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Mar 14, 2006

NADA - Networked Performance

Via Networked Performance


NADA affords both the technical novice and expert an unified platform for prototyping physical interfaces and digital content - from handheld product concepts to reactive environments that can be connected across the Internet.

Working models that require less work... NADA is designed for maximum versatility and efficiency. It is a true cross-platform application, and it connects to a variety of commercially available hardware for bringing digital information into and out of standard PC's and Macs. Supported hardware is automatically detected and auto-configured, minimizing complexity for the user. Project authoring with NADA can be done in either Macromedia Flash MX2004 (or later) or Java™. Even beginners without programming experience can design and prototype with sensors, actuators, lights, switches and animation using an intuitive graphical environment. Graduate to finer levels of control by developing projects using the NADA API for ActionScript and Java™. Below is the look of the NADA interface

Commedia Virtuale: from theatre to avatars

Commedia Virtuale: from theatre to avatars

Digital Creativity Journal, Volume 16, Number 3 / 2005

Ben Salem 

We are investigating face, hand and body expressions to be applied to avatars of a virtual environment to improve their communication capabilities and enrich and facilitate their perception by users of the environment. We report on our work based on obtaining inspiration from the world of theatre. In this perspective Commedia dell'Arte and Noh theatre have been the focus of our attention. We explore key features of Commedia dell'Arte, namely improvisation, exaggerated gestures and expressive postures, and investigate how their adoption in the design of avatars can be useful for collaborative virtual environments. With the same objectives we look at another theatre style, the Noh theatre. We investigate the variety of masks and the choreography. The outcome is a visual language for avatars made up of postures, gestures and appearances. We have concluded this investigation with the production of an experimental theatre play involving real and virtual actors.

Remote-Control Humans

Via the Presence L-Listserv 

(From Top Tech News

By Sixto Ortiz Jr.
March 10, 2006 7:02AM

The possibilities are endless, from fully immersive virtual- reality environments that faithfully reproduce real motion to, perhaps, a way to control unruly crowds without tear gas, rubber bullets, and riot police.


The idea of controlling people by manipulating brain activity long has been a staple of science fiction and dystopian fantasy. Hypnotism, implanted devices, brainwashing, even the Jedi mind trick -- all are methods that have appeared in fictional works as effective ways to subvert the will of human beings.

Today, however, the possibility of being controlled by an outside force is more science than fiction, thanks to researchers at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone in Japan.

A team at NTT's Communication Science Laboratories has invented a headset that can, when linked to a remote control equipped with a pair of joysticks, force the wearer to move against his or her will.

The device originally was designed to add realism to video games and other virtual environments. But while technically impressive, the invention is viewed by some as ethically troubling -- viewed, quite literally, as a new form of mind control. The apparatus has raised questions about the possibilities and perils of a world in which humans can be moved around like chess pieces.

Shock Value

NTT is using a technology called galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) to influence the delicate machinery in the inner ear that controls balance and movement in humans.
Subjects slip on the headset, which looks like a pair of bulky headphones, and researchers zap electrical impulses into their ears to control their movements remotely.

"At low currents, GVS selectively activates nerve cells in the peripheral vestibular system (the balance receptors in the inner ear) and such activation results in sensations and movements of the eyes and limbs, just as natural stimulation of balance receptors results in such movements," said Dr. Ian Curthoys, professor of vestibular function at the University of Sydney's Vestibular Research Laboratory.

In other words, GVS artificially induces the same natural sensations caused whenever the inner ear's balancing mechanism is stimulated with real movement. For example, Curthoys said, a subject undergoing this type of stimulation could feel like she is turning even though she is sitting still. The technology could be used both to trick a person into "feeling" motion and to move in a predetermined direction.

The possibilities are endless, from fully immersive virtual- reality environments that faithfully reproduce real motion to, perhaps, a way to control unruly crowds without tear gas, rubber bullets, and riot police.


