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May 21, 2011

You are not a gadget

Recently, I came across an intriguing book that brings a new, thought-provoking perspective on how the Internet is shaping our lives and culture. The title of the book is You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto and the author is Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and musician who is best known for his pioneering work in the field of virtual reality.

The leitmotiv of the book can be summarized in a single question: are new technologies really playing an empowering role, by increasing people’s creativity, control, and freedom? As can be expected from the title, the author’s answer is more negative than positive. To construct his argument, Lanier starts from the observation that the evolution of computing is not as free of constraints as one might assume.

As a key example, the author describes the evolution of MIDI, a protocol for composing and playing music on computers. This format emerged in the early 1980s and was immediately recognized as an empowering tool for musicians. However, as more and more people adopted it, it became a rigid standard that limited the expressive potential of artists because, as Lanier points out, it ‘‘could only describe the tile mosaic world of the keyboardist, not the watercolor world of the violin.’’ For the author, this lock-in effect can be seen in other fields of information technology. For example, certain features that were included in the early versions of the UNIX operating system are now deeply embedded in the software and cannot be modified, even if they are considered obsolete or inappropriate. Once an approach becomes standard, it tends to inhibit other solutions, thereby limiting the potential for creativity.

Lanier goes on to demystify some of today’s most popular Internet buzzwords, such as ‘‘Web 2.0,’’ ‘‘Open Culture,’’ ‘‘Mash-Ups,’’ and ‘‘Wisdom of Crowds.’’ He maintains that these trendy notions are ultimately pointing to a new form of ‘‘digital collectivism,’’ which rather than encouraging individual inventiveness, promotes mediocrity and homologation. By allowing everyone to offer up their opinion and ideas, the social web is melting into an indistinct pool of information, a vast gray zone where it is increasingly difficult to find quality or meaningful content. This observation leads the author to the counterintuitive conclusion that the introduction of boundaries is sometimes useful (if not even necessary) to achieve originality and excellence.

Another issue raised by Lanier concerns the risk of de-humanization and de-individualization associated with online social networks. He describes the early Web as a space full of ‘‘flavours and colours’’ where each Web site was different from the others and contributed to the diversity of the Internet landscape. But with the advent of Facebook and other similar sites, this richness was lost because people started creating their personal web pages using predefined templates. On the one hand, this formalism has allowed anyone to create, publish, and share content online easily (blog, video, music, etc.). On the other hand, it has reduced the potential for individuals to express their uniqueness.

Lanier reminds us of the importance of putting the human being, and not the machine, at the center of concerns for technology and innovation. For this goal to be achieved, it is not enough to develop usable and accessible tools; it is also necessary to emphasize the uniqueness of experience. This humanist faith leads the author to criticize the idea of technological Singularity, popularized by recognized experts such as Ray Kurzweil, Vernor Vinge, and Kevin Kelly. This concept holds that exponential increase in computing power and communication networks, combined with the rapid advances in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics, may lead to the emergence of a super-intelligent organism (the ‘‘Singularity’’), which could eventually develop intentional agency and subordinate the human race. Lanier’s opposition to this idea is based on the conviction that the ‘‘human factor’’ will continue to play an essential role in the evolution of technology. The author believes that computers will never be able to replace the uniqueness of humans nor replicate the complexity of their experience. Further, he considers the concept of technological Singularity culturally dangerous because it enforces the idea of an inevitable superiority of machines over humans: ‘‘People degrade themselves in order to make machines seem smart all the time,’’ writes Lanier.

However, Lanier is genuinely admired by the potential of the Internet and new technologies. This iswhy he calls for a new ‘‘technological humanism’’ able to contrast the overarching vision of digital collectivism and empower creative selfexpression. As a key illustration, the author describes the unique combination of idealism, technical skills, and imaginative talent that, in the 1980s, lead a small group of programmers to conceive the vision of virtual reality. This powerful new paradigm in human–computer interaction inspired in the following decades a number of innovative applications in industry, education, and medicine.

