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May 25, 2007

Haptic Telexistence

From Networked Performance



Haptic Telexistence (SIGGRAPH 2007)provides highly realistic haptic interaction among humans and objects located in remote places. Human interaction will be dramatically improved by this concept, which perceives us as the properties of an object.

Enhanced Life: With conventional systems, we can only perceive the stiffness of an object. But with Haptic Telexistence, we can also perceive the exact shape of an object, and more natural and dexterous object manipulations become possible. This simplifies complex tasks such as telesurgery and 3D modeling.

Because this system can present properties such as texture and temperature, it will support dramatic improvements in human life. For example, not only will we be able to shake hands with people at remote locations but we will also be able to feel the warmth of their hands. While shopping on the web, we will be able to check the texture of an article before purchase.

Goals: Our ultimate goal is to present all the haptic sensations through a master-slave system. Using current telepresence systems, we can interact with humans or objects even if they are located in remote places or in virtual environments. We can watch, listen, touch, and move objects. However, the properties of an object are not present in these systems, and that reduces realism and interactivity. Haptic Telexistence aims to provide highly realistic haptic interaction among human and objects in remote places.

Innovations: The system consists of four innovative devices: a dexterous slave hand, q finger-shaped haptic sensor for the slave hand, an encounter-type master hand, and an electro-tactile display. Each of these devices has more advantages than the corresponding conventional ones. In addition, integrating them to realize Haptic Telexistence is also a technical innovation.

Vision: Because haptic and robotic technologies continue to improve rapidly, we believe that this technology will be fully realized with 10 years.

Katsunari Sato
The University of Tokyo
Katsunari_Sato (at) ipc.i.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Electronic Lens

Re-blogged from Networked Performance




The Electronic Lens explores and creates new paradigms of civic ubiquitous networking with mobile technologies. We think of Electronic Lens as something of a viewfinder. Using a motion that is already familiar (think point and shoot camera phones), the citizen can use the eLens to gather information about physical objects and places.

The eLens matches electronic information with the physical environment in an innovative way. For example, eLens users can post lasting messages in physical locations, tag buildings and places, or create social networks based on interest and social affinities. eLens interactions combine the physical environment with formal and institutional information and the annotations from users' personal experiences.

Ultimately the eLens enhances the value of the city for its citizens by making their environments more accessible, more culturally vibrant, more socially just. The eLens fosters communication among people and between institutions; as a result citizens are now better able to navigate the social, institutional and physical urban space.

May 24, 2007

Wearable brain scanner

Via Medgadget



Hitachi has successfully trial manufactured a lightweight, portable brain scanner that enables users to keep tabs on their mental activity during the course of their daily lives. The system, which consists of a 400 gram (14 oz) headset and a 630 gram (1 lb 6 oz) controller worn on the waist, is the result of Hitachi’s efforts to transform the brain scanner into a familiar everyday item that anyone can use.

The rechargeable battery-operated mind reader relies on Hitachi’s so-called “optical topography” technology, which interprets mental activity based on subtle changes in the brain’s blood flow. Because blood flow increases to areas of the brain where neurons are firing (to supply glucose and oxygen to the tissue), changes in hemoglobin concentrations are an important index by which to measure brain activity. To measure these hemoglobin concentrations in real time, eight small surface-emitting lasers embedded in the headset fire harmless near-infrared rays into the brain and the headset’s photodiode sensors convert the reflected light into electrical signals, which are relayed to the controller.

The real-time brain data can either be stored in Flash memory or sent via wifi to a computer for instant analysis and display. A single computer can support up to 24 mind readers at a time, allowing multiple users to monitor brain activity while communicating or engaging in group activities.

In addition to health and medical applications, Hitachi foresees uses for the personal mind reader in fields such as psychology, education and marketing. Although it is unclear what neuromarketing applications the company has in mind, it is pretty clear that access to real-time customer brain data would provide marketers with a better understanding of how and why shoppers make their purchasing decisions. One can also imagine interactive campaigns that, for example, ask customers to think positive thoughts about a certain product in exchange for discount coupons or the chance to win a prize.