Read the full article  

Two vacancies for Neural Scientists at University of Twente

The positions are available in the framework of the EU-project NeuroVers-it (Neuro-Cognitive Science and Information Technology, one of the Marie Curie research training networks). The EU-project aims at collaborative, highly multidisciplinary research between 11 european research institutions in the areas Neuro-cognitive Science and Robotics/IT. Topics are Self-learning and configuring systems, Bi-directional living-electronic interfaces, and Integrated self-learning living artefacts.
The vacancies reside in the group Biomedical Signals and Systems, Chair Neurotechnology, Department Electrical Engineering/Institute for Biomedical Technology (Faculty Electrical Engineering, mathematics and Computer Science). The specific research topic is the development of mathematical/simulation models for the evolution of in vitro cultured neuronal networks (connectivity and plasticity). The models will be based on (in-house and externally obtained) experimental data from cultured networks. They involve the evolution of ‘stand-alone’ networks (spontaneous behaviour) as well as ‘sensory connected’ (to the outside world), modulated and trained networks.

PhD student (4 years)

What we expect:
Recent MSc diploma in biophysics/electrical engineering/informatics/statistics or BME. Expertise in neurophysiology experimentation and mathematics/stochastic modeling/simulation.

What we offer:
We offer a full-time position with a maximum duration of 4 years. The gross salary for the PhD student will range from € 1877 in the first year to € 2407 per month in the fourth year, according to the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. Salary will be supplemented by EU-mobility allowances. Candidates can not be Dutch citizens.

Postdoc (1 year, with possibility for extension to 2 or 4 years)

What we expect:

PhD diploma (not older than 6 years) in biophysics/neuroscience/neural networks/statistics or BME. Strong expertise in neuro-informatic modeling.

What we offer:
We offer a full-time position with a maximum duration of 4 years. The gross salary for the postdoc student will depend on experience, minimum is € 2639 per month, according to the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. Salary will be supplemented by EU-mobility allowances. Candidates can not be Dutch citizens. Both positions involve extensive personal career plans and training, at UT and at several partner labs, a Neuroengineering summer school courses and eLearning platform facilities.

Information and application
For information about this position you may contact : Prof. dr. Wim L.C. Rutten, professor of Neurotechnology.
Tel: +31 53 4892761 or 4892760
e-mail: w.l.c.rutten@utwente.nl

Mar 13, 2006

Computational Models of Creativity in the Arts

DEADLINE APPROACHING: 19 March 2006. Computational Models of Creativity in the Arts, a two-day workshop--Tuesday 16 to Wednesday 17 May 2006. A partnership between Goldsmiths and Birkbeck Colleges and the University of Sussex. Hosted by Goldsmiths Digital Studios, Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths College, University of London. Including a public evening performance/exhibition event on the 16 May curated by BLIP and the Computer Arts Society at the Science Museum's Dana Centre in Knightsbridge. The proceedings will be a special issue of Digital Creativity Journal (2007:1), Routledge.

Call for Participation: This workshop will bring together practitioners and researchers who are involved in the use of computational systems in the fine and performing arts, lite* the application of computational and generative methodologies in the arts and related creative disciplines. However a very broad list of (non-exclusive) descriptors might include:

* the application of computational and generative methodologies
in the arts and related creative disciplines
* computational approaches to creativity, cognition and
* the application of artificial intelligence and artificial life
* the application of evolutionary and adaptive systems
* cultural applications of computing and digital electronics in

Funded by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Enterprise - LCACE - and the University of Sussex.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation

Via Medgadget 

From Yale School of Medicine:

"It appears that stimulating populations of neurons once per second with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation over many minutes modestly reduces the capacity of these neurons to activate each other," Hoffman said [Ralph Hoffman, M.D., a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and lead investigator of the study -ed.] "As a result, neural populations as a whole become less reactive or excitable. Our study findings suggest that hallucinations can be curtailed using this approach without interfering with normal brain function."

