Jun 29, 2009

Towards a Positive Technology of Gaming

In this very interesting keynote given at the recent Game Developers Conference, Jane McGonigal discusses the role of Positive Psychology in gaming. Another significant sign of how the world of ICT is embracing the perspective of Positive Technology...

 

Learning to Make Your Own Reality - IGDA Education Keynote 2009

View more documents from avantgame.

Jun 26, 2009

Reactable

From the Reactable website:

The Reactable is a revolutionary new electronic musical instrument designed to create and perform the music of today and tomorrow. It combines state of the art technologies with a simple and intuitive design, which enables musicians to experiment with sound, change its structure, control its parameters and be creative in a direct and refreshing way, unlike anything you have ever known before.

The Reactable uses a so called tangible interface, where the musician controls the system by manipulating tangible objects. The instrument is based on a translucent and luminous round table, and by putting these pucks on the Reactable surface, by turning them and connecting them to each other, performers can combine different elements like synthesizers, effects, sample loops or control elements in order to create a unique and flexible composition.

As soon as any puck is placed on the surface, it is illuminated and starts to interact with the other neighboring pucks, according to their positions and proximity. These interactions are visible on the table surface which acts as a screen, giving instant feedback about what is currently going on in the Reactable turning music into something visible and tangible.

Additionally, performers can also change the behavior of the objects by touching and interacting with the table surface, and because the Reactable technology is “multi-touch”, there is not limit to the number of fingers that can be used simultaneously. As a matter of fact, the Reactable was specially designed so that it could also be used by several performers at the same time, thus opening up a whole new universe of pedagogical, entertaining and creative possibilities with its collaborative and multi-user capabilities

 

Amazing optical illusion

Optical Illusion: Monspiral

This picture appears to show green and blue spirals, but in fact the apparent green and blue are exactly the same colour.

More about this here and here.

Jun 24, 2009

Neurofeedback-based motor imagery training for brain-computer interface

Neurofeedback-based motor imagery training for brain-computer interface (BCI).

J Neurosci Methods. 2009 Apr 30;179(1):150-6

Authors: Hwang HJ, Kwon K, Im CH

In the present study, we propose a neurofeedback-based motor imagery training system for EEG-based brain-computer interface (BCI). The proposed system can help individuals get the feel of motor imagery by presenting them with real-time brain activation maps on their cortex. Ten healthy participants took part in our experiment, half of whom were trained by the suggested training system and the others did not use any training. All participants in the trained group succeeded in performing motor imagery after a series of trials to activate their motor cortex without any physical movements of their limbs. To confirm the effect of the suggested system, we recorded EEG signals for the trained group around sensorimotor cortex while they were imagining either left or right hand movements according to our experimental design, before and after the motor imagery training. For the control group, we also recorded EEG signals twice without any training sessions. The participants' intentions were then classified using a time-frequency analysis technique, and the results of the trained group showed significant differences in the sensorimotor rhythms between the signals recorded before and after training. Classification accuracy was also enhanced considerably in all participants after motor imagery training, compared to the accuracy before training. On the other hand, the analysis results for the control EEG data set did not show consistent increment in both the number of meaningful time-frequency combinations and the classification accuracy, demonstrating that the suggested system can be used as a tool for training motor imagery tasks in BCI applications. Further, we expect that the motor imagery training system will be useful not only for BCI applications, but for functional brain mapping studies that utilize motor imagery tasks as well.

Effect of Motor Imagery in the Rehabilitation of Burn Patients

Effect of Motor Imagery in the Rehabilitation of Burn Patients.

J Burn Care Res. 2009 Jun 5;

Authors: Guillot A, Lebon F, Vernay M, Girbon JP, Doyon J, Collet C

Although there is ample evidence that motor imagery (MI) improves motor performance after CNS injury, it is still unknown whether MI may enhance motor recovery after peripheral injury and most especially in the rehabilitation of burn patients. This study aimed to investigate the effects of a 2-week MI training program combined with conventional rehabilitation on the recovery of motor functions in handed burn patients. Fourteen patients admitted to the Medical Burn Center were requested to take part in the study and were randomly assigned to the imagery or the control group. Behavioral data related to the ability to perform each successive step of three manual motor sequences were collected at five intervals during the medical procedure. The results provided evidence that MI may facilitate motor recovery, and the belief in the effectiveness of MI was strong in all patients. MI may substantially contribute to improve the efficacy of conventional rehabilitation programs. Hence, this technique should be considered as a reliable alternative method to help burn patients to recover motor functions.