The technology could also be used in new forms of entertainment such as “mind gaming,” where the player’s physical brain activity becomes a part of game play. It is also feasible to integrate the brain scanner with a remote control brain-machine interface that would allow users to operate electronic devices with their minds.

May 16, 2007

Does mindfulness meditation improve anxiety and mood symptoms?

Does mindfulness meditation improve anxiety and mood symptoms? A review of the controlled research.

Can J Psychiatry.
2007 Apr;52(4):260-6

Authors: Toneatto T, Nguyen L

OBJECTIVE: To review the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on symptoms of anxiety and depression in a range of clinical populations. METHOD: Our review included any study that was published in a peer-reviewed journal, used a control group, and reported outcomes related to changes in depression and anxiety. We extracted the following key variables from each of the 15 studies identified: anxiety or depression outcomes after the MBSR program, measurement of compliance with MBSR instructions, type of control group included, type of clinical population studied, and length of follow-up. We also summarized modifications to the MBSR program. RESULTS: Measures of depression and anxiety were included as outcome variables for a broad range of medical and emotional disorders. Evidence for a beneficial effect of MBSR on depression and anxiety was equivocal. When active control groups were used, MBSR did not show an effect on depression and anxiety. Adherence to the MBSR program was infrequently assessed. Where it was assessed, the relation between practising mindfulness and changes in depression and anxiety was equivocal. CONCLUSIONS: MBSR does not have a reliable effect on depression and anxiety.

May 14, 2007

Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources

Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources.

PLoS Biol. 2007 May 8;5(6):e138

Authors: Slagter HA, Lutz A, Greischar LL, Francis AD, Nieuwenhuis S, Davis JM, Davidson RJ

The information processing capacity of the human mind is limited, as is evidenced by the so-called "attentional-blink" deficit: When two targets (T1 and T2) embedded in a rapid stream of events are presented in close temporal proximity, the second target is often not seen. This deficit is believed to result from competition between the two targets for limited attentional resources. Here we show, using performance in an attentional-blink task and scalp-recorded brain potentials, that meditation, or mental training, affects the distribution of limited brain resources. Three months of intensive mental training resulted in a smaller attentional blink and reduced brain-resource allocation to the first target, as reflected by a smaller T1-elicited P3b, a brain-potential index of resource allocation. Furthermore, those individuals that showed the largest decrease in brain-resource allocation to T1 generally showed the greatest reduction in attentional-blink size. These observations provide novel support for the view that the ability to accurately identify T2 depends upon the efficient deployment of resources to T1. The results also demonstrate that mental training can result in increased control over the distribution of limited brain resources. Our study supports the idea that plasticity in brain and mental function exists throughout life and illustrates the usefulness of systematic mental training in the study of the human mind.

19:24 Posted in Meditation & brain | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: meditation

May 09, 2007

Fourth special issue in the series Cognition and Technology

From Usability News

Learning technologies have been taking an increasing role in almost all learning environments. They are used in a variety of informal and formal educational environments, from early years to university level and throughout adulthood, as well as in many commercial, industrial, and governmental settings. With the greater use of learning technologies it is critical to better understand how they interact with human cognition. Both in terms of how they may facilitate and enhance (as well as hinder) learning, and also in terms of how they affect the way we learn and acquire information, and the nature of cognition.

These issues pertain to specific technologies and to learning objectives. Specific technologies (and their usage) are important to understand in their own right; for example, how the use of electronic boards and visualization tools, e-learning, synchronic vs. a-synchronic remote learning, blackboard, simulation, virtual realities, and other technological learning environments affect learning and the learner. But also the learning technologies need to be considered and understood in light of learning objectives: not only the acquisition of information, but also the ability to retain and use it and the assessment of the effectiveness of the learning process. When considering how best to use learning technologies (and their vulnerabilities) one needs to be able to determine which learning materials and objectives are best suited for these technologies, which learning tools are most appropriate, and how to best use them. Furthermore, a fundamental issue to address is if and when learning technologies should replace traditional learning and when and how should learning technologies be blended with traditional learning.

