Jan 27, 2012

Moodscope

Moodscope is "an online personal mood management tool that helps people grappling with depression or mood disorders to effectively measure and track their moods". It allows tracking your "ups and downs" and displaying them on a graph to better understand how your mood fluctuates over time. And yes, of course it allows sharing your scores with trusted friends so they can support you if you are down..

Positive Technology: Using Interactive Technologies to Promote Positive Functioning

Positive Technology: Using Interactive Technologies to Promote Positive Functioning

G. Riva, R.M. Baños, C. Botella, B.K. Wiederhold, A. Gaggioli

Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking (Online Ahead of Print: December 9, 2011) DOI

Abstract. It is generally assumed that technology assists individuals in improving the quality of their lives. However, the impact of new technologies and media on well-being and positive functioning is still somewhat controversial. In this paper, we contend that the quality of experience should become the guiding principle in the design and development of new technologies, as well as a primary metric for the evaluation of their applications. The emerging discipline of Positive Psychology provides a useful framework to address this challenge. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning and flourishing. Instead of drawing on a “disease model” of human behavior, it focuses on factors that enable individuals and communities to thrive and build the best in life. In this paper, we propose the “Positive Technology” approach—the scientific and applied approach to the use of technology for improving the quality of our personal experience through its structuring, augmentation, and/or replacement—as a way of framing a suitable object of study in the field of cyberpsychology and human–computer interaction. Specifically, we suggest that it is possible to use technology to influence three specific features of our experience—affective quality, engagement/actualization, and connectedness—that serve to promote adaptive behaviors and positive functioning. In this framework, positive technologies are classified according to their effects on a specific feature of personal experience. Moreover, for each level, we have identified critical variables that can be manipulated to guide the design and development of positive technologies.

A sign language interpreter glove for smartphone

A team of three designers, Oleg Imanilov, Zvika Markfield, and Tomer Daniel, have recently developed a novel sign language interpreter glove. Basically, the glove works as an input device from which the user is able to use sign language to create a text message. The hw system consists of AD board, gyroscope, finger sensor, Lilypad Adriano and an accelerometer. The prototype was demonstrated at a recent Google developers event in Tel Aviv, and can be seen in the video below.

 

A smart-phone will detect people's emotions

MIT's Technology Review reports that Samsung researchers have released a smart-phone designed to "read" people's emotions. Rather than relying on specialized sensors or cameras, the phone infers a user's emotional state based on how he's using the phone.

"For example, it monitors certain inputs, such as the speed at which a user types, how often the “backspace” or “special symbol” buttons are pressed, and how much the device shakes. These measures let the phone postulate whether the user is happy, sad, surprised, fearful, angry, or disgusted, says Hosub Lee, a researcher with Samsung Electronics and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology’s Intelligence Group, in South Korea. Lee led the work on the new system. He says that such inputs may seem to have little to do with emotions, but there are subtle correlations between these behaviors and one’s mental state, which the software’s machine-learning algorithms can detect with an accuracy of 67.5 percent."

Once a phone infers an emotional state, it can then change how it interacts with the user: "The system could trigger different ringtones on a phone to convey the caller’s emotional state or cheer up someone who’s feeling low. “The smart phone might show a funny cartoon to make the user feel better,” he says.

Cued motor imagery in patients with multiple sclerosis

Cued motor imagery in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Neuroscience. 2012 Jan 8

Authors: Heremans E, Nieuwboer A, Spildooren J, Bondt SD, D'hooge AM, Helsen W, Feys P

Abstract. Motor imagery (MI) is a promising practice tool in neurorehabilitation. However, in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), impairments in MI accuracy and temporal organization were found during clinical assessment, which may limit the benefits of MI practice. Therefore, we investigated whether the MI quality of MS patients could be optimized by means of external cueing. Fourteen patients with MS and 14 healthy control patients physically executed and visually imagined a goal-directed upper limb task in the presence and absence of added visual and auditory cues. MI quality was assessed by means of eye-movement registration. As main results, it was found that MS patients had significant higher eye-movement times than controls during both execution and imagery, and overestimated the to-be-imagined movement amplitude when no external information was provided during imagery. External cues, however, decreased patients' MI duration and increased the spatial accuracy of their imagined movements. In sum, our results indicate that MS patients imagine movements in a better way when they are provided with external cues during MI. These findings are important for developing rehabilitation strategies based on MI in patients with MS.

