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Apr 30, 2007

Benefits of virtual world learning

Apr 29, 2007

First DARPA Limb Prototype

From the DARPA press release

(via Medgadget



An international team led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., has developed a prototype of the first fully integrated prosthetic arm that can be controlled naturally, provide sensory feedback and allows for eight degrees of freedom--a level of control far beyond the current state of the art for prosthetic limbs. Proto 1, developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program, is a complete limb system that also includes a virtual environment used for patient training, clinical configuration, and to record limb movements and control signals during clinical investigations.

The DARPA prosthetics program is an ambitious effort to provide the most advanced medical and rehabilitative technologies for military personnel injured in the line of duty. Over the last year, the APL-led Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 (RP 2009) team has worked to develop a prosthetic arm that will restore significant function and sensory perception of the natural limb. Proto 1 and its virtual environment system were delivered to DARPA ahead of schedule, and Proto 1 was fitted for clinical evaluations conducted by team partners at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) in January and February.

"This progress represents the first major step in a very challenging program that spans four years and involves more than 30 partners, including government agencies, universities, and private firms from the United States, Europe, and Canada," says APL's Stuart Harshbarger, who leads the program. "The development of this first prototype within the first year of this program is a remarkable accomplishment by a highly talented and motivated team and serves as validation that we will be able to implement DARPA's vision to provide, by 2009, a mechanical arm that closely mimics the properties and sensory perception of a biological limb."




APL, which was responsible for much of the design and fabrication of Proto 1, and other team members are already hard at work on a second prototype, expected to be unveiled in late summer. It will have more than 25 degrees of freedom and the strength and speed of movement approaching the capabilities of the human limb, combined with more than 80 individual sensory elements for feedback of touch, temperature, and limb position.

"There is still significant work to be done to determine how best to control this number of degrees of freedom, and ultimately how to incorporate sensory feedback based on these sensory inputs within the human nervous system," Harshbarger says. "The APL team is already driving a virtual model of Proto 2 with data recorded during the clinical evaluation of Proto 1, and the team is working to identify a robust set of grasps that can be controlled by a second patient later this year."

Another exciting development is the functional demonstration of Injectable MyoElectric Sensor (IMES) devices--very small injectable or surgically implantable devices used to measure muscle activity at the source verses surface electrodes on the skin that were used during testing of the first prototype.


Apr 27, 2007

Mind-altering media

Via New Scientist

The electronic age is changing our brains, but are we getting smarter, or dumb and dangerous?

New Scientist investigates...




New IBM Mainframe Platform For Virtual Worlds

Re-blogged from 3dPoint

The International Herald Tribune breaks the news that IBM is launching a new mainframe platform specifically designed for next-generation virtual worlds and 3D virtual environments. In concert with Brazilian game developer Hoplon, IBM will use the PlayStation3’s ultra-high-powered Cell processor to create a mainframe architecture that will provide the security, scalability and speed that are currently lacking in 3D environments — a lack that is one of the factors keeping them from becoming widely adopted. If it works, it sounds like worldmakers working on IBM’s platform should be able to support concurrencies far above todays’ capabilities, and implement commerce systems far more secure than is currently possible.

Evolution of visually guided behavior in artificial agents

Evolution of visually guided behavior in artificial agents.

Network. 2007 Mar;18(1):11-34

Authors: Boots B, Nundy S, Purves D

Recent work on brightness, color, and form has suggested that human visual percepts represent the probable sources of retinal images rather than stimulus features as such. Here we investigate the plausibility of this empirical concept of vision by allowing autonomous agents to evolve in virtual environments based solely on the relative success of their behavior. The responses of evolved agents to visual stimuli indicate that fitness improves as the neural network control systems gradually incorporate the statistical relationship between projected images and behavior appropriate to the sources of the inherently ambiguous images. These results: (1) demonstrate the merits of a wholly empirical strategy of animal vision as a means of contending with the inverse optics problem; (2) argue that the information incorporated into biological visual processing circuitry is the relationship between images and their probable sources; and (3) suggest why human percepts do not map neatly onto physical reality.

80 Percent of Active Internet Users Will Have A ``Second Life'' by 2011

Re-blogged from Smart Mobs

Gartner Says 80 Percent of Active Internet Users Will Have A ``Second Life'' in the Virtual World by the End of 2011.