Beside the nostalgic remembrances of the heroic times of Silicon Valley and the sophisticated overtone of some terms (e.g., ‘‘numinous neoteny’’), the book written by Lanier conveys a clear message and deserves the attention of all who are interested in the relationship between humans and technology. The idea that technological innovation should be informed by human values and experience is not new, but Lanier brings it out vividly in detail and with a number of persuasive examples.

More to explore

  • Jaron Lanier’s homepage: The official website of Jaron Lanier, which with its old-fashion style recaptures the freshness and simplicity of the early Internet. The website features biographical information about the author and includes links to a number of Lanier’s articles and commentaries on a number of different technology-related topics. 
  • Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence: Launched in 2001, Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence explores the forecasts and insights on accelerating change described in Ray Kurzweil’s books, with updates about breakthroughs in science and technology.
  • Singularity University: Singularity University is an interdisciplinary university founded by Ray Kurzweil and other renowned experts in technology with the support of a number of sponsors (including Google), whose mission is “to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges”. Singularity University is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley.
  • Humanity+: Humanity+ is a non-profit organization dedicated to “the ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities and transcend the legacy of the human condition”. The mission of the organization is to support discussion and public awareness about emerging technologies, as well as to propose solutions for potential problems related to these technologies. The website includes plenty of resources about transhumanism topics and news about upcoming seminars and conferences.


Science 2.0

The emergence of Web 2.0 has resulted in a number of new communication and participation tools. Wiki, rss, weblogs and social networks have turned the Internet into a writable platform, where the user acts as a “prosumer”, that is a consumer and a producer of information. For many, however, social computing is not just a new phase in the evolution of ICT, but a new model of generation and diffusion of knowledge, which has a potentially transformative impact on social and cultural processes. The rapid and pervasive diffusion of social computing requires organizations and institutions to face new challenges and rethink their modus operandi.

Science, as any other cultural enterprise, is likely to be deeply affected by the social media revolution. This is not surprising, considering the close relationship that has always existed between the development of science and the development of the Internet. When Tim Berners Lee, a researcher of the European Particle Physics Lab (CERN) in Switzerland, created the networked hypertext, his main goal was to develop an effective solution to facilitate communication among members of the high-energy physics community, who were located in several countries. In his original proposal to CERN’s management written in March 1989, Berners-Lee suggestedthe integration of a hypertext system with existing data, so as to provide a universal system, and to achieve critical usefulness at an early stage”.

Since those early days of its development, of course, the Web has changed enormously, offering researchers opportunities that are probably beyond the imagination of its inventor. Today’s social media tools and services have the potential to radically transform the way science is conducted, financed and communicated. This “Science 2.0 revolution” unfolds along three major directions: open collaboration, open data and open publication/access.

Open collaboration refers to the possibility of using the tools provided by social networks, wikis and forums to share information and know-how. This strategy allows researchers to exchange protocols, techniques, experimental procedures and find solutions to common issues. Open collaboration networks provide a powerful collaboration and learning environment, where experts from different disciplines can join their forces to develop new projects, write grant proposals, plan studies etc.

The second trend, open data, concerns the publication and re-use of scientific data such as maps, genomes, chemical compounds, medical etc. without price or permission. Although the concept is not new, it has gained momentum in recent years thanks to the raising popularity of social computing. Advocates of this approach believe that the public availability and reusability of research data not only reduce wasteful duplication of effort, but also permit faster progress in science, since different teams can use the same data to test a variety of hypotheses. Recently, prominent exponents of the open data movement have authored a set of principles – the “Panton Principles” aimed at articulating a view of what best practice should be with respect to data publication for science. A key goal of these principles is the elimination of uncertainty for researchers who wish to use the data about what exactly they are allowed to do with it.

The third emerging trend in Science 2.0, open access, concerns the provision of unrestricted online access to articles published in scholarly journals. Supporters of open access argue that this approach brings researchers increased visibility, usage and impact for their work. On the other hand, critics of OA do not believe that this model is economically sustainable, and express concerns about quality control. Another criticism is that since some OA journals require payment on behalf of the author, this could generate conflicts of interest and have a negative impact on the perceived neutrality of peer review, as there would be a financial incentive for journals to publish more articles.

