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.

Jul 27, 2011

A robot that flies like a bird

The poetry of technology..

Jul 22, 2011

Mirroring avatars: dissociation of action and intention in human motor resonance

Paola Borroni, Alessandra Gorini, Giuseppe Riva, Stephane Bouchard and Gabriella Cerri

The European journal of neuroscience (19 July 2011)
 
Abstract. Observation of others’ actions induces a subliminal activation of motor pathways (motor resonance) that is mediated by the mirror neuron system and reflects the motor program encoding the observed action. Whether motor resonance represents the movements composing an action or also its motor intention remains of debate, as natural actions implicitly contain their motor intentions. Here, action and intention are dissociated using a natural and an impossible action with the same grasping intention: subjects observe an avatar grasping a ball using either a natural hand action (‘palmar’ finger flexion) or an impossible hand action (‘dorsal’ finger flexion). Motor-evoked potentials (MEPs), elicited by single transcranial magnetic stimulation of the hand area in the primary motor cortex, were used to measure the excitability modulation of motor pathways during observation of the two different hand actions. MEPs were recorded from the opponens pollicis (OP), abductor digiti minimi (ADM) and extensor carpi radialis (ECR) muscles. A significant MEP facilitation was found in the OP, during observation of the grasping phase of the natural action; MEPs in the ADM were facilitated during observation of the hand opening phase of the natural action and of both opening and grasping phases of the impossible action. MEPs in the ECR were not affected. As different resonant responses are elicited by the observation of the two different actions, despite their identical intention, we conclude that the mirror neuron system cannot utilize the observer’s subliminal motor program in the primary motor cortex to encode action intentions.

4th International Workshop on "From Event-Driven Business Process Management to Ubiquitous Complex Event Processing"

The Workshop

4th International Workshop on “Event-Driven Business Process Management” is co-located with ServiceWave/Future Internet Conference 2011:Poznan, Poland from October 25-28, 2011.

This workshop focuses on the topics of connecting Internet of Services and Things with the management of business processes and the Future and Emerging Technologies as addressed by the ISTAG Recommendations of the European FET-F 2020 and Beyond Initiative. Such FET challenges are not longer limited to business processes, but focus on new ideas in order to connect processes on the basis of CEP with disciplines of Cell Biology, Epigenetics, Brain Research, Robotics, Emergency Management, SocioGeonomics, Bio- and Quantum Computing – summarized under the concept of U-CEP.

Important Dates

Deadline paper or extended abstract submissions: 2 September 2011
Notification of acceptance: 26 September 2011
Workshop: 28 October 2011

Camera-ready papers: 15 December 2011

More information here


Jun 21, 2011

Self tracking

The convergence between ubiquitous computing and wearable microsensors is enabling a new trend in human-computer interaction: “self-tracking”. In general terms, self-tracking refers to the measurement of data about the self, through personal informatics tools. Data collected can be aggregated, visualized, collated into reports and shared. For example, by wearing a small sensor wirelessly connected with a smartphone, a runner can automatically track distance, speed, calories burned and share her performance on the web. But virtually any aspect of one’s life can be potentially registered, at the biological, behavioral or contextual levels. Programs already exist to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, pain, happiness, mood, and location, just to name few examples.

Conceptually, self-tracking is not a new idea. Since the invention of writing, human beings have used different tools to record daily life (i.e. the diary). However, the emergence of pervasive computing tools has made this process easier. In addition, the increasing memory capacity of portable media devices allow to store massive amounts of personal data, making it possible to record an entire life of events.

This is the idea behind MyLifeBits, a project by Microsoft’s Media Presence Research Group, which has created a system able to digitally chronicle every aspect of a person's life. The development of this “lifetime personal store” was possible thanks to the perseverance of Gordon Bell, a Microsoft’s senior researcher and computer scientist, who for eleven years has captured every moment of his personal and professional lives. Bell’s experiment was inspired by the Memex system, a “configurable storehouse of knowledge” envisioned by engineer Vannevar Bush as early as 1945. The database created by Bell includes articles, books, correspondence, photos, telephone calls, video files, web pages visited and is completely searchable. Another pioneer of “life-logging” is Steve Mann, a tenured professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, who in 1994 started continuously transmitting his everyday life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on his website: visitors could see what Mann was looking at, as well as communicate with him in real time. 