Hoffman recently completed a study testing TMS in different areas of the brain and found that positioning the TMS over what is known as Wernicke's region in the left temporal lobe, and a second region located on the opposite side of the brain, were optimal in reducing these hallucinations. He said these two brain areas, which ordinarily play key roles in perceiving words spoken by other persons, have also been found in other studies to be important in producing hallucinated "voices."

For patients enrolled in the trial, TMS will be administered to these brain areas once per second for 16 minutes daily over a three-week period. One-third of the subjects in the trial will start out receiving a placebo form of TMS. After three weeks, these subjects will also be offered a trial of real TMS. The study will use a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan to precisely position TMS over desired brain regions.

Mar 12, 2006

Virtual reality-simulator training of laparoscopic surgical skills

The value of virtual reality-simulator training in the development of laparoscopic surgical skills.

J Minim Invasive Gynecol. 2006 Apr;13(2):126-133

Authors: Hart R, Doherty DA, Karthigasu K, Garry R

OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) training in improving the surgical skills of medical students and gynecologic trainees. DESIGN: A prospective observational study to assess the changes observed in objectively measured surgical performance after VR training. SETTING AND POPULATION: University teaching hospital and the laboratories of the University of Western Australia. PARTICIPANTS: Fifteen 5th-year medical students, six junior-doctor trainees (years 1-3), and eight senior trainees (years 4-6). INTERVENTIONS: Standard gynecologic procedures before and after VR training were undertaken on sheep. The procedures were video-recorded and edited to blind the scorer as to identity and seniority of the operator. The procedures were scored using a combination of operative time and penalties for surgical errors. The surgical scores were correlated with the VR scores. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Operative skills were assessed using a combination score compiled from scores obtained while undertaking salpingectomy, salpingotomy, and tubal clipping. Virtual reality scores were also a combination score derived from summation of various computer-calculated measures of time and accuracy in undertaking two standardized exercises. RESULTS: The baseline VR scores were significantly related to the overall pre-training scores (salpingectomy p = .032). A better initial VR score was also predictive of better surgical performance. The initial VR score was also predictive of improvement observed between baseline and post-training (p = .004). CONCLUSION: Virtual reality training is of value in improving surgical skills in the clinical environment. It appears to be of most value in the earliest stages of training. These data suggest that serious consideration should be given to incorporating VR training into the training program of obstetricians and gynecologists at an early stage.

6th conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents

August 21-23, 2006, Marina del Rey

From the website




Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) are autonomous, graphically embodied agents in an interactive, 2D or 3D virtual environment. They are able to interact intelligently with the environment, other IVAs, and especially with human users. The conference is an interdisciplinary forum for researchers and practitioners in computer graphics, animation, computer games, virtual environments, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, cognitive modeling, human-computer interaction and A-life.



Post-doc position in CBT and VR in Marseilles, France

Via the VRPSYCH mailing list

A post-doc position concerning the use of virtual reality in cognitive and behavioral therapy is available at National Research Center (CNRS) in Marseilles, France. For further information contact Daniel Mestre, senior research scientist at CNRS.


Mar 10, 2006

Collaborative Digital Brain Mapping


Via CogNews 






BrainMaps.org is an interactive high-resolution digital brain atlas consisting of several dozen mouse, monkey, and human brains. The atlas is integrated with a high-speed Internet database for querying and retrieving data about brain structure and function online. Users can add their own labels and comments, and place landmarks throughout the digital brains they navigate; images, landmarks, and other annotations can be shared with other users in the BrainMaps forum


Mar 09, 2006

The power of simulation: Imagining one's own and other's behavior

The power of simulation: Imagining one's own and other's behavior 

Brain Res. 2006 Feb 3

Decety J, Grezes J.