Wikis, blogs and the other Web 2.0 technologies are paving a way towards providing new means of collaboration, education and communication for researchers. However, the successful adoption of this approach depends heavily on the ability to create a deep understanding of scientist’s current practices, needs and expectations.

More to explore:

  • Science 2.0: Science 2.0 is an open professional network on Linkedin aimed at connecting researchers, consultants and companies and institutions interested in the impact of social media on science and technology.
  • Research Gate:ResearchGate is a community for researchers in the science and technology fields that includes advanced semantic search capabilities. Launched in 2008 by Ijad Madisch, Horst Fickenscher and Sören Hofmayer, this “Facebook for scientists” has gathered a user base of more than 700.000 researchers worldwide.
  • Labmeeting: Labmeeting, founded by Mark Kaganovich, Jeremy England, Dan Kaganovich, and Joseph Perla, is an online platform for scientists. It is designed as a document-sharing service for scientific papers and protocols. Members can upload their papers in PDF form, organize them, search them, and share them with other lab members.
  • Openwetware: Created by graduate students at MIT in 2005, OpenWetWare is a wiki whose mission is "to support open research, education, publication, and discussion in biological sciences and engineering." All content is available under free content licenses.
  • Many Eyes: Many Eyes is data-sharing site from the Visual Communication Lab at IBM. The platform allows users to upload data and then produce graphic representations for others to view and comment upon. 
  • Open Clinica: is an open source platform for clinical research, including electronic data capture (EDC) and clinical data management capabilities.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals: DOAJ covers free, full text scientific and scholarly journals with different subjects and languages. The current directory (as of February 2011) includes 6100 journals and 506687 articles.


13:18 Posted in Research tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pioneering epidural treatment helps paraplegic man stand

A team of scientists at the University of Louisville, UCLA and the California Institute of Technology has developed a new treatment involving continual direct electrical stimulation of the spinal cord. The treatment was successfully tested on a 25-years-old paraplegic man, Rob Summers, who was completely paralysed below the chest in a car accident. The stimulation enabled the man to achieve full weight-bearing standing with assistance provided only for balance for 4·25 min. These breakthrough findings were reported May 20 in the Lancet (early online publication).


Mar 03, 2011

Online predictive tools for mental illness: The OPTIMI Project

OPTIMI is a r&d project funded by the European Commission under funded by the European Union's 7th Framework Programme "Personal Health Systems - Mental Health" .

The project has two key goals goals: a) the development of new tools to monitor coping behavior in individuals exposed to high levels of stress; b) the development of online interventions to improve this behavior and reduce the incidence of depression.

To achieve its first goal, OPTIMI will develop technology-based tools to monitor the physiological state and the cognitive, motor and verbal behavior of high risk individuals over an extended period of time and to detect changes associated with stress, poor coping and depression.  

A series of “calibration trials” will allow the project will test a broad range of technologies. These will include wearable EEG and ECG sensors to detect subjects’ physiological and cognitive state, accelerometers to characterize their physical activity, and voice analysis to detect signs of depression. These automated measurements will be complemented with electronic diaries, in which subjects report their own behaviors and the stressful situations to which they are exposed. Further, the project will use machine learning to identify patterns in the behavioral and physiological data that predict the findings from the psychologist and the corticol measurements.

Although the project's objectives are very ambitious, OPTIMI represents one of the most advanced  initiatives in the field of Positive Technology, so I am very excited to follow its progresses and see how far it can go.


