofeedback values. The synchronization of the robot and the treadmill affected the biofeedback values describing the stance phase. Conclusions: Robot-aided assessment and feedback can extend and improve robot-aided training devices. The presented method estimates the patients' gait performance with the use of the robot's existing sensors, and displays the resulting biofeedback values to the patients and therapists. The therapists can adapt the therapy and give further instructions to the patients. The feedback might help the patients to adapt their movement patterns and to improve their motivation. While it is assumed that these novel methods also improve training efficacy, the proof will only be possible with future in-depth clinical studies.

Jan 22, 2007

Gemotion screen shows video in living 3D

Gemotion --

From Pink Tentacle

Gemotion is a soft, ‘living’ display that bulges and collapses in sync with the graphics on the screen, creating visuals that literally pop out at the viewer.

Yoichiro Kawaguchi, a well-known computer graphics artist and University of Tokyo professor, created Gemotion by arranging 72 air cylinders behind a flexible, 100 x 60 cm (39 x 24 inch) screen. As video is projected onto the screen, image data is relayed to the cylinders, which then push and pull on the screen accordingly.

“If used with games, TV or cinema, the screen could give images an element of power never seen before. It could lead to completely new forms of media,” says Kawaguchi.

The Gemotion screen will be on display from January 21 to February 4 as part of a media art exhibit (called Nihon no hyogen-ryoku) at National Art Center, Tokyo, which recently opened in Roppongi.

OurFloatingPoints 4: Participatory Media

From Networked Performance




Emerson College and New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. (NRPA) present OurFloatingPoints 4: Participatory MediaTurbulence.org. (2/28): (FP4) a speaker series that addresses the recent emergence of inexpensive, worldwide, and many-to-many publishing and communication media and focuses on how these media are transforming the relationship between cultural producers and consumers. FP4 is the fourth in an ongoing series of lectures and discussions planned with NRPA and its world-renowned website, Ulises Mejias + Trebor Scholz; (3/28): McKenzie Wark + David Weinberger; (4/25): a panel discussion with Wagner James Au (aka Hamlet Linden), John Lester (aka Pathfinder Linden), and John (Craig) Freeman (aka JC Freemont); moderated by Eric Gordon (aka Boston Borst).

Venue: (2/28 and 3/28) Bill Bordy Theater, Emerson College, 216 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116; (4/25) Cahners Theater, Museum of Science, Boston.

The mystery of consciousness

Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard University, has an article in Time magazine about the current state of understanding of consciousness.

From the article:

So neuroscientists are well on the way to identifying the neural correlates of consciousness, a part of the Easy Problem. But what about explaining how these events actually cause consciousness in the sense of inner experience--the Hard Problem?

TO APPRECIATE THE HARDNESS OF THE HARD PROBLEM, CONSIDER how you could ever know whether you see colors the same way that I do. Sure, you and I both call grass green, but perhaps you see grass as having the color that I would describe, if I were in your shoes, as purple. Or ponder whether there could be a true zombie--a being who acts just like you or me but in whom there is no self actually feeling anything. This was the crux of a Star Trek plot in which officials wanted to reverse-engineer Lieut. Commander Data, and a furious debate erupted as to whether this was merely dismantling a machine or snuffing out a sentient life.

No one knows what to do with the Hard Problem. Some people may see it as an opening to sneak the soul back in, but this just relabels the mystery of "consciousness" as the mystery of "the soul"--a word game that provides no insight.

Many philosophers, like Daniel Dennett, deny that the Hard Problem exists at all. Speculating about zombies and inverted colors is a waste of time, they say, because nothing could ever settle the issue one way or another. Anything you could do to understand consciousness--like finding out what wavelengths make people see green or how similar they say it is to blue, or what emotions they associate with it--boils down to information processing in the brain and thus gets sucked back into the Easy Problem, leaving nothing else to explain. Most people react to this argument with incredulity because it seems to deny the ultimate undeniable fact: our own experience.

The most popular attitude to the Hard Problem among neuroscientists is that it remains unsolved for now but will eventually succumb to research that chips away at the Easy Problem. Others are skeptical about this cheery optimism because none of the inroads into the Easy Problem brings a solution to the Hard Problem even a bit closer. Identifying awareness with brain physiology, they say, is a kind of "meat chauvinism" that would dogmatically deny consciousness to Lieut. Commander Data just because he doesn't have the soft tissue of a human brain. Identifying it with information processing would go too far in the other direction and grant a simple consciousness to thermostats and calculators--a leap that most people find hard to stomach. Some mavericks, like the mathematician Roger Penrose, suggest the answer might someday be found in quantum mechanics. But to my ear, this amounts to the feeling that quantum mechanics sure is weird, and consciousness sure is weird, so maybe quantum mechanics can explain consciousness.

And then there is the theory put forward by philosopher Colin McGinn that our vertigo when pondering the Hard Problem is itself a quirk of our brains. The brain is a product of evolution, and just as animal brains have their limitations, we have ours. Our brains can't hold a hundred numbers in memory, can't visualize seven-dimensional space and perhaps can't intuitively grasp why neural information processing observed from the outside should give rise to subjective experience on the inside. This is where I place my bet, though I admit that the theory could be demolished when an unborn genius--a Darwin or Einstein of consciousness--comes up with a flabbergasting new idea that suddenly makes it all clear to us.

21:55 Posted in Research tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: research tools

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