Gartner's advice to enterprise clients is that this is a trend that they should investigate and experiment with, but limit substantial financial investments until the environments stabilize and mature.

"The collaborative and community-related aspects of these environments will dominate in the future, and significant transaction-based commercial opportunities will be limited to niche areas, which have yet to be clearly identified," said Steve Prentice, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "However, the majority of active Internet users and major enterprises will find value in participating in this area in the coming years."

Meaningful corporate use of public virtual worlds/platforms will lag considerably behind individual consumer use as enterprises struggle to develop appropriate and relevant business models. As enterprise try to define their role in the virtual world, Gartner has identified five laws for companies participating in the virtual world.

First Law: Virtual worlds are not games, but neither are they a parallel universe (yet). Second Law: Behind every avatar is a real person.  Third Law: Be relevant and add value. Many commercial companies have established a virtual world presence, but none have converted it into an effective, profitable sales channel. Fourth Law: Understand and contain the downside. Enterprises face serious questions, such as "Could activities in the virtual world undermine or influence my organization/brand in the real world?" Fifth Law: This is a long haul. Today's multiplicity of virtual environments has developed through the convergence of social networking, simulation and online gaming. There are many new entrants, whose stability and scalability are not yet established.

Gartner recommends that enterprises should experiment with virtual worlds, but not plan massive projects, and look for community benefits rather than commerce.


Read more of this Business Wire Press Release in Forbes


Information Visualization - Cambridge, UK

Via UsabilityNews 

Event Date: 14 May 2007 to 14 May 2007

Cambridge Usability Group: The speaker at our next event will be Bob Spence, author of the textbook "Information Visualization: Design for Interaction" and Emeritus Professor of Information Engineering at Imperial College London.

Date: Monday 14th May
Time: 6.30 for 6.45
Venue: Microsoft Research, Cambridge
Cost: The event is FREE and you do not need to be a UK UPA member to attend
Registration: Please email cambridge.usability@gmail.com to reserve a place.

Cellphone-operated remote control home system

From Pink Tentacle 

Cellphone-operated remote control home ---


NTT-Neomeit, an NTT subisidiary, has unveiled plans for a convenient and inexpensive service that allows users to remotely control home devices from their cellphones. 

Read full post on Pink Tentacle 

Using Eyetracking to Optimise Persuasion-Centered Design

From UsabilityNews 

Event Date: 26 April 2007 to 26 April 2007

Using Eyetracking to Optimise Persuasion-Centered Design: Rob Stevens, Bunnyfoot

Persuasion-Centered Design (PCD) utilises behavioural segmentation to plan different user journeys for different personality types. For example, competitive consumers receive less detailed information than methodical consumers. PCD facilitates consumers in self-selecting their behavioural type by utilizing descriptive in line links. By eyetracking consumers we can see if they engage with a link and choose not to select it. With PCD this outcome is often a planned for event, one that would be impossible to reliably measure without eyetracking.


Call for Articles and Net Art

From Networked Performance 

On-line journal Hz is looking for articles on New Media, Net Art, Sound Art and Electro-Acoustic Music. We accept earlier published and unpublished articles in English. Please send your submissions to hz-journal[at]telia.com: Deadline: 25 May, 2007. Hz is also looking for Net Art works to be included in its virtual gallery. Please send your URLs to hz-journal[at]telia.com.

Hz is published by the non-profit organization Fylkingen in Stockholm. Established in 1933, Fylkingen has been known for introducing yet-to-be-established art forms throughout its history. Nam June Paik, Stockhausen, Cage, etc. have all been introduced to the Swedish audience through Fylkingen. Its members consist of leading composers, musicians, dancers, performance artists and video artists in Sweden. For more information on Fylkingen, please visit http://www.fylkingen.se/about or http://www.hz-journal.org/n4/hultberg.html.

12:35 Posted in Cyberart | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: cyberart

The effects of neurofeedback training in the cognitive division of the anterior cingulate gyrus

The effects of neurofeedback training in the cognitive division of the anterior cingulate gyrus.