Mar 02, 2011

The Key to Unlocking the Virtual Body: Virtual Reality in the Treatment of Obesity and Eating Disorders

The Key to Unlocking the Virtual Body: Virtual Reality in the Treatment of Obesity and Eating Disorders

Giuseppe Riva, Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, Volume 5, Issue 2, March 2011

Obesity and eating disorders are usually considered unrelated problems with different causes. However, various studies identify unhealthful weight-control behaviors (fasting, vomiting, or laxative abuse), induced by a negative experience of the body, as the common antecedents of both obesity and eating disorders. But how might negative body image—common to most adolescents, not only to medical patients—be behind the development of obesity and eating disorders? In this paper, I review the “allocentric lock theory” of negative body image as the possible antecedent of both obesity and eating disorders. Evidence from psychology and neuroscience indicates that our bodily experience involves the integration of different sensory inputs within two different reference frames: egocentric (first-person experience) and allocentric (third-person experience). Even though functional relations between these two frames are usually limited, they influence each other during the interaction between long- and short-term memory processes in spatial cognition. If this process is impaired either through exogenous (e.g., stress) or endogenous causes, the egocentric sensory inputs are unable to update the contents of the stored allocentric representation of the body. In other words, these patients are locked in an allocentric (observer view) negative image of their body, which their sensory inputs are no longer able to update even after a demanding diet and a significant weight loss. This article discusses the possible role of virtual reality in addressing this problem within an integrated treatment approach based on the allocentric lock theory.

Jan 26, 2011

Take your two minutes

I stumbled over this site today: Do Nothing for 2 minutes.

The site presents the user with a very simple challenge: can you keep yourself from touching your computer for two minutes?

When the user enters the site a serene ocean view and the sound of waves displayed. The instructions ask to sit back and relax without touching your mouse or keyboard, and then a two minute timer begins counting down. If the user touches the mouse or the keyboard, a FAIL message appears, and the clock reset itself.

The site is very simple, but is gaining a lot of attention worldwide. In spite of its simplicity, I think that it includes interesting features: the provision of relaxing content “on demand”, the countdown, the feedback about compliance with task's instructions.

If any of you knows similar websites please post them in the comments!

Jan 17, 2011

The Google Earth Treadmill: A New Way to Explore the World

According to a report on Mashable, Panasonic’s VIERA Connect TVs, in collaboration with NordicTrack, unveiled a television at CES that lets you experience virtual trails straight from your living room.

The HDTV displays Google Maps and communicates inclinations of hills and valleys to the treadmill. The machine is also able to incline itself at the appropriate times, matching those hills every step of the way. Other real-life features include cars and people crossing your path.

Have a good (virtual) walk!

Jan 14, 2011

Final Call for Abstracts 16th Annual CyberPsychology & CyberTherapy Conference

June 19th to 22nd 2011 in Gatineau, Canada

This year the Interactive Media Institute (IMI) and Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) are organizing the 16th Annual CyberPsychology and CyberTherapy Conference (CT16), the official conference of the International Association of CyberPsychology, Training, & Rehabilitation (iACToR). The abstract submission deadline is January 15th, 2011.

To submit your abstract, register for the conference or obtain additional information, please visit the CT16 website at http://www.interactivemediainstitute.com/CT16.

Note that abstracts will be published in a regular issue of the Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation (JCR).

Outstanding features this year:

  • 12 hands-on / “how to” workshops
  • Two and a half day of scientific presentations
  • WorldViz offering one-day seminars on Virtual Reality development.
  • Presence of experts in clinical therapy and rehabilitation, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, social sciences, and computer sciences.
  • Interactive Cyberarium open to the general public.
  • Representatives of funding agency, policymakers, and industrial partners present on site.

Conference website: http://www.interactivemediainstitute.com/CT16

Jan 05, 2011

Participatory medicine

Participatory medicine is a new trend in e-health that proposes an active role of the patient in medical care. According to the board of the Society of Participatory Medicine, this is “a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners".

In contrast with the traditional doctor-centric curative model, participatory medicine proposes a more proactive approach, where patients not only share information about their diseases, but are also involved in treatment decisions. This new perspective recognizes that patients have a unique knowledge of their own health, which can be effectively used to improve the care process. The potential benefits of participatory medicine include enhanced patients compliance, resourcefulness and quality of life.

Online social network platforms are playing an important role to help this transition to take place. These networks allow patients who have similar diseases to connect, share knowledge and resources. They enable collaborative filtering of relevant information and apply reputation and trust management mechanisms to reduce risks of frauds and abuses. Some medical-oriented social networks also provide users with tools to track their health status. The data collected, once anonimized, can be used for research purposes, i.e. to assess patterns of drugs usage or investigate side effects.