Original and high quality papers that examine learning technologies either from an academic or from a practical perspective will be considered for publication. The first special issue of Pragmatics & Cognition devoted to Cognitive Technologies is now going to be published as a book. It is hoped that the Learning Technologies special issue will also appear in book form in the future.

Deadline for submissions: 30 June 2007 Publication: Summer 2008

More info here 


Via Brain Waves


MIT's media lab is hosting a one day conference Humans 2.0: New Minds, New Bodies, New Identities on May 9.

From the event's website:

Hosts: Hugh Herr and John Hockenberry

Doors open: 7:45 am

Program Start: 8:30 am

Master of Ceremonies: John Hockenberry
Welcome: Frank Moss
Introductory Remarks: Susan Hockfield
Keynote: Oliver Sacks

First Morning Session:
Deb Roy: "Memory Augmentation: Extending our Sense of Self"
Rosalind W. Picard: "Technology-Sense and People-Sensibility"
Cynthia Breazeal, "The Next Best Thing to Being There. Increasing the Emotional Bandwidth of Mediated Communication Using Robotic Avatars"


Second Morning Session:
Ed Boyden: "Engineering the Brain: Towards Systematic Cures for Neural Disorders"
Douglas H. Smith: "The Brain is the Client: Designing a Back Door into the Nervous System"
John Donoghue, "New Successes in Direct Brain/Neural Interface Design"
"Solutions: A Conversation between John Hockenberry and Michael Graves"


Afternoon Session:
Joseph Paradiso, "Digital Omniscience: Extending the Reach of the Body with Advanced Sensor Networks"
Panel Discussion: Hugh Herr, Aimee Mullins, Michael Chorost
William J. Mitchell, "Adaptability Writ Large: Smart Cities/Smarter Vehicles"
Hugh Herr, "New Horizons in Orthotics and Prosthetics: Merging Bodies and Machines"
Tod Machover, "Enabling Expression: Music as Ultimate Human Interface"

Program End: 4:30 pm




May 07, 2007

A MEG-based brain-computer interface

A MEG-based brain-computer interface (BCI).

Neuroimage. 2007 Mar 27;

Authors: Mellinger J, Schalk G, Braun C, Preissl H, Rosenstiel W, Birbaumer N, Kübler A

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) allow for communicating intentions by mere brain activity, not involving muscles. Thus, BCIs may offer patients who have lost all voluntary muscle control the only possible way to communicate. Many recent studies have demonstrated that BCIs based on electroencephalography (EEG) can allow healthy and severely paralyzed individuals to communicate. While this approach is safe and inexpensive, communication is slow. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) provides signals with higher spatiotemporal resolution than EEG and could thus be used to explore whether these improved signal properties translate into increased BCI communication speed. In this study, we investigated the utility of an MEG-based BCI that uses voluntary amplitude modulation of sensorimotor mu and beta rhythms. To increase the signal-to-noise ratio, we present a simple spatial filtering method that takes the geometric properties of signal propagation in MEG into account, and we present methods that can process artifacts specifically encountered in an MEG-based BCI. Exemplarily, six participants were successfully trained to communicate binary decisions by imagery of limb movements using a feedback paradigm. Participants achieved significant mu rhythm self control within 32 min of feedback training. For a subgroup of three participants, we localized the origin of the amplitude modulated signal to the motor cortex. Our results suggest that an MEG-based BCI is feasible and efficient in terms of user training.

Overt and imagined singing of an Italian aria

Overt and imagined singing of an Italian aria.