Int J Neurosci. 2007 Mar;117(3):337-57

Authors: Cannon R, Lubar J, Congedo M, Thornton K, Towler K, Hutchens T

This study examines the efficacy of neurofeedback training in the cognitive division of the anterior cingulate gyrus and describes its relationship with cortical regions known to be involved in executive functions. This study was conducted with eight non-clinical students, four male and four female, with a mean age of twenty-two. Learning occurred in the ACcd at significant levels over sessions and in the anterior regions that receive projections from the AC. There appears to be a multidimensional executive circuit that increases in the same frequency in apparent synchrony with the AC and it may be possible to train this sub-cortical region using LNFB.

Are complex psychotherapies more effective than biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, or both

Are complex psychotherapies more effective than biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, or both? A meta-analysis.

Psychol Rep. 2007 Feb;100(1):303-24

Authors: Stevens SE, Hynan MT, Allen M, Braun MM, McCart MR

A meta-analysis of 26 studies was conducted to assess whether more complex forms of psychotherapy would be superior to control treatments of either biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, or both. Consistent with hypotheses, more complex treatments provided a small, significant improvement over biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation (r = .09). A subset of the more complex behavioral treatments accounted for most of this small incremental effectiveness of more complex treatments (r = .15). Possible sources of this incremental effectiveness are discussed.

First DARPA prosthetic limb comes with virtual reality training

From KurzweilAI.net

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has developed a prototype of the first fully integrated prosthetic arm that can be controlled naturally, provide sensory feedback, and allow for eight degrees of freedom




Apr 24, 2007

Virtual Big Brother

Via TechNewsWorld 







Electronic Arts and Endemol have announced a partnership for launching Virtual Me, an avatar-based offering that will allow users to participate in virtual versions of several TV talent shows and game shows. Virtual Me users can also socialize and form relationships with other virtual avatars, much the way they currently do in Linden Lab's "Second Life."

read the full story on TechNewsWorld 

Special Issue on Mobile Learning and Knowledge Management: Issues in Intellectual Proximity

Enterprises have turned to explicit - and even conceptualising on tacit - knowledge management to elaborate a systematic approach to develop and sustain the intellectual capital needed to succeed, the knowledge normally attributed to knowledge workers. This is complemented by structural capital, i.e. the structures, technologies, practices put in place by an organisation as an attempt to manage their specialist knowledge. Mobile learning would equally come under such an umbrella, enticing knowledge workers and managers within organisations to conduct work in a mobile manner.

One of the challenges for future mobile organisations will deal with how they can enhance communication channels and collaborate within and between their employees, customers and stakeholders. According to Liebowitz (Liebowitz, 2006), one technique that can help address this issue is social network analysis. Mobile organisations also need to develop new knowledge and learning strategies possibly under the umbrella of a knowledge exchange or sharing system, and especially as related to recognition and reward systems. Uden (Uden, 2006) suggests that activity theory, as a social and cultural psychological theory, can be used to design a mobile learning environment.

Existing theoretical work has paid limited attention to the role of intellectual proximity in facilitating knowledge exchange within clusters of organisations that operate within the same domain of knowledge.

A consensus suggests that users build a mental model from their interactions with artificial systems. Design of mobile devices needs tp to take into consideration the existence of a gap between the user’s viewpoint [interaction-oriented] and the designer’s viewpoint [development-oriented]. Enhancing mobile learning effectiveness requires narrowing this gap between execution and conception. Implementing new solutions for improving the effective use of mobile systems needs new methodological tools and a better understanding of the complexity of user’s mental construction, in line with their containment of the domain knowledge.

The purpose of this special issue is to expose writers and the eventual readership to topics aiming at the facilitation of mobile learning for knowledge workers, from differing and multidisciplinary perspectives.


