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Aug 07, 2007



mates is a location-based social networking system in the form of a robust web service, or Relationship Engine, and an optional rich media client application, or Relationship Space Navigator.

from the project's website

Our objective in creating mates has been to build an open infrastructure to introduce and connect individuals based on the intersection of physical location and other properties they might have in common.

mates is different than the wide range of existing social networking and instant messaging applications. We strive to create an open infrastructure that will allow existing software to harness the power of location based social networking

The current version of mates is geared towards the academic community, focusing on course registration and academic interests. This set of properties could easily be extended to encompass professional or social environments with hooks into LDAP directories or existing social networking applications. and a platform on top of which other new, powerful applications can be developed.

20:05 Posted in Social Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: social computing

Free web application for brainstorming online

Bubbl.us is a (free) web application that lets you brainstorm online. Key features include: 

  • Create colorful mind maps online
  • Share and work with friends
  • Embed your mind map in your blog or website
  • Email and print your mind map
  • Save your mind map as an image

Here is an example:


How good are current HMDs?

Via VRoot 

A head-mounted display (HMD).

Sensics, a company that develops head-mounted displays, (HMD) has conducted a survey amongst academic, commercial, and government users of virtual reality system to understand desired performance characteristics of what was termed a “goodenough” HMD.

Key survey findings include:

  1. Most existing HMDs are not ‘good enough’ according to survey participants. Commonplace horizontal field of view (50 degrees or lower) and commonplace vertical field of view (30 degrees or lower) are considered ‘good enough’ by fewer than 10% of surveyed population.
  2. The lack of ‘good enough’ performance is cited in practically all the cases where buyers with appropriate budgets considered purchasing head-mounted displays yet ultimately did not do so.
  3. Users consider the most important HMD attributes to be: panoramic field of view (over 100 degrees horizontal), large vertical field of view (over 50 degrees), very fast dynamic response (no smear or fade effects), high contrast display, high resolution display and a lightweight design

Read the full survey report  

Experimental evidence for mixed reality states

Via Science Daily

I was fashinated by this physics experiment, which is the first attempt to create a linked virtual/real system.  Vadas Gintautas and Alfred Hübler of the Center for Complex Systems Research at the University of Illinios achieved this result by coupling a real-world pendulum with a virtual version that moved under time-tested equations of motion. In their "mixed reality" system, the two pendulums swing as one. To get the two pendulums to communicate, the physicists fed data about the real pendulum to the virtual one, and information from the virtual pendulum is transferred to a motor that affects the motion of the real pendulum.

cradle pendulums











Mixed reality can occur only when the two systems are sufficiently similar, but a system having unknown parameters could be coupled to a virtual system whose parameters are set by the experimenters. The unknown variables in the real system could then be determined by adjusting the virtual system until the two systems shift from dual reality to mixed reality, enabling good estimates for the values of the unknown parameters.

Here is the study abstract: 


Experimental evidence for mixed reality states in an interreality system.

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2007 May;75(5-2):057201

Authors: Gintautas V, Hübler AW

We present experimental data on the limiting behavior of an interreality system comprising a virtual horizontally driven pendulum coupled to its real-world counterpart, where the interaction time scale is much shorter than the time scale of the dynamical system. We present experimental evidence that, if the physical parameters of the simplified virtual system match those of the real system within a certain tolerance, there is a transition from an uncorrelated dual reality state to a mixed reality state of the system in which the motion of the two pendula is highly correlated. The region in parameter space for stable solutions has an Arnold tongue structure for both the experimental data and a numerical simulation. As virtual systems better approximate real ones, even weak coupling in other interreality systems may produce sudden changes to mixed reality states.

19:05 Posted in Research tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: mixed reality

An MEG-based brain-computer interface (BCI)

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

Neuroimage. 2007 Jul 1;36(3):581-93

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.

Aug 06, 2007

Beyond the Console: Virtual worlds, interactive experiences and gaming

From Creative Technology Network website  

6 September 2007

Cross-sector seminar/workshop to generate new ideas for products, services and collaborations in the interactive arena

2pm - 5.30pm followed by drinks| Venue: Watershed, Bristol | 

From alternative reality games to located mediascapes, the internet offers a wealth of opportunity for collaboration around gaming and interactive experiences, and with its blend of digital creatives and highly skilled computer programmers, Bristol should be in a unique position to ride and exploit this wave.

Recent research commissioned by South West Screen highlights the significant number of SMEs working in disciplines like animation, education, interactive media and post-production who are already supporting the games industry. How do we network these producers and create opportunities to engage with emerging disciplines such as mobile gaming, pervasive media and serious games?

Showcasing a diverse array of Bristol based talent, this afternoon seminar/workshop will bring together experts and professionals from a mix of disciplines to explore innovation, content distribution and opportunities for collaboration in gaming and virtual worlds.

Aug 04, 2007

Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention

Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention.