A combined robotic and cognitive training for locomotor rehabilitation

A combined robotic and cognitive training for locomotor rehabilitation: evidences of cerebral functional reorganization in two chronic traumatic brain injured patients.

Front Hum Neurosci. 2011;5:146

Authors: Sacco K, Cauda F, D'Agata F, Duca S, Zettin M, Virgilio R, Nascimbeni A, Belforte G, Eula G, Gastaldi L, Appendino S, Geminiani G

Abstract. It has been demonstrated that automated locomotor training can improve walking capabilities in spinal cord-injured subjects but its effectiveness on brain damaged patients has not been well established. A possible explanation of the discordant results on the efficacy of robotic training in patients with cerebral lesions could be that these patients, besides stimulation of physiological motor patterns through passive leg movements, also need to train the cognitive aspects of motor control. Indeed, another way to stimulate cerebral motor areas in paretic patients is to use the cognitive function of motor imagery. A promising possibility is thus to combine sensorimotor training with the use of motor imagery. The aim of this paper is to assess changes in brain activations after a combined sensorimotor and cognitive training for gait rehabilitation. The protocol consisted of the integrated use of a robotic gait orthosis prototype with locomotor imagery tasks. Assessment was conducted on two patients with chronic traumatic brain injury and major gait impairments, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Physiatric functional scales were used to assess clinical outcomes. Results showed greater activation post-training in the sensorimotor and supplementary motor cortices, as well as enhanced functional connectivity within the motor network. Improvements in balance and, to a lesser extent, in gait outcomes were also found.

Dec 31, 2011

10 videos on our near future

Happy New Year to all PT readers! - Andrea Gaggioli
 
 

10:41 Posted in Blue sky | Permalink | Comments (0)

Motor performance may be improved by kinesthetic imagery, specific action verb production, and mental calculation

Motor performance may be improved by kinesthetic imagery, specific action verb production, and mental calculation.

Neuroreport. 2011 Nov 25;

Authors: Rabahi T, Fargier P, Rifai-Sarraj A, Clouzeau C, Massarelli R

Abstract. Several results in the literature show that motor imagery, language production, mental calculation, and motor execution share the same or closely related brain motor cortical areas. The present study aimed at investigating the possible influence of specific action verb (AV) pronunciation and mental calculus upon motor performance compared with kinesthetic imagery (KI). Participants, novice in mental imagery, performed a vertical jump after a cognitive task (AV, silent AV, mental subtraction, meaningless verb, and KI). The results show that specific lower limbs AV, mental calculation, and KI improved the vertical jump in male, but not in female participants.

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies.

Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):1041-56

Authors: Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ

Abstract. Within the past few decades, there has been a surge of interest in the investigation of mindfulness as a psychological construct and as a form of clinical intervention. This article reviews the empirical literature on the effects of mindfulness on psychological health. We begin with a discussion of the construct of mindfulness, differences between Buddhist and Western psychological conceptualizations of mindfulness, and how mindfulness has been integrated into Western medicine and psychology, before reviewing three areas of empirical research: cross-sectional, correlational research on the associations between mindfulness and various indicators of psychological health; intervention research on the effects of mindfulness-oriented interventions on psychological health; and laboratory-based, experimental research on the immediate effects of mindfulness inductions on emotional and behavioral functioning. We conclude that mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation. The review ends with a discussion on mechanisms of change of mindfulness interventions and suggested directions for future research.

Improving spatial abilities through mindfulness: effects on the mental rotation task

Improving spatial abilities through mindfulness: effects on the mental rotation task.

Conscious Cogn. 2011 Sep;20(3):801-6

Authors: Geng L, Zhang L, Zhang D

Abstract. In this study, we demonstrate a previously unknown finding that mindful learning can improve an individual's spatial cognition without regard to gender differences. Thirty-two volunteers participated in the experiment. Baselines for spatial ability were first measured for the reaction time on the mental rotation task. Next, the participants were randomly assigned to either a mindful or mindless learning condition. After learning, the mental rotation task showed that those in the mindful learning condition responded faster than those in the mindless learning condition. This study provides promising evidence for applying mindful learning to education.

Dec 19, 2011

Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity

Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity.