  • Knowledge management and mobile learning
  • Knowledge flow and mobile learning
  • Dissemination of practice and mobile learning
  • Currently implemented applications for mobile learning
  • Technologies that directly support mobile learning systems (devices, networks, tools etc.)
  • Studies of mobile learning in practice
  • Reviews of the application of mobile learning in multiple contexts
  • Uses of mobile learning in professional learning environments, e.g., mobile health, mobile commerce
  • Constraints in the delivery of mobile learning, e.g., human-computer interaction issues in mobile learning environments
  • Mobile games for learning
  • The role of Wikis, blogs, podcasts, messaging, other on-line tools and Web 2.0 components in mobile learning systems and as mechanisms to exchange/distribute knowledge
  • Support for learner interaction and mobile collaborative learning
  • Privacy and security issues in mobile learning
  • Knowledge expropriation or hoarding issues in mobile learning
  • The role of location based services in learning and sharing knowledge
  • Organisational structures and mobile learning
  • Management issues from mobile learning
  • Design of user-friendly mobile devices
  • Mental models emerging from interactions with mobile systems
  • User's characteristics (age, gender, culture, expertise, etc.) and mobile learning
  • Graphic user interface (GUI) design and mobile learning
  • Mobile learning interactions and cognitive modeling


Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere. All papers are refereed through a peer review process. A guide for authors, sample copies and other relevant information for submitting papers are available on the Author Guidelines page

The IEICE Transactions on Communications: Special Section on Brain Communication

Recent progress in brain science, especially in non-invasive methods, has enabled quantitative evaluation of human behavior and operation of electronic communication devices by direct brain-derived signals. Neural activities in cerebral cortex and peripheral nerves have been analyzed using imaging techniques, providing us with several models associated with human recognition and action. These advancements have lowered the barrier to realize the seamless communication between human and machine. In view of these circumstances, an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach incorporating basic research is important to develop future brain-communication networks and to facilitate human communication effectively. The approach should include biosignal-based communication network technology, novel intelligent device technology, and preference-based neuromarketing technology. This special section on Brain Communication is planned to review and mine for relevant research in the IEICE Transactions on Communications.



  • Multiunit recording and analysis technology and its applications to interface
  • Brain-machine interface and neural prosthesis
  • Biofeedback control in biomechanical system
  • Brain functional imaging and signal processing techniques
  • Communication of thoughts and kansei
  • Memory and learning models in cerebral cortex and its application to information communication
  • Analysis of human behavior and its application to information communication engineering
  • Neurodecoding and its application to communication
  • Sensor network and its fusion technology
  • Sensor technology and biomechanics
  • Neuroinfomatics and retrieval methods
  • Network management and control incorporating brain computation 


Prospective authors are requested to prepare a manuscript according to the guideline given in the “Information for Authors.” Its latest version is available at the web site. It is recommended that the length of a paper and a letter for this special section are within 8 and 2 pages, respectively.

Apr 22, 2007

Avatar experts

From Emerging Technology Trends 


Researchers from Illinois and Florida are developing a networking system which will create virtual representations of real people to improve our knowledge. They will use artificial intelligence and natural language processing software to enable us to interact with these avatars. The goal of the project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to give us the possibility to interact with these virtual representations as if they were the actual person, complete with the ability to understand and answer questions. We should see the results at the beginning of 2008 - if the researchers succeed.

Esther: Enhanced Security Through Human Error Reduction

From Future-Making Serious Games

Cognitive Informatics investigates usability and training effectiveness of a game-based training application in the domain of cyber-security education. They conducted a usability evaluation and described cognitive principles that may be used as part of a systematic process to design more effective serious games as resources in education and training. 



22:53 Posted in Serious games | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: serious games

Cognitive informatics

From Cognitive Informatics website


Cognitive Informatics is the multidisciplinary study of cognition and information sciences, which investigates human information processing mechanisms and processes and their engineering applications in computing:

To augment abilities to understand, remember, learn, and decide via new technologies

custom-tailored for human-computer collaboration and symbiosis

Cognitive Informatics

 Flier on Cognitive Informatics (PDF, 222Kb)

Language learning in Second Life

From Technology Review


Immersive language learning in a realistic environment with native-speaking teachers will soon be available online, in the popular virtual world Second Life. Starting in September, a language school called Languagelab.com will offer English and Spanish classes. The cost of the classes will be comparable to those in the real world, which can cost several hundred U.S. dollars for a semester-long course. "You won't be taking classes in LanguageLab because it's a lot cheaper," says LanguageLab founder David Kaskel, an entrepreneur and PhD candidate at the Center for Computing in the Humanities at King's College, London. "We think it's a lot better than in a physical space because there's more you can offer than in a classroom."

22:41 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

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