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2007 Jun;7(2):109-19

Authors: Jha AP, Krompinger J, Baime MJ

Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in the present moment. We investigate the hypothesis that mindfulness training may alter or enhance specific aspects of attention. We examined three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct but overlapping attentional subsystems: alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring. Functioning of each subsystem was indexed by performance on the Attention Network Test. Two types of mindfulness training (MT) programs were examined, and behavioral testing was conducted on participants before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) training. One training group consisted of individuals naive to mindfulness techniques who participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that emphasized the development of concentrative meditation skills. The other training group consisted of individuals experienced in concentrative meditation techniques who participated in a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Performance of these groups was compared with that of control participants who were meditation naive and received no MT. At Time 1, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated improved conflict monitoring performance relative to those in the MBSR and control groups. At Time 2, the participants in the MBSR course demonstrated significantly improved orienting in comparison with the control and retreat participants. In contrast, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated altered performance on the alerting component, with improvements in exogenous stimulus detection in comparison with the control and MBSR participants. The groups did not differ in conflict monitoring performance at Time 2. These results suggest that mindfulness training may improve attention-related behavioral responses by enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention. Whereas participation in the MBSR course improved the ability to endogenously orient attention, retreat participation appeared to allow for the development and emergence of receptive attentional skills, which improved exogenous alerting-related process.

Aug 03, 2007


thanks to Nicholas Nova (Pasta & Vinegar) for his latest post, which has opened me the doors of the crazy world of the International Chindogu Society, an organization that collects (almost) useless objects (the chindogus) 

To be a Chindogu, an object must meet a key set of criteria. Here are some examples of Chindogu inventions:


Back Scratcher's T-Shirt





Automated Noodle Cooler





see them all HERE




14:21 Posted in Research tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: chindogu

Mixed Feelings

From Wired 15.04:

See with your tongue. Navigate with your skin. Fly by the seat of your pants (literally). How researchers can tap the plasticity of the brain to hack our 5 senses — and build a few new ones

Read the full article here 


14:01 Posted in Future interfaces | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: synesthesia

Anymails: Visualization of Email Inbox

Via Networked Performance



“My thesis research investigates how one can use metaphors of natural form and behavior for information to support a better understanding of data systems. In everyday life we receive information mediated by behavior patterns and forms of appearance. For instance, if someone is crying, we can infer that the person is sad or may be happy. We can interpret this kind of information and set it in context to the situation because of our previous experiences. This is part of our human perception and supports a better understanding of situations and information. Users are confronted by constantly growing and changing amounts of data. There is a need for new visualizations that support understanding of information and its dynamic nature. I use natural metaphors to represent information. This includes the structure, navigation, interactivity, visualization and presentation of content. Visual and behavioral metaphors breathe life into information, creating rich, memorable experiences for users.”

Anymails: Visualization of my Email Inbox [Design & Concept: Carolin Horn; Code: Florian Jenett; Institute & Advisor: DMI Boston, Prof. Brian Lucid] - was developed during my MFA thesis Natural Metaphor For Information Visuzalizationthesis.zip, PDF, 7mb) at the Dynamic Media Institute Boston in 2007. The emails used in the prototype are read from the users local Apple Mail database. The prototype was built with Flash and Processing. The Anymails source code (OS-X 10.4.9 ppc) is available for download (2.5mb). (

Aug 02, 2007

Virtual-reality-Assisted treatment of flight phobia

Virtual-reality-Assisted treatment of flight phobia.

Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2007;44(1):29-32

Authors: Wallach HS, Bar-Zvi M

BACKGROUND: Flight phobia is a common and debilitating specific phobia. Recently, an effective technology, called Virtual Reality (VR), has been developed for the treatment of various anxiety disorders including flight phobia. METHOD: This article reports the results of a pilot study consisting of four subjects treated for Flight Phobia using Virtual Reality. RESULTS: All four subjects flew post-treatment. They experienced a significant reduction in fear of flying on two measures - anxiety about flying and global rating of fear of flying. Limitations: Due to the small sample size, the lack of a control group, and the lack of objective measures, caution must be exercised in interpreting the results. CONCLUSIONS: The use of Virtual Reality psychotherapy is relatively new worldwide, as well as in Israel. This study suggests the utility of implementing this technology in Israel.

Computer-Generated Virtual Reality to Control Pain and Anxiety

Computer-Generated Virtual Reality to Control Pain and Anxiety in Pediatric and Adult Burn Patients During Wound Dressing Changes.