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011 Nov 23;

Authors: Brewer JA, Worhunsky PD, Gray JR, Tang YY, Weber J, Kober H

Abstract. Many philosophical and contemplative traditions teach that "living in the moment" increases happiness. However, the default mode of humans appears to be that of mind-wandering, which correlates with unhappiness, and with activation in a network of brain areas associated with self-referential processing. We investigated brain activity in experienced meditators and matched meditation-naive controls as they performed several different meditations (Concentration, Loving-Kindness, Choiceless Awareness). We found that the main nodes of the default-mode network (medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices) were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis revealed stronger coupling in experienced meditators between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (regions previously implicated in self-monitoring and cognitive control), both at baseline and during meditation. Our findings demonstrate differences in the default-mode network that are consistent with decreased mind-wandering. As such, these provide a unique understanding of possible neural mechanisms of meditation.

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies.

 

Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):1041-56

 

Authors: Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ

Abstract. Within the past few decades, there has been a surge of interest in the investigation of mindfulness as a psychological construct and as a form of clinical intervention. This article reviews the empirical literature on the effects of mindfulness on psychological health. We begin with a discussion of the construct of mindfulness, differences between Buddhist and Western psychological conceptualizations of mindfulness, and how mindfulness has been integrated into Western medicine and psychology, before reviewing three areas of empirical research: cross-sectional, correlational research on the associations between mindfulness and various indicators of psychological health; intervention research on the effects of mindfulness-oriented interventions on psychological health; and laboratory-based, experimental research on the immediate effects of mindfulness inductions on emotional and behavioral functioning. We conclude that mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation. The review ends with a discussion on mechanisms of change of mindfulness interventions and suggested directions for future research.

‘Brainlink’ lets you remotely control toy robots and other gadgets

BirdBrain Technologies, a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University has developed a device called Brainlink that allows users to remotely control robots and other gadgets (including TVs, cable boxes, and DVD players) with an Android-based smartphone. This is achieved through a small triangular controller that you attach to the gadget, with a Bluetooth range of 30 feet.

Apple and Google working on wearable stuff

Via Kurzweil AI

The New York Times Bits reports that Apple and Google have recently started working on projects that will become wearable computers, based on the smartphone, which is becoming the hub for our information sharing and gathering.

In Google’s secret Google X labs, researchers are working on peripherals that - when attached to your clothing or body — would communicate information back to an Android smartphone.

At Apple, one idea being discussed is a curved-glass iPod that would wrap around the wrist; people could communicate with the device using Siri, the company’s artificial intelligence software.

 

MIT to launch free online interactive learning labs in 2012

MIT announced today online learning initiative called MITx that will offer a portfolio of free selected MIT courses starting in Spring 2012 through an online interactive learning platform, with  online laboratories.

MIT expects that MITx will eventually host a virtual community of millions of learners around the world.

Nov 26, 2011

Curiosity (did not) kill the cat

Today at 10:02 am the latest Mars Rover, Curiosity was launched into the deep space. The $2.5 billion exploratory system started its eight month journey to Mars where it will spend another two years researching the conditions for (past or future) life. The nuclear-powered Curiosity is much larger than any previous Mars Rover and five times heavier. Its equipment includes a drill on a 2.1-meter arm and a laser to vaporize rocks for easier onboard analysis.

When I first watched this video this morning I was really amazed by the technology, the landing strategy and the terrific level of sophistication of the rover system. Then I thought to myself - if there is enough brainpower on earth to make this vision a reality, then it must be also possible to workout a solution for the global economy!

Nov 06, 2011

A view of future productivity

A future vision of productivity from Microsoft

Role of the Primary Motor Cortex in the Early Boost in Performance Following Mental Imagery Training

Role of the Primary Motor Cortex in the Early Boost in Performance Following Mental Imagery Training

 

PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26717

 

Authors: Debarnot U, Clerget E, Olivier E

Abstract. Recently, it has been suggested that the primary motor cortex (M1) plays a critical role in implementing the fast and transient post-training phase of motor skill consolidation, known to yield an early boost in performance. Whether a comparable early boost in performance occurs following motor imagery (MIM) training is still unknown. To address this issue, two groups of subjects learned a finger tapping sequence either by MIM or physical practice (PP). In both groups, performance increased significantly in the post-training phase when compared with the pre-training phase and further increased after a 30 min resting period, indicating that both MIM and PP trainings were equally efficient and induced an early boost in motor performance. This conclusion was corroborated by the results of an additional control group. In a second experiment, we then investigated the causal role of M1 in implementing the early boost process resulting from MIM training. To do so, we inhibited M1 by applying a continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) in healthy volunteers just after they learnt, by MIM, the same finger-tapping task as in Experiment #1. As a control, cTBS was applied over the vertex of subjects who underwent the same experiment. We found that cTBS applied over M1 selectively abolished the early boost process subsequent to MIM training. Altogether, the present study provides evidence that MIM practice induces an early boost in performance and demonstrates that M1 is causally involved in this process. These findings further divulge some degree of behavioral and neuronal similitude between MIM and PP.