More to explore:

PatientsLikeMe is an online platform for patients to share their experience using patient-reported outcomes, find other patients like them, and learn from the others' data to improve their outcomes. The site has gathered a huge quantity of data on its 70,000 members, which span a number of different disease communities, including epilepsy, fibromyalgia, and depression

Inspire is a US-based private company that creates and manages online patient support communities. Inspire manages more than 175 online communities, comprised of 160,000 members. Its partners include over 70 patient advocacy associations, such as the National Osteoporosis Foundation, WomenHeart, the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.    

The Society for Participatory Medicine is a 501(c)3 public charity devoted to promoting the concept of participatory medicine by and among patients, caregivers and their medical teams. The organization has launched two core initiatives, the e-patients blog and the Journal of Participatory Medicine, a peer-reviewed, open access journal that publishes multidisciplinary articles on medicine 2.0 and participatory healthcare.   

Disaboom is a site for the disabled. Its main mission is to improve the way individuals with disabilities or functional limitations live their lives. The site provides several information resources for those living with disabilities, as well as their family members, friends, caregivers, and employers. The health section features articles written by medical professionals on a variety of disabilities. It was created by Glen House, a doctor who became quadriplegic after breaking his neck in a skiing accident at the age of 20. Users create profile pages and search for people with similar conditions.

Diabetic Connect is the world's largest online social network for people and families living with diabete. Members can share how they feel in real-time, send virtual gifts such as flowers and hugs, and a give feedback on product reviews, recipes, diet tips, videos and other user-generated content.

IMedix  is a health search engine and social network service that provides information in response to medical questions and concerns. Users enter a question — like what to do about high blood pressure — and iMedix scans articles, videos and blogs that are ranked by other users on how helpful they are. Search results are also interactive, and can be recommended by other users, or voted down in rank.

INTERSTRESS video released

We have just released a new video introducing the INTERSTRESS project, an EU-funded initiative that aims to design, develop and test an advanced ICT-based solution for the assessment and treatment of psychological stress. The specific objectives of the project are:

  • Quantitative and objective assessment of symptoms using biosensors and behavioral analysis
  • Decision support for treatment planning through data fusion and detection algorithms
  • Provision of warnings and motivating feedback to improve compliance and long-term outcomes

Credits: Virtual Reality Medical Institute

Dec 27, 2010

Brain-computer interface research comes of age: traditional assumptions meet emerging realities

Brain-computer interface research comes of age: traditional assumptions meet emerging realities.

J Mot Behav. 2010 Nov;42(6):351-3

Authors: Wolpaw JR

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) could provide important new communication and control options for people with severe motor disabilities. Most BCI research to date has been based on 4 assumptions that: (a) intended actions are fully represented in the cerebral cortex; (b) neuronal action potentials can provide the best picture of an intended action; (c) the best BCI is one that records action potentials and decodes them; and (d) ongoing mutual adaptation by the BCI user and the BCI system is not very important. In reality, none of these assumptions is presently defensible. Intended actions are the products of many areas, from the cortex to the spinal cord, and the contributions of each area change continually as the CNS adapts to optimize performance. BCIs must track and guide these adaptations if they are to achieve and maintain good performance. Furthermore, it is not yet clear which category of brain signals will prove most effective for BCI applications. In human studies to date, low-resolution electroencephalography-based BCIs perform as well as high-resolution cortical neuron-based BCIs. In sum, BCIs allow their users to develop new skills in which the users control brain signals rather than muscles. Thus, the central task of BCI research is to determine which brain signals users can best control, to maximize that control, and to translate it accurately and reliably into actions that accomplish the users' intentions.

Post-apocalyptic Tokyo scenery

fantastic photo manipulations by Tokyogenso. See more here

Best of 2010 --

Zilok: peer to peer renting

From Mauro Cherubini's Moleskine

Zilok is a startup that offers an interesting service: peer to peer renting.