A large number of cognitive neuroscience studies point to the similarities in the neural circuits activated during the generation, imagination, as well as observation of one's own and other's behavior. Such findings support the shared representations account of social cognition, which is suggested to provide the basic mechanism for social interaction. Mental simulation may also be a representational tool to understand the self and others. However, successfully navigating these shared representations - both within oneself and between individuals - constitutes an essential functional property of any autonomous agent. It will be argued that self-awareness and agency, mediated by the temporoparietal (TPJ) area and the prefrontal cortex, are critical aspects of the social mind. Thus, differences as well as similarities between self-- and other representations at the neural level may be related to the degrees of self-awareness and agency. Overall, these data support the view that social cognition draws on both domain-general mechanisms and domain-specific embodied representations.

How psychotherapy changes the brain

How psychotherapy changes the brain - the contribution of functional neuroimaging.

Mol Psychiatry. 2006 Mar 7;

Authors: Linden DE

A thorough investigation of the neural effects of psychotherapy is needed in order to provide a neurobiological foundation for widely used treatment protocols. This paper reviews functional neuroimaging studies on psychotherapy effects and their methodological background, including the development of symptom provocation techniques. Studies of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) effects in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) were consistent in showing decreased metabolism in the right caudate nucleus. Cognitive behavioural therapy in phobia resulted in decreased activity in limbic and paralimbic areas. Interestingly, similar effects were observed after successful intervention with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) in both diseases, indicating commonalities in the biological mechanisms of psycho- and pharmacotherapy. These findings are discussed in the context of current neurobiological models of anxiety disorders. Findings in depression, where both decreases and increases in prefrontal metabolism after treatment and considerable differences between pharmacological and psychological interventions were reported, seem still too heterogeneous to allow for an integrative account, but point to important differences between the mechanisms through which these interventions attain their clinical effects. Further studies with larger patient numbers, use of standardised imaging protocols across studies, and ideally integration with molecular imaging are needed to clarify the remaining contradictions. This effort is worthwhile because functional imaging can then be potentially used to monitor treatment effects and aid in the choice of the optimal therapy. Finally, recent advances in the functional imaging of hypnosis and the application of neurofeedback are evaluated for their potential use in the development of psychotherapy protocols that use the direct modulation of brain activity as a way of improving symptoms.

A PhD in Touch

Via Pasta and Vinegar 

A PhD position is available at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design for the Touch Project:

Radio Frequency IDentification is a wireless technology that is is currently finding applications in the replacement of barcodes in supply chains and logistics. This cheap and potentially ubiquitous technology is likely to influence the interactions we have with many products and services. The Touch project therefore looks at user-centred applications of the technology. A PhD is now available as part of the project.

Touch is interested in developing user-centred applications and services: assessing ways in which the technology might be used in everyday life in useful, fun and non-invasive ways. The growing integration of RFID readers in mobile phones enables simple interactions between phones and physical objects with a ‘swipe’ or ‘touch’. In Japan there are around 10 million people paying for tickets and other services with ‘wallet phones’ and near field communication. These applications in ticketing and retail are the first areas to emerge as mass-market uses.

An initial exploratory period will develop specific research questions and application areas. Touch will look closely at social practices around mobile use and RFID. How does the increasing digitalisation of physical objects affect identity, culture, play, and issues of social transformation. Are there areas of everyday physical activity that would benefit from network intervention? Are there networked, online activities that could be supported by interactions with the physical?

The project will develop a number of practical investigations of the relationship between the digital and the physical. In particular looking at shifts in advertising or marketing, retail activity, public and civic services, gaming or play, and issues around personal, social and communicative uses. Through the design of digital and physical artefacts, applications and prototypes, the project will build a body of knowledge around near field interactions.

The PhD will work on specific themes within the project. This will require self-initiated research, as well as collaborative development with other designers, an anthropologist, software developers, the mobile industry and user groups. Applicants should have a design background and be able to demonstrate knowledge of social, tangible or mobile interaction design. Applicants are encouraged to submit a diversity of themes and approaches within these areas.