About serious games

“Serious gaming” is a growing trend that is attracting the attention of the industry and the research community. Basically, a serious game is a virtual interactive simulation, in which players learn skills and competences that can be then applied in the “real” world.

The adjective “serious” refers to the fact that these games that are designed to not only entertain users, but have additional purposes such as solving a problem or promoting change at the individual/societal levels. By engaging in simulations of real situations, participants try to reach a the game’s goal by enacting specific strategies and behaviors.

Advocates of this approach claim that serious games foster motivation to learn, offer immediate feedback, support skills development and facilitate knowledge transfer. In addition, by playing in a virtual world users can experience their own actions to be effective, thereby gaining a feeling of self-efficacy. However, these claims have received so far little empirical evidence because research in this field is still in its infancy; in particular, few studies exist to date that have assessed the effectiveness of serious games beyond usability evaluation.

The aims of serious games can be various, ranging from business training, educational or social campaigns and promotional activities. Ben Sawyer and Peter Smith have proposed a taxonomy of serious games  which include the following categories:

  • Games for Health
  • Advergames
  • Games for Training
  • Games for Education
  • Games for Science and Research
  • Production, and Games as Work

Games for health are used to improve public health education, assist rehabilitation/therapy and enhance wellness. An example is SnowWorld, a virtual reality pain distraction game for burn patients developed by Hunter Hoffman and David Patterson (video)

Advergames (a portmanteau of "advertising" and "gaming") are used to advertise a product, organization or viewpoint. Games for training are designed to train employees in variety of domains, including commerce, business, industry, emergency services, and the military. For example, Luca Chittaro and colleagues at the HCI lab of University of Udine have created a a 3D game for improving decision making skills of nurses working in ambulance services (video).

Games for education are games that combine education and entertainment in order to teach people about a certain subject, expand concepts, reinforce development, understand an historical event or culture, or assist them in learning a skill as they play” (source: Wikipedia). Ratan and Ritterfeld (2009) reviewed a total of 612 educational games and provided a classification along four dimensions:

  • primary educational content;
  • primary learning principle;
  • target age group;
  • platform.

In this paper published on the Journal for Computer Game Culture, Johannes Breuer and Gary Bente provide an in-depth discussion on the relationship between serious games and learning.

Games for Science and Research have the specific purpose of helping scientists in processing complex data (i.e. the Folding at Home project, video) or improving the public understanding of science.

Another example is Power of Research, a free online strategy game designed to inspire more European young people to choose research careers. The category Production include games designed for supporting the development/manufacturing of new products. Finally, Games as Work refers to games that players use to earn money or other type of material rewards (i.e. professional gamers, games designed to collect funds or donations).

In sum, interactive serious games represent an interesting new trend in HCI which has several implications for cyberpsychology research and practice. Actually, although serious games are proliferating and applied in a number of different domains, several issues remain to be addressed concerning their design and evaluation. Research topics that are relevant to the field of cyberpsychology include, for example, the definition of methods/procedures/guidelines for assessing games outcomes and the elaboration of underlying theories (i.e. Flow, Presence etc.) that explain psychological mechanisms elicited through serious game play.

More to explore

Here, we provide a list of web resources related to serious games.

  • Serious Games Initiative is a site focused on uses for games in exploring management and leadership challenges facing the public sector.
  • Serious Game Classification This site provides collaborative classification system suited to Serious Games, based on multiple criterias. The games are classified according to their gameplay, their purposes, their markets and target audience, alongside with user-contributed keywords.
  • Ludus Project is the website of the EU-funded project LUDUS, which aims at creating a European network for the transfer of knowledge and dissemination of best practices in the innovative field of Serious Games.
  • Serious Games Market is a blog providing information about recent market trends in the field of serious gaming.
  • Serious Games Conference is a conference that explore the world of serious games.
  • Serious Games Summit focuses on the application of videogames in training, health, education, behavior change, science, advertising, and general productivity.