How it works? Users post possessions they are willing to rent out, along with a price. The web site processes the fee, track the reputation of your renting partner and issues insurance for the item.


Metaverse Creativity

Intellect has announced the publication of the groundbreaking new journal Metaverse Creativity, which is the first refereed journal focusing on the examination of creativity in user-defined online virtual worlds such as Second Life.

While such creative activity includes artistic activity, this definition should in no way be limited to artistic output alone but should encompass the output of the various disciplines of design – such as fashion and object design, landscaping and virtual architecture – that are currently all amply manifest in Second Life.

Creativity in a metaverse manifests under unique conditions and parameters that are engendered by the virtual environment itself and it is intrinsically related to these in its very act of realization. Thus metaverse creativity cannot be separated from the underlying Metanomic system (metaverse economy), the legal issues of ownership and copyright, the very geography and related atmospheric/lighting conditions upon which the output is rendered, or the underlying computational system which generates this.

The inaugural issue includes a fascinating editorial by Elif Ayiter and Yacov Sharir.

For a complete list of articles with accompanying abstracts visit: http://www.atypon-link.com/INT/toc/mecr/1/1.

Issue 1 is FREE to view online: http://www.atypon-link.com/INT/toc/mecr/1/1

To subscribe please visit the journal's page for details: http://bit.ly/epvHg3

A Call for Papers is available here

Dec 26, 2010

Call for papers for Journal of Participatory Medicine: Special issue on Mental Health

Open to consumers, clinicians, researchers and all interested in mental health issues

Flexible deadline: February 15, 2011 ( ~4-6 weeks for response)

Submission Categories: Research Articles, Reviews, Case Studies, Narratives, Commentary, Letters to the Editor, Innovations in Participatory Medicine, Books & Literature, On the Web, Conference Reports See www.jopm.org/submissions for specific guidelines concerning word count and expected components for each category.

For more information please contact organizers: Marcela Musgrove, musgrove[AT]ohsu.edu; Leticia Villarreal Sosa, leticia.villarr[AT]gmail.com; or Madalyn Marcus, madalyn[AT]yorku.ca.

Participatory medicine is centered around the concept that "e-patients" (meaning equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged), are valued by their providers as full partners. We hope in this special issue to elicit contributions that will open discussion and establish mental health within the wider participatory medicine community.

The Journal of Participatory Medicine (JoPM), the online peer-reviewed, open access publication of the Society for Participatory Medicine, is the result of the belief that health care must involve much more active collaboration between patients and providers.

For more information about JoPM, visit: www.jopm.org.

22:29 Posted in Call for papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dec 12, 2010

Contacting the brain aspects of a technology assessment of neural implants

Contacting the brain aspects of a technology assessment of neural implants.

Biotechnol J. 2008 Dec;3(12):1502-10

Authors: Decker M, Fleischer T

The public interest in neural implants has grown considerably in recent years. Progress within related research areas in combination with increasing--albeit overly optimistic and indiscriminate--mass media coverage have led to the impression that the possibilities of neural prosthetics have grown enormously. But a closer look reveals that the reasons for the intensified interest are varied and cannot be attributed to technical progress alone. Some neural prostheses that have been under development for many years have not left the clinical development phase despite intensive research activities. Other implants, like cardiac pacemakers and cochlea implants, are mature products that have already been implanted in a large number of patients. From the public perspective and in media reports, progress in the development of neural implants is associated with new achievements in other fields of neuroscience. Communications on new applications of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may suggest that a number of cognitive functions are now easily accessible with technological means. The fact that the interpretation of the results of fMRI studies depends on many conditions and is partly disputed also within the scientific community has been discussed in many publications but only very limited, in the general media. Besides this, research results and implementations in the area of electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography have sparked further debate on the question of free will, on determinism and indeterminism, and have attracted a large media response. The purpose of this paper is to discuss some societal and ethical aspects of neural implants from a technology assessment perspective. Technology assessment (TA) aims at providing knowledge about impacts and consequences of (new) technologies as well as about political and societal ways of dealing with them. It reflects about implementation conditions of technology and potential technology conflicts. Over the last years, neural implants became a subject for TA since they have gained a higher attention in both the political arena and the general public. Especially the ethical and social implications of technologies that electrically stimulate the brain and the possibilities of changing personality traits, changing moods, and perhaps enhancing human cognitive capabilities are central issues in related discussions. In this paper, we want to briefly summarize some of the key arguments as well as topics for future discussion and research.