The fellowship is provided by Institute of Design, AHO, Oslo, Norway, and has a duration of 3 years, starting date early to mid 2006. The yearly salary amounts to NOK 292.000.

Deadline for applications: Postmarked no later than 22 March 2006.

Applications should be sent to:
Attn: Timo Arnall / Interaction Design
Oslo School of Architecture and Design
Maridalsveien 29
0175 Oslo

Mar 08, 2006

postdoc positions in cognitive/emotional robotics

Via Humaine 

Two postdoc positions in cognitive/emotional robotics are available at the University of Skövde, Sweden.

These positions are part of the four-year European integrated project "Integrating Cognition, Emotion and Autonomy" (ICEA, Jan 2006 - Dec 2009). The project involves cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists, computer scientists, and roboticists, and aims to develop a cognitive systems architecture integrating cognitive, emotional and autonomic/bioregulatory processes in the control of robotic cognitive systems.

The two postdoc positions are focused on developing robotic/neural net models of (1) the role of anticipation, representation and emotion in agent-environment interaction, (2) the interaction between cognitive and emotional mechanisms. The application deadlines are March 20 and April 18, respectively.

For further information and detailed application instructions see:

* position 1 (deadline March 20)
* position 2 (deadline April 18)

Starting date (for both positions): spring/summer 2006 (as soon as possible).

Informal enquiries about the positions can be directed to Tom Ziemke at tom.ziemke@his.se.

Electronic Memory Aids for Elderly Persons

Electronic Memory Aids for Community-Dwelling Elderly Persons: Attitudes, Preferences, and Potential Utilization

Cohen-Mansfield, Jiska, Creedon, Michael A., Malone, Thomas B., Kirkpatrick III, Mark J., Dutra, Lisa A., Herman, Randy Perse. The Journal of Applied Gerontology, Vol. 24 No. 1, February 2005 3-20.

This article focuses on the attitudes of community-dwelling elderly persons toward the use of electronic memory aids. Questionnaire data from 100 elderly volunteers indicate that more than one half were interested in an electronic memory device for at least one purpose. Those who said that they would use the device had higher levels of education, used more household electronic devices, were more likely to have someone available to help them use a device, and had more health problems than those who preferred to not use it. Most would use a memory aid to monitor medications and remember appointments, followed by remembering addresses and phone numbers. The expected use, design, preferred methods of instruction, and concerns about the device varied. Study results suggest the need to develop devices with different degrees of flexibility and complexity. Future studies should evaluate training methods to use such technology.

Mar 07, 2006

Near-Field Intrabody Communication

Via Networked performance 

"As electronic devices become smaller, lower in power requirements, and less expensive, we have begun to adorn our bodies with personal information and communication appliances. Such devices include cellular phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAS), pocket video games, and pagers. Currently there is no method for these devices to share data. networking these devices can reduce functional i/o redundancies and allow new conveniences and services. The concept of Personal Area Networks (PANS) is presented to demonstrate how electronic devices on and near the human body can exchange digital information by capacitively coupling picoamp currents through the body. A low-frequency carrier (less than 1 megahertz) is used so no energy is propagated, minimizing remote eavesdropping and interference by neighboring pans. A prototype pan system allows users to exchange electronic business cards by shaking hands."

Personal Area Networks: Near-field intrabody communication by T. G. Zimmerman

An augmented reality game on a cellphone

Via Gizmodo

"Viennese computer scientist Daniel Wagner has figured out a way to show a virtual character on an i-mate SP5 cellphone, and when you move around with the cellphone, it appears that you're floating around this virtual character in 3D. Other people with cellphones can also see this character from their points of view."


VR to evaluate craving and cue reactivity in cocaine dependent individuals

A preliminary report on the use of virtual reality technology to elicit craving and cue reactivity in cocaine dependent individuals.