J Burn Care Res. 2007 Jul 20;Publish Ahead of Print

Authors: van Twillert B, Bremer M, Faber AW

Changing daily wound dressings provokes a substantial amount of pain in patients with severe burn wounds. Pharmacological analgesics alone often are inadequate to solve this problem. This study explored whether immersive virtual reality (VR) can reduce the procedural pain and anxiety during an entire wound care session and compared VR to the effects of standard care and other distraction methods. Nineteen inpatients ages 8 to 65 years (mean, 30 years) with a mean TBSA of 7.1% (range, 0.5-21.5%) were studied using a within-subject design. Within 1 week of admission, standard care (no distraction), VR, or another self-chosen distraction method was administered during the wound dressing change. Each patient received the normal analgesic regimen. Pain was measured with visual analog thermometer scores, and anxiety was measured with the state-version of the Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory. VR distraction and television distraction both significantly reduced pain ratings compared with no distraction. Thirteen of 19 patients reported clinically meaningful (33% or greater) reductions in pain during VR distraction. No side effects were reported. There were no significant reductions in anxiety. No correlations were found between the reduction in pain ratings and patient variables like age, sex, duration of hospital stay, or percentage of (deep) burns. After comparing different distraction methods, only VR and television showed significant pain reductions during wound dressing changes. The effects of VR were superior, but not statistical significant, to that of television. There was no significant reduction of anxiety ratings.

Internal and external imagery perspective measurement and use in imagining open and closed sports skills

Internal and external imagery perspective measurement and use in imagining open and closed sports skills: an exploratory study.

Percept Mot Skills. 2007 Apr;104(2):387-404

Authors: Spittle M, Morris T

This study explored the measurement and use of internal and external imagery perspectives during imagery of open and closed sports skills. Participants (N=41; male=23; female=18), ages 14 to 28 (M = 19.4 yr.; SD = 3.1), who were recruited from undergraduate classes in human movement and physical education, and local sporting teams, completed the Imagery Use Questionnaire and then imagined performing eight common sports skills, four open skills and four closed skills, in a random order. Participants provided concurrent verbalisation during their imagery. Immediately after imagining each skill, participants completed a rating scale and retrospective verbalisation of imagery perspective use. Analysis indicated that the questionnaire gave a general imagery perspective preference but was not a strong predictor of imagery used on specific occasions. The three measures of imagery perspective were equivalent in imagining performing particular skills. Participants experienced more internal imagery than external imagery while imagining the eight sports skills, but there was no significant difference between perspective use on the open and closed skills.

Aug 01, 2007

Yoga Asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study

Yoga Asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study.

J Altern Complement Med. 2007 May;13(4):419-26

Authors: Streeter CC, Jensen JE, Perlmutter RM, Cabral HJ, Tian H, Terhune DB, Ciraulo DA, Renshaw PF

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to compare changes in brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels associated with an acute yoga session versus a reading session. It was hypothesized that an individual yoga session would be associated with an increase in brain GABA levels. DESIGN: This is a parallel-groups design. SETTINGS/LOCATION: Screenings, scan acquisitions, and interventions took place at medical school-affiliated centers. SUBJECTS: The sample comprised 8 yoga practitioners and 11 comparison subjects. INTERVENTIONS: Yoga practitioners completed a 60-minute yoga session and comparison subjects completed a 60-minute reading session. OUTCOME MEASURES: GABA-to-creatine ratios were measured in a 2-cm axial slab using magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging immediately prior to and immediately after interventions. RESULTS: There was a 27% increase in GABA levels in the yoga practitioner group after the yoga session (0.20 mmol/kg) but no change in the comparison subject group after the reading session ( -0.001 mmol/kg) (t = -2.99, df = 7.87, p = 0.018). CONCLUSIONS:These findings demonstrate that in experienced yoga practitioners, brain GABA levels increase after a session of yoga. This suggests that the practice of yoga should be explored as a treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders. Future studies should compare yoga to other forms of exercise to help determine whether yoga or exercise alone can alter GABA levels.

22:34 Posted in Meditation & brain | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: meditation

PhD Studentship: Intelligent Virtual Environments for Assessing and Training Spatial Skills

The Computing Department at Lancaster University invites applications for a PhD studentship available from October 2007. The successful candidate will join the cooperative and interactive systems group at the Computing Department, which is an international centre of excellence in research, rated 5A in the 2001 research assessment exercise.

Research into spatial skills has mostly focused on small-scale spaces relative to the human body that can be apprehended from a single viewpoint, eg images or manipulable objects. In contrast, this project aims to investigate the basic spatial skills and strategies supporting spatial tasks in large-scale spaces, eg learning the layout of new environments. The research will draw upon areas such as spatial cognition, learning technology, game theory, adaptive systems, user modelling, machine learning and virtual environments (VE), and will develop novel VE systems for measuring spatial skills, and for training of spatial skills and strategies.

The successful candidate will have prior experience of virtual reality software and hardware, excellent C and Java programming skills, and is expected to become highly familiar with the research methodology necessary for carrying out experiments and usability tests.

The studentships are open, due to the nature of funding, to UK nationals or EU nationals who have completed their undergraduate studies in the UK. Applicants should have an excellent first degree in a relevant discipline. The studentships are fully-funded (ie pay tuition fees at the UK/EU rate as well as a tax-free maintenance stipend of £12,600 pa for 2007/8; £12,900 pa for 2008/9; £13,200 pa for 2009/10). EU nationals who have not been resident in the UK for three years will be eligible for fees only.

In the first instance, applicants should send their curriculum vitae, with a cover letter detailing their specific research interest, to Dr Corina Sas at corina@comp.lancs.ac.uk.