Recorded future

Via KurzweilAI.net

Recorded Future, a startup jointly funded by CIA and Google, has developed a temporal analytics engine that elaborates real-time data from the Internet to predict what will happen in the future.

That is done using a constantly updated index of “streaming data,” including news articles, filings with government regulators, Twitter updates, and transcripts from earnings calls or political and economic speeches. Recorded Future uses linguistic algorithms to identify specific types of events, such as product releases, mergers, or natural disasters, the date when those events will happen, and related entities such as people, companies, and countries.

The company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.” The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

Nov 10, 2010

Increased default mode network connectivity associated with meditation

Increased default mode network connectivity associated with meditation.

Neurosci Lett. 2010 Oct 26;

Authors: Jang JH, Jung WH, Kang DH, Byun MS, Kwon SJ, Choi CH, Kwon JS

Areas associated with the default mode network (DMN) are substantially similar to those associated with meditation practice. However, no studies on DMN connectivity during resting states have been conducted on meditation practitioners. It was hypothesized that meditators would show heightened functional connectivity in areas of cortical midline activity. Thirty-five meditation practitioners and 33 healthy controls without meditation experience were included in this study. All subjects received 4.68-min resting state functional scanning runs. The posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex were chosen as seed regions for the DMN map. Meditation practitioners demonstrated greater functional connectivity within the DMN in the medial prefrontal cortex area (x y z=3 39 -21) than did controls. These results suggest that the long-term practice of meditation may be associated with functional changes in regions related to internalized attention even when meditation is not being practiced.

Nov 09, 2010

3D holographic technology: the future of telemedicine?

Scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson have developed a new form of holographic telepresence that projects a three-dimensional, full-color, moving image without viewers needing to use 3-D glasses. While the technology could be used in TV or movies, it also could be used in telemedicine and mapping, as well as in everyday corporate meetings, the report notes. The image is recorded using an array of regular cameras, each one viewing the object from a different angle. Then, using fast-pulsed laser beams, a holographic, or three-dimensional, pixel is created. Such technology could be a “game changer” in some industries, including telemedicine, lead researcher Nasser Peyghambarian said. “Holographic telepresence means we can record a three-dimensional image in one location and show it in another location, in real-time, anywhere in the world,” he added. “Surgeons at different locations around the world can observe in 3-D, in real time, and participate in the surgical procedure.

Full Story

Oct 23, 2010

Potential for new technologies in clinical practice

Potential for new technologies in clinical practice.

Curr Opin Neurol. 2010 Oct 18;

Authors: Burridge JH, Hughes AM

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Cost-effective neurorehabilitation is essential owing to financial constraints on healthcare resources. Technologies have the potential to contribute but without strong clinical evidence are unlikely to be widely reimbursed. This review presents evidence of new technologies since 2008 and identifies barriers to translation of technologies into clinical practice. RECENT FINDINGS: Technology has not been shown to be superior to intensively matched existing therapies. Research has been undertaken into the development and preliminary clinical testing of novel technologies including robotics, electrical stimulation, constraint-induced movement therapy, assistive orthoses, noninvasive brain stimulation, virtual reality and gaming devices. Translation of the research into clinical practice has been impeded by a lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness and usability. Underlying mechanisms associated with recovery are beginning to be explored, which may lead to more targeted interventions. Improvements in function have been demonstrated beyond the normal recovery period, but few trials demonstrate lasting effects. SUMMARY: Technologies, alone or combined, may offer a cost-effective way to deliver intensive neurorehabilitation therapy in clinical and community environments, and have the potential to empower patients to take more responsibility for their rehabilitation and continue with long-term exercise.