But besides the intriguing idea of logging one’s life, what is the real promise of self-tracking? Personal informatics offers the possibility to store and access data from our daily life and improve self-knowledge. Insights gained by performing these measurements can be used, for example, to change life-threatening habits, adopt healthier lifestyle, or take more informed treatment decisions. This is why a growing number of websites offer services to track and compare health data. For example, CureTogether allows users to anonimously track various health measures (including symptoms, treatment plans and medication schedules) and share them with other individuals having the same conditions. Aggregated data can be then analyzed to identify trends and eventually highlight the most effective treatments. The founder of the website, Alexandra Carmichael, is herself a self-tracker. She reported monitoring more than 40 different categories of information about her health and personal habits, from caloric intake to daily mood.

The potential of self-tracking has not been overlooked by psychologists. Conceptually, this approach was developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Reed Larson in 1983, much before the advent of personal informatics. They created a paper-and-pencil methodology, called Experience Sampling Method (ESM), which requires participants to fill out multiple brief questionnaires about their current activities and feelings by responding to random alerts throughout the day. ESM has been used effectively with adolescent and adult populations for decades to understand areas such as mood, social interactions and time use. This approach has also proven to be helpful in defining therapeutic interventions that are optimally suited for an individual patient.

Used in combination with physiological and contextual measures, computerized version of the ESM may provide a powerful tool to study person-environment interactions. Researchers interested in experimenting with this approach, but lacking programming skills, can use MyExperience, a BSD-licensed open source mobile data collection tool developed for Windows Mobile devices. MyExperience allows the combination of sensing and self-report to collect both quantitative and qualitative data on experience and activity. The beta release of MyExperience supports 50 built-in sensors including GPS, GSM-based motion sensors and device usage information. The sensor events themselves can be used to trigger custom actions such as to initiate wireless database synchronization, send SMS messages to the research team and/or present in situ self-report surveys. Other external sensors (i.e. physiological) can be added via MyExperience plug-in architecture. MyExperience can also be used for designing innovative cybertherapies. For example, Dr. Margaret Morris from the Digital Health Group at Intel and colleagues from Oregon Health and Sciences and Columbia University have recently developed and tested a mobile phone application for mood reporting, which also provides therapeutic exercises for cognitive reappraisal and physical relaxation (M. E. Morris et al, Mobile Therapy: Case Study Evaluations of a Cell Phone Application for Emotional Self-Awareness, Journal of Medical Internet Research, 12(2):e10, 2010).

In summary, self-tracking is an emerging trend in personal informatics, with potentially interesting applications in the fields of cyberpsychology and cybertherapy. However, more research is needed to determine the real benefits (and risks) of this approach.

More to explore:

 

  • Physiological Computing is a blog run byrun by Stephen Fairclough and Kiel Gilleade aimed at providing the latest news and research in the field of physiological computing.
  • The Quantified Self is a group engaged in self-tracking activities started by Kevin Kelly and Gary Isaac Wolf. The group also organizes meetups around the world.
  • Patients like Me is a social networking health site that enables its members to share treatment and symptom information in order to track and to learn from real-world outcomes.
  • The Body Computing Conference is an international conference devoted to the nascent field of physiological computing.
  • PsychLog is an open source, smartphone-based experience sampling tool that allows to collect psychological, physiological (via wireless ECG) and behavioral activity data (from wireless in-built accelerometer). 

 

17:40 Posted in Self-Tracking | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jun 05, 2011

Human Computer Confluence

Human Computer Confluence (HC-CO) is an ambitious initiative recently launched by the European Commission under the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) program, which fosters projects that investigate and demonstrate new possibilities “emerging at the confluence between the human and technological realms” (source: HC-CO website, EU Commission).

Such projects will examine new modalities for individual and group perception, actions and experience in augmented, virtual spaces. In particular, such virtual spaces would span the virtual reality continuum, also extending to purely synthetic but believable representation of massive, complex and dynamic data. HC-CO also fosters inter-disciplinary research (such as Presence, neuroscience, psychophysics, prosthetics, machine learning, computer science and engineering) towards delivering unified experiences and inventing radically new forms of perception/action.

HC-CO brings together ideas stemming from two series of Presence projects (the complete list is available here) with a vision of new forms of interaction and of new types of information spaces to interact with. It will develop the science and technologies necessary to ensure an effective, even transparent, bidirectional communication between humans and computers, which will in turn deliver a huge set of applications: from today's Presence concepts to new senses, to new perceptive capabilities dealing with more abstract information spaces to the social impact of such communication enabling technologies. Inevitably, these technologies question the notion of interface between the human and the technological realm, and thus, also in a fundamental way, put into question the nature of both.