Jun 23, 2009

Project NATAL: The gaming revolution has arrived

I am probably not the first to post about Microsoft's NATAL project, but who cares?

The fact is, I literally lack the words to express how deep I am impressed by this new gaming technology.

I have no idea if/when this product will come to the shops, but it's hard to believe that Microsoft will have any more competitors in the game industry after its launch.

Announced during Microsoft's annual E3 press conference, Project Natal is the point of arrival of several years of r&d by an Israeli start-up called 3DV Systems, which Microsoft recently acquired. Microsoft Xbox Senior Vice President Don Mattrick did state that Project Natal would be compatible with every Xbox 360, but the cost is top secret..

The technology (see video below), allows users contolling games, movies, and anything else on their Xbox system with their body alone, and without touching any hardware.

If it's a real product and not just a marketing invention, it could also have important applications in the field of cybertherapy, in particular for neuro-motor rehabilitation. The advantages of this technology are quite clear: there is nothing to wear for the patient and it's possibile to use motivational gaming scenarios of all kinds.

 

Jun 17, 2009

How does visual thinking work in the mind of a person with autism?

How does visual thinking work in the mind of a person with autism? A personal account.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 May 27;364(1522):1437-42

Authors: Grandin T

My mind is similar to an Internet search engine that searches for photographs. I use language to narrate the photo-realistic pictures that pop up in my imagination. When I design equipment for the cattle industry, I can test run it in my imagination similar to a virtual reality computer program. All my thinking is associative and not linear. To form concepts, I sort pictures into categories similar to computer files. To form the concept of orange, I see many different orange objects, such as oranges, pumpkins, orange juice and marmalade. I have observed that there are three different specialized autistic/Asperger cognitive types. They are: (i) visual thinkers such as I who are often poor at algebra, (ii) pattern thinkers such as Daniel Tammet who excel in math and music but may have problems with reading or writing composition, and (iii) verbal specialists who are good at talking and writing but they lack visual skills.

Jun 15, 2009

Equivalence of Real-World and Virtual-Reality Route Learning

Equivalence of Real-World and Virtual-Reality Route Learning: A Pilot Study.

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2009 Jun 10;

Authors: Lloyd J, Persaud NV, Powell TE

Abstract There is good evidence for effective transfer of learning from virtual to real-world environments, and this holds true even for complex spatial tasks such as route learning. However, there is little research into the simple equivalence of an individual's performance across real and virtual environments, an important topic which could support the use of virtual reality as an assessment and research tool. This pilot study compared route-learning performance in a desktop virtual town with performance around a real-world route. Participants were "driven" around a route through a virtual town and around a different (but equally complex) route through a real-world suburb, then asked to direct the driver back around each of the routes from memory. They completed strategy checklists after learning each route. Results indicated good equivalence between the real and virtual environments, with comparable error rates and no differences in strategy preferences. This demonstrates that simple desktop virtual environments may be a useful tool for assessment of and research into route learning.

Jun 10, 2009

Frontiers of Interaction V

Frontiers of Interaction V 

 

Last Monday I attended Frontiers of Interaction V, where I gave a talk on Participative Ecology. The conference took place in Rome, at the wonderful Acquario Romano, Casa dell'Architettura.

 

I was really excited to be there, because I consider Frontiers the most interesting interaction design event in Italy.

 

Frontiers is organized and produced by Leandro Agrò and Matteo Penzo, who are also the founders of the Idearium community, the largest e-community on Interaction Design in Italy.

 

The format of the conference is very informal and fresh. You can meet people of all sorts, from academic researchers to superstars of interaction design, from anthropologists to futurists and young entrepreneurs, a mix of creativity and talent.