Addict Behav. 2006 Mar 1;

Authors: Saladin ME, Brady KT, Graap K, Rothbaum BO

In the present feasibility study, we developed a 3-dimensional virtual "crack" cocaine environment and evaluated the environment's ability to elicit subjective craving and cue reactivity (i.e., subjective emotional responding, heart rate and skin conductance) in 11 crack cocaine dependent individuals. Each of the seven 3-D crack cocaine scenes in the cocaine environment depicted actors engaging in a range of using-related behaviors (i.e., smoking crack) whereas the neutral environment contained scenes depicted 3-D aquariums with active aquatic life (baseline measures were obtained following immersion in the neutral environment). Results indicated that craving was significantly elevated during the cocaine-related scenes as compared to baseline. Craving varied by scene content, with scenes depicting active cocaine use eliciting the highest levels of craving. Heart rate was significantly higher in four of the scenes with drug use content and positive affect (i.e., happiness) ratings were significantly lower during cocaine scenes as compared to baseline. Overall, the results suggest that a standardized and stimulus rich virtual reality environment effectively elicits craving and physiologic reactivity. Such technology has potential utility in the development and refinement of exposure-based behavioral and pharmacological interventions for substance use disorders.

Unilateral cerebellar stroke disrupts movement preparation and motor imagery

Unilateral cerebellar stroke disrupts movement preparation and motor imagery.

Clin Neurophysiol. 2006 Mar 2;

Authors: Battaglia F, Quartarone A, Ghilardi MF, Dattola R, Bagnato S, Rizzo V, Morgante L, Girlanda P

OBJECTIVE: To assess motor cortex excitability, motor preparation and imagery in patients with unilateral cerebellar stroke with damage of the dentate nucleus by using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). METHOD: Eight patients with unilateral cerebellar lesions due to tromboembolic stroke and 10 age matched healthy subjects were enrolled. Resting (RMT) and active (AMT) motor threshold, cortical and peripheral silent period, evaluation of motor imagery, reaction time and premovement facilitation of motor evoked potential (MEP) were tested bilaterally using TMS. RESULTS: The RMT and AMT were found to be increased contra lateral to the affected cerebellar hemisphere while the cortical silent period was prolonged. In addition the amount of MEP facilitation during motor imagery and the pre-movement facilitation were reduced in the motor cortex contra lateral to the affected cerebellar hemisphere. The reaction time, performed with the symptomatic hand, was slower. CONCLUSIONS: On the whole, our data confirm a role for the cerebellum in maintaining the excitability of primary motor area. Furthermore, patients with unilateral cerebellar stroke exhibit lateralized deficit of motor preparation and motor imagery. SIGNIFICANCE: Our results add to evidence that cerebellum contributes to specific aspects of motor preparation and motor imagery.

Effects of Biofeedback in Phonatory Disorders and Phonatory Performance

Effects of Biofeedback in Phonatory Disorders and Phonatory Performance: A Systematic Literature Review.

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2006 Mar 3;

Authors: Maryn Y, De Bodt M, Van Cauwenberge P

The purpose of this article was to systematically review the literature on the effects of biofeedback therapy in the domain of phonatory disorders and phonatory performance, using studies in peer-reviewed journals. An extensive definition of biofeedback is given and its place in voice treatment is defined. Eighteen group or case studies or reports considering the effects of electromyographic, laryngoscopic and acoustic biofeedback in dysphonic patients (hyperfunctional voice disorders, hypofunctional voice disorders, psychogenic voice disorder, laryngeal trauma, total laryngectomy, vocal cord dysfunction) and participants with normal voices are included and an analysis of procedure as well as research design and results is presented. The usefulness of biofeedback in phonatory disorders and performance was to be interpreted based on tendencies, since there is a lack of randomized controlled efficacy studies. In only 3 of 18 studies (16.7%) did biofeedback therapy fail to improve voice quality or not result in better results than other forms of therapy. Recommendations for improved methodologies are made, which include the use of acoustic voice quality parameters.