Neuroimage. 2007 Mar 24;

Authors: Kleber B, Birbaumer N, Veit R, Trevorrow T, Lotze M

Activation maps of 16 professional classical singers were evaluated during overt singing and imagined singing of an Italian aria utilizing a sparse sampling functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) technique. Overt singing involved bilateral primary and secondary sensorimotor and auditory cortices but also areas associated with speech and language production. Activation magnitude within the gyri of Heschl (A1) was comparable in both hemispheres. Subcortical motor areas (cerebellum, thalamus, medulla and basal ganglia) were active too. Areas associated with emotional processing showed slight (anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula) activation. Cerebral activation sites during imagined singing were centered on fronto-parietal areas and involved primary and secondary sensorimotor areas in both hemispheres. Areas processing emotions showed intense activation (ACC and bilateral insula, hippocampus and anterior temporal poles, bilateral amygdala). Imagery showed no significant activation in A1. Overt minus imagined singing revealed increased activation in cortical (bilateral primary motor; M1) and subcortical (right cerebellar hemisphere, medulla) motor as well as in sensory areas (primary somatosensory cortex, bilateral A1). Imagined minus overt singing showed enhanced activity in the medial Brodmann's area 6, the ventrolateral and medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), the anterior cingulate cortex and the inferior parietal lobe. Additionally, Wernicke's area and Brocca's area and their homologues were increasingly active during imagery. We conclude that imagined and overt singing involves partly different brain systems in professional singers with more prefrontal and limbic activation and a larger network of higher order associative functions during imagery.

Spirituality and addiction: a research and clinical perspective

Spirituality and addiction: a research and clinical perspective.

Am J Addict. 2006 Jul-Aug;15(4):286-92

Authors: Galanter M

Spirituality is a construct that has recently gained currency among clinicians because of its close association with twelve-step modalities and its perceived role in the promotion of meaningfulness in recovery from addiction. This article draws on studies from physiology, psychology, and cross-cultural sources to examine its nature and its relationship to substance use disorders. Illustrations of its potential and limitations as a component of treatment in spiritually oriented recovery movements like Alcoholics Anonymous, meditative practices, and treatment systems for the dually diagnosed are given.

May 02, 2007

The Aesthetic Interface

From Networked Performance





The Aesthetic Interface :: 9-13 May 2007 :: Aarhus University, Denmark.


The interface is the primary cultural form of the digital age. Here the invisible technological dimensions of the computer are given form in order to meet human perception and agency. This encounter is enacted through aesthetic forms stemming not only from the functional domains and tools, but increasingly also from aesthetic traditions, the old media and from the new media aesthetics. This interplay takes place both in software interfaces, where aesthetic and cultural perspectives are gaining ground, in the digital arts and in our general technological culture - keywords range from experience oriented design and creative software to software studies, software art, new media, digital arts, techno culture and digital activism.

This conference will focus on how the encounter of the functional and the representational in the interface shapes contemporary art, aesthetics and culture. What are the dimensions of the aesthetic interface, what are the potentials, clashes and breakdowns? Which kinds of criticism, aesthetic praxes and forms of action are possible and necessary?

The conference is accompanied by an exhibition and workshops.

Christian Ulrik Andersen(DK): 'Writerly gaming' - social impact games
Inke Arns (DE): Transparency and Politics. On Spaces of the Political beyond the Visible, or: How transparency came to be the lead paradigm of the 21st century.

Morten Breinbjerg (DK): Music automata: the creative machine or how music and compositional practices is modelled in software
Christophe Bruno (F): Collective hallucination and capitalism 2.0
Geoff Cox (UK): Means-End of Software
Florian Cramer (DE/NL): What is Interface Aesthetics?
Matthew Fuller (UK): The Computation of Space
Lone Koefoed Hansen (DK): The interface at the skin
Erkki Huhtamo (USA/Fin): Multiple Screens - Intercultural Approaches to Screen Practice(s)
Jacob Lillemose (DK): Interfacing the Interfaces of Free Software. X-devian: The New Technologies to the People System
Henrik Kaare Nielsen (DK): The Interface and the Public Sphere
Søren Pold (DK): Interface Perception
Bodil Marie Thomsen (DK): The Haptic Interface
Jacob Wamberg (DK): Interface/Interlace, Or Is Telepresence Teleological?

Organised by: The Aesthetics of Interface Culture, Digital Aesthetics Research Center, TEKNE, Aarhus Kunstbygning, The Doctoral School in Arts and Aesthetics, .