15:16 Posted in Serious games | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sep 25, 2011

Towards Participatory Ecology

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The environmental impact of non renewable energies, such as fossil and nuclear fuels, is becoming more and more dramatic. The heating of the atmosphere caused by these emissions is associated with more frequent extreme weather occurrences, such as periods of dryness alternated with floods and tempests. Climate disasters hit in particular developing countries, weaking their fragile economies, with socio-political implications that often extend to the rest of the world. To invert this trend, is not only important to foster research and investments on renewable resources and reduce energy waste: it is also fundamental to raise awareness among citizens and identify effective ways to foster sustainable behaviors, as well as to encourage community-based approaches.

Changing citizens’ behaviours, however, is not easy. In the last decades, this goal has been pursued mainly through environmental awareness campaigns carried out via traditional mass media such as newspapers, tv and radio. The effectiveness of these campaigns is difficult to estimate, however there is wide consensus that much more could be done in order to encourage people to reduce unsustainable consumption patterns and encouraging more sustainable lifestyles.

Social media and ubiquitous computing can offer potentially effective tools for addressing these challenges. As suggested by Stanford psychologist, B.J. Fogg,  social networks can facilitate “mass interpersonal persuasion” by leveraging six key components:

  • Persuasive experience: the experience is designed to change attitudes, behaviors or both.
  • Automated structure: digital technology structures the persuasive experience.
  • Social distribution: the persuasive experience is shared within the network of friends.
  • Rapid cycle: the persuasive experience can be rapidly disseminated from person to person.
  • Huge social graph: the persuasive experience can reach millions of individuals thanks to social ties and interactions.
  • Measured impact: the effects of persuasive experience can be objectively measured.

The persuasive potential of social networks can be used to promote (at least) three types of ecological behaviours: 

  1. Optimize energy use;
  2. Reduce emissions, in particular CO2;
  3. Increase adoption of renewable energy tecnologies.  

The result of this strategy, which I would define as “Participatory Ecology”, is the development of new ICT services and applications that aims at creating higher awareness about sustainability, promote collective participation in ecological protection, and provide citizens with new modalities of interaction with products and their environment.

The final goal of Participatory Ecology is to empower citizens to become agents of positive environmental change, by increasing their involvement in decision-making processes and enabling an open discussion with institutions. In addition to encouraging active participation, the mission of Participatory Ecology is to provide citizens with the opportunity of exchanging knowledge and ideas about environmental protection, allowing new paths for sharing collective interests.

Below I provide some examples of this concept.

More to explore

- Using social media to help people optimizing energy use: Former startup Greenbox has developed and demonstrated an integrated Internet service that lets a residential customer view, interpret, and act on their everyday utility service consumption and distributed generation behaviors. In a similar vein, Lucid Design Group's Web-based Building Dashboard Network enables users to view, compare and share building energy and water use information in a social networking environment. The dashboard also integrates with Facebook and Twitter to post updates to building profile pages and feeds, sparking energy use competitions among users.

- Using social media to foster emisson reduction: Ecorio is one of the winners of the USD $275.000 grand prize in the final round of the Google Android Developer Challenge. The mobile application is designed to track the user’s carbon footprint by keeping track of when he/she is moving in a car or a bus. The software displays a summary of activities and the current trip; in addition, Ecorio is able to automatically find the best transit routes the user could take for each trip, using Google Transit. These information can be used to change our bad transport habits: for each trip made by car, Ecorio provides tips and alternative suggestions to reach our destination and saving emissions. Needless to say, all tips provided can be shared with the members of the Ecorio community. Another interesting tool to reduce emission is CarCare, a mobile app that uses Gps technology to monitor fuel consumption and CO2 emissions generated by each trip. Finally, Zimride is a recent startup that is attempting to create a marketplace for drivers to sell empty seats in their car by matching them with passengers traveling along the same route. The company has an organization-based distribution approach with 100 large universities, companies, and event partners using, and paying for the service.

- Using social media to increase adoption of renewable energy tecnologies: RoofRay is a clever mashup that uses Google's satellite and aerial imagery to estimate how much efficiency the user can expect installing solar panels on the roof. Similar satellite-based applications are Sungevity and Global Solar Center.