 

At the end of the meeting I felt physically exhausted but full of positive energy.

 

Here are some videos

 

(and, last but not least: Frontiers is completely free of charge, only registration is required. This is great since this makes the event accessible to young students)

 

W Frontiers!

Jun 09, 2009

Neurofeedback-based motor imagery training for brain-computer interface

Neurofeedback-based motor imagery training for brain-computer interface (BCI).

J Neurosci Methods. 2009 Apr 30;179(1):150-156

Authors: Hwang HJ, Kwon K, Im CH

In the present study, we propose a neurofeedback-based motor imagery training system for EEG-based brain-computer interface (BCI). The proposed system can help individuals get the feel of motor imagery by presenting them with real-time brain activation maps on their cortex. Ten healthy participants took part in our experiment, half of whom were trained by the suggested training system and the others did not use any training. All participants in the trained group succeeded in performing motor imagery after a series of trials to activate their motor cortex without any physical movements of their limbs. To confirm the effect of the suggested system, we recorded EEG signals for the trained group around sensorimotor cortex while they were imagining either left or right hand movements according to our experimental design, before and after the motor imagery training. For the control group, we also recorded EEG signals twice without any training sessions. The participants' intentions were then classified using a time-frequency analysis technique, and the results of the trained group showed significant differences in the sensorimotor rhythms between the signals recorded before and after training. Classification accuracy was also enhanced considerably in all participants after motor imagery training, compared to the accuracy before training. On the other hand, the analysis results for the control EEG data set did not show consistent increment in both the number of meaningful time-frequency combinations and the classification accuracy, demonstrating that the suggested system can be used as a tool for training motor imagery tasks in BCI applications. Further, we expect that the motor imagery training system will be useful not only for BCI applications, but for functional brain mapping studies that utilize motor imagery tasks as well.

Google Wave

Google Wave is a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year. A "wave" is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It's concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use "playback" to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.

Watch the demo video below

 

Jun 05, 2009

Digital hologram of smart grid technology

General Electric has a great mini-site up showcasing their newest energy services and smarter power management tools.

But the most intriguing part of the site is the augmented reality applications that you can play with using your computer’s webcam.

What you do is you print out a piece of paper that the webcam “sees” and GE’s augmented reality program builds a virtual hologram.

Check out the demo video and then try the AR apps here

 

Web VR: Now possible with O3D

This is a demo that demonstrates the potential of rendering 3D graphics in the browser, using O3D, an open-source web API for creating rich, interactive 3D applications in the browser. The app shown in the video is coded in javascript and html and runs in a web browser.

 

 

Energy dashboards

 

energy_use_dashboard.jpg

InfoAesthetics has collected some interesting examples of what I call Participatory Ecology - the use of social media to foster collective awareness of environmental challenges and promote sustainable development.

- The Energy Detective project merged the actual energy output of an everyday family with a Google Visualization API Timeline visualization, which itself is based on a Twitter-based feed from the smart metering device. Remarkable events or peaks are regularly annotated, and one can easily make out when typical household activities have taken place.

- The flashy Radisson Hotel Building Dashboard seems to offer near real-time statistics about water, electricity and natural gas usage, and the weather. As a hotel, it should really try to consider offering some real data behind those ambivalent "Please use our towels multiple times, for the sake of nature" signs.

Other recent websites focus on using group pressure and social encouragement by publishing one's efforts in more sustainable living within the framework of an online social network.

- Make Me Sustainable allows users to calculate and reduce their carbon footprint, which is then represented as a simple history bar graph or translated in the metaphor of "trees saved" or "cars taken off the road".

- Carbon Rally focuses on reducing one's carbon footprint impact by proposing group challenges, and aggregating the efforts of all its members on a large CO2 Impact Map.

- Finally, the Carbon Monitoring for Action portal is a massive database containing information on the carbon emissions of over 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies worldwide, visualized on a world map. By providing complete information for both "clean" and "dirty" power producers, CARMA hopes to influence the opinions and decisions from consumers to policy makers.