Supported by: The Danish Research Council for the Humanities, The Aarhus University Research Foundation, The Doctoral School in Arts and Aesthetics, Aarhus University's Research Focus on the Knowledge Society, Region Midtjylland, Aarhus Kommune. The exhibition is supported by:Region Midtjylland, Århus Kommunes kulturpulje, Kunststyrelsen, Den Spanske Ambassade, Egetæpper.


Virtual reality device helps multiple sclerosis patients walk

Via Medgadget 


Via Medgadget

audio visual walker.JPG

Researchers at Technion Institute of Technology in Israel have developed a wearable virtual reality that  device to provide patients suffering from balance disorders with supplemental auditory and visual information to restore normal gait. 

From the press release 

The visual component presents users with a virtual, tiled-floor image displayed on one eye via a tiny piece that clips onto glasses worn by the user. This allows the user to distinguish between the virtual floor and real obstacles, making it possible to navigate even rough terrain or stairs.

The researchers found that auditory feedback significantly improved the gait of both MS and Parkinson's patients (though the improvement was less pronounced in Parkinson's patients). With regard to walking speed, patients showed an average improvement of 12.84% while wearing the device. There were also positive residual short-term therapeutic effects (18.75% improvement) after use. Average improvement in stride was 8.30% while wearing the device and 9.93% residually.

"Healthy people have other tools, such as sensory feedback from muscles nerves, which report on muscle control, telling them whether or not they are using their muscles correctly," says Baram. "This feedback is damaged in Parkinson and MS patients and the elderly, but auditory feedback can be used to help them walk at a fixed pace."

Results from a small study (14 randomly selected patients with gait disturbances predominantly due to MS) on the device are published in the February 2007 issue of the Journal of the Neurological Sciences .

The integrated device - the first to respond to the patient's motions rather than just providing fixed visual or auditory cues - is already in use at a number of medical centers in Israel and the United States, including the University of Cincinnati and the State University of New York.

Mirror therapy enhances lower-extremity motor recovery and motor functioning after stroke

Mirror therapy enhances lower-extremity motor recovery and motor functioning after stroke: a randomized controlled trial.

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 May;88(5):555-9

Authors: Sütbeyaz S, Yavuzer G, Sezer N, Koseoglu BF

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of mirror therapy, using motor imagery training, on lower-extremity motor recovery and motor functioning of patients with subacute stroke. DESIGN: Randomized, controlled, assessor-blinded, 4-week trial, with follow-up at 6 months. SETTING: Rehabilitation education and research hospital. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 40 inpatients with stroke (mean age, 63.5y), all within 12 months poststroke and without volitional ankle dorsiflexion. INTERVENTIONS: Thirty minutes per day of the mirror therapy program, consisting of nonparetic ankle dorsiflexion movements or sham therapy, in addition to a conventional stroke rehabilitation program, 5 days a week, 2 to 5 hours a day, for 4 weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The Brunnstrom stages of motor recovery, spasticity assessed by the Modified Ashworth Scale (MAS), walking ability (Functional Ambulation Categories [FAC]), and motor functioning (motor items of the FIM instrument). RESULTS: The mean change score and 95% confidence interval (CI) of the Brunnstrom stages (mean, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2-2.1; vs mean, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.5-1.2; P=.002), as well as the FIM motor score (mean, 21.4; 95% CI, 18.2-24.7; vs mean, 12.5; 95% CI, 9.6-14.8; P=.001) showed significantly more improvement at follow-up in the mirror group compared with the control group. Neither MAS (mean, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.4-1.2; vs mean, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.1-0.7; P=.102) nor FAC (mean, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2-2.1; vs mean, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.1-1.9; P=.610) showed a significant difference between the groups. CONCLUSIONS: Mirror therapy combined with a conventional stroke rehabilitation program enhances lower-extremity motor recovery and motor functioning in subacute stroke patients.