The long-term implications can be profound and need to be considered from an ethical/societal point of view. HC-CO is, however, not a programme on human augmentation. It does not aim to create a super-human. The idea of confluence is to study what can be done by bringing new types of technologically enabled interaction modalities in between the human and a range of virtual (not necessarily naturalistic) realms. Its ambition is to bring our best understanding from human sciences into future and emerging technologies for a new and purposeful human computer symbiosis.

HC-CO is conceptually broken down into the following themes:

  • HC-CO Data. On-line perception and interaction with massive volumes of data: new methods to stimulate and use human sensory perception and cognition to interpret massive volumes of data in real time to enable assimilation, understanding and interaction with informational spaces. Research should find new ways to exploit human factors (sensory, perceptual and cognitive aspects), including the selection of the most effective sensory modalities, for data exploration. Although not explicitly mentioned, non-sensorial pathways, i.e., direct brain to computer and computer to brain communication could be explored.
  • HC-CO Transit. Unified experience, emerging from the unnoticeable transition from physical to augmented or virtual reality: new methods and concepts towards unobtrusive mixed or virtual reality environment (multi-modal displays, tracking systems, virtual representations...), and scenarios to support entirely unobtrusive interaction. Unobtrusiveness also applies to virtual representations, their dynamics, and the feedback received. Here the challenge is both technological and scientific, spanning human cognition, human machine interaction and machine intelligence disciplines.
  • HC-CO Sense. New forms of perception and action: invent and demonstrate new forms of interaction with the real world, virtual models or abstract information by provoking a mapping from an artificial medium to appropriate sensory modalities or brain regions. This research should reinforce data perception and unified experience by augmenting the human interaction capabilities and awareness in virtual spaces.

In sum, HC-CO is an emerging r&d field that holds the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with computers. Standing at the crossroad between cognitive science, computer science and artificial intelligence, HC-CO can provide the cyberpsychology and cybertherapy community with fresh concepts and interesting new tools to apply in both research and clinical domains.

More to explore:

  • HC-CO initiative: The official EU website the HC-CO initiative, which describes the broad objectives of this emerging research field. 
  • HC2 Project: The horizontal character of HC-CO makes it a fascinating and fertile interdisciplinary field, but it can also compromise its growth, with researchers scattered across disciplines and groups worldwide. For this reason a coordination activity promoting discipline connect, identity building and integration while defining future research, education and policy directions at the regional, national, European and international level has been created. This project is HC2, a three-year Coordination Action funded by the FP7 FET Proactive scheme. The consortium will draw on a wide network of researchers and stakeholders to achieve four key objectives: a) stimulate, structure and support the research community, promoting identity building; b) to consolidate research agendas with special attention to the interdisciplinary aspects of HC-CO; c) enhance the Public Understanding of HC-CO and foster the early contact of researchers with high-tech SMEs and other industry players; d) establish guidelines for the definition of new educational curricula to prepare the next generation of HC-CO researchers.
  • CEED Project: Funded by the HC-CO initiative, the Collective Experience of Empathic Data Systems (CEEDs) project aims to develop “novel, integrated technologies to support human experience, analysis and understanding of very large datasets”. CEEDS will develop innovative tools to exploit theories showing that discovery is the identification of patterns in complex data sets by the implicit information processing capabilities of the human brain. Implicit human responses will be identified by the CEEDs system’s analysis of its sensing systems, tuned to users’ bio-signals and non-verbal behaviours. By associating these implicit responses with different features of massive datasets, the CEEDs system will guide users’ discovery of patterns and meaning within the datasets.
  • VERE Project: VERE - Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-Embodiment – is another large project funded by the HC-CO initiative, which aims at “dissolving the boundary between the human body and surrogate representations in immersive virtual reality and physical reality”. Dissolving the boundary means that people have the illusion that their surrogate representation is their own body, and act and have thoughts that correspond to this. The work in VERE may be thought of as applied presence research and applied cognitive neuroscience.

May 23, 2011

Brains for Brains 2011 - Young Researchers Computational Neuroscience Award

The call is open for students from relevant disciplines who plan to pursue a research career in Computational Neuroscience and who have at least one peer reviewed publication or peer reviewed conference abstract that resulted from research accomplished before the start of doctoral studies, is written in English and was accepted or published in 2010 or 2011.The award comprises a 500 € cash award, plus travel grant of up to 1.500 € for a one-week trip to Germany, incl. a talk at the Award Ceremony in the framework of the Bernstein Conference 2011 and an individually planned visit to up to two German research institutions in Computational Neuroscience.

Deadline for application is May 31, 2011.

Detailed information about the application procedure can be found under:
http://www.nncn.de/verein-en/brains4brains2011