Mental practice in chronic stroke: results of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial

Mental practice in chronic stroke: results of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

Stroke. 2007 Apr;38(4):1293-7

Authors: Page SJ, Levine P, Leonard A

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Mental practice (MP) of a particular motor skill has repeatedly been shown to activate the same musculature and neural areas as physical practice of the skill. Pilot study results suggest that a rehabilitation program incorporating MP of valued motor skills in chronic stroke patients provides sufficient repetitive practice to increase affected arm use and function. This Phase 2 study compared efficacy of a rehabilitation program incorporating MP of specific arm movements to a placebo condition using randomized controlled methods and an appropriate sample size. Method- Thirty-two chronic stroke patients (mean=3.6 years) with moderate motor deficits received 30-minute therapy sessions occurring 2 days/week for 6 weeks, and emphasizing activities of daily living. Subjects randomly assigned to the experimental condition also received 30-minute MP sessions provided directly after therapy requiring daily MP of the activities of daily living; subjects assigned to the control group received the same amount of therapist interaction as the experimental group, and a sham intervention directly after therapy, consisting of relaxation. Outcomes were evaluated by a blinded rater using the Action Research Arm test and the upper extremity section of the Fugl-Meyer Assessment. RESULTS: No pre-existing group differences were found on any demographic variable or movement scale. Subjects receiving MP showed significant reductions in affected arm impairment and significant increases in daily arm function (both at the P<0.0001 level). Only patients in the group receiving MP exhibited new ability to perform valued activities. CONCLUSIONS: The results support the efficacy of programs incorporating mental practice for rehabilitating affected arm motor function in patients with chronic stroke. These changes are clinically significant.

Psychnology: special issue on Mobile Media and Communication

The special issue of Psychnology Journal on "Mobile Media and Communication: Reconfiguring Human Experience and Social Practices?" is online 

Contents (click on the links to download the full paper) 

Editorial Preface
Ilkka Arminen

Is It Fun to Go to Sydney? Common-Sense Knowledge of Social Structures and WAP
Ilpo Koskinen

Texters and Talkers: Phone Call Aversion among Mobile Phone Users
Ruth Rettie

Discourses on Mobility and Technological Mediation: The Texture of Ubiquitous Interaction

Giuseppina Pellegrino

Mobile Fantasies on Film: Gathering Metaphoric Evidence of Mobile Symbiosis and the Mobile Imaginary

Kathleen M. Cumiskey

23:00 Posted in Wearable & mobile | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: mobile

IBM Looks to Hybrid Platform for Advanced 3D Simulations

From IBM news release (thx Luca)

ARMONK, NY & FLORIANOPOLIS, BRAZIL - 26 Apr 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today disclosed a cross-company project to integrate the Cell Broadband Engine™ (Cell/B.E.) with the IBM mainframe for the purpose of creating a hybrid that is blazingly fast and powerful, with security features designed to handle a new generation of "virtual world" applications, such as the 3D Internet.

The project capitalizes on the mainframe's ability to accelerate work via "specialty processors," as well as its unique networking architecture, which enables the kind of ultra-fast communication needed to create virtual worlds with large numbers of simultaneous users sharing a single environment.

Drawing on IBM's research, software and hardware expertise, the project is being undertaken in cooperation with with Hoplon Infotainment, a Brazilian online game company whose software is a key component of testing the capabilities of the new environment.

"As online environments increasingly incorporate aspects of virtual reality -- including 3D graphics and lifelike, real-time interaction among many simultaneous users -- companies of all types will need a computing platform that can handle a broad spectrum of demanding performance and security requirements," said Jim Stallings, general manager, IBM System z. "To serve this market, the Cell/B.E. processor is the perfect complement to the mainframe, the only server designed to handle millions of simultaneous users."

At its heart, the project intends to create an environment that can seamlessly run demanding simulations -- such as massive online virtual reality environments; 3D applications for mapping, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management; 3D virtual stores and meeting rooms; collaboration environments; and new types of data repositories. It plans to achieve this goal by parceling the workload between the mainframe and the Cell/B.E.
Read the full article




22:56 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds