Sony believes emotion-reading games possible in ten years

Original Post

Sony’s executives believe that in ten years’ time, video games will have the ability to read more than just movement on the part of the player, the develop blog reports

“Having a camera being able to study a player’s biometrics and movements [is possible] so perhaps you can play a detective game that decides whether you’re lying due to what it reads from your face,” said Mike Hocking, a senior director at Sony Worldwide Studios. “In ten years’ time I’d like to think we’ll be able to form a map of the player, combining other sorts of sensory data together, from facial expressions to heart rate.

“You can see how, over a period of time, you can form a map of the player and their emotional state, whether they’re sad or happy. Maybe people in their social network can comment on it. The more accurate that map can become, the more we can tailor it to the experience.

“There’s potential of mixing stereoscopic 3D with augmented reality, so you’ll combine the two perhaps on a headset, so you’ll be bringing the real world into the gameplay. That’d be very exciting I think.

“Also I think there’s great potential for driving forward games and education. Games have a tremendous opportunity to educate as well as entertain.”

Brain-training games are new exercise craze

As a follow up to our recent event on video games Travis Grandy sent me this and I feel it is well worth sharing.

Brain-training games are new exercise craze

By Rachel Roubein, USA TODAY Original Blog Post

Montreal-based boxer Sylvera “Sly” Louis suffered a knockout late last year that could have ended his fighting career. But three months later he returned to the ring, a feat he credits to hard workouts — on brain-training software.

Louis spent countless hours on Lumosity, a brain-training program from Lumos Labs that includes more than 35 games and exercises aimed at increasing alertness, sharpening memory skills, improving concentration and thinking faster.

The boxer says he improved his reaction times. “Every little moment matters,” Louis says.

Louis is part of a new club that takes exercise for the brain every bit as seriously as exercise for the body. It’s a growing movement that’s swept up 15 million users of Lumosity. Smaller rivals such as Posit Science and MindSparke are also vying in this arena.

San Francisco-based Lumos Labs’ Lumosity attracted $32.5 million in a third round of venture-capital funding in June.

Lumosity works on the Internet but also has an iPhone app. The start-up plans to use the funding to jump onto apps for Android and Apple’s iPad as well as to build up its current Web-based brain workouts.

“Your brain, in some ways, is like a muscle,” says Tim Chang, a partner at Norwest Venture Partners, which invested in Lumos Labs. “It needs to be kept in shape.”

That was the logic of Lumosity co-founders Michael Scanlon, David Drescher and Kunal Sarkar. In 2005, the company was started to fill a void in brain-exercising software.

“People end up using it for very different reasons, in jobs or things that they care about,” says Scanlon, chief scientific officer of Lumos Labs.

Brain-training software is in its early phases. But industry analysts believe it’s a lucrative market that taps into people’s obsession with health.

Research firm IDC says brain-training games such as Lumosity fall within a sector for education apps, which represent a $150 million market worldwide in Apple’s App Store. IDC forecasts the fast-growing group will expand to a more than $1.5 billion market in 2015.

“A lot of the physical-fitness market will carry over into the mind-fitness field because the two are linked,” IDC analyst Scott Ellison says.


Navneet Setlur, a medical student at International American University in St. Lucia, uses Lumosity to expand his memory capacity and now beats the apps’ games on a daily basis.

“I’ve been on Lumosity a couple hours a day ever since last June,” Setlur says. “I have a lifetime membership, so it’s going to be there forever.”

And that’s the product’s hook: It doesn’t feel like mindless, monotonous work. It’s a game, and it’s captivating, Chang says. “The part that’s very compelling is the more you play, the more you learn about yourself,” he says. “It’s even more compelling in some ways than the gym.”

Lumos Labs knows that learning can be more attractive when a game’s involved. That’s why its Lumosity software uses so-called gamification tactics in keeping its users interested.

Gamification is the notion of building gamelike elements into non-gaming applications, such as in brain-training software. In theory, it makes learning a more playful, enticing experience.

Silicon Valley is somewhat obsessed with the notion that gamification can improve business for a broad range of websites.

While researchers have not made an official statement endorsing Lumosity’s effectiveness, Stanford researcher Shelli Kesler says the app shows promise.

She, with three other researchers, conducted a six-week study this year to test the app’s ability to improve the mathematical skills of 16 girls with Turner syndrome, a disease known for its high risk for math disabilities.

Each played games on Lumosity that focused on practicing number sense, problem solving and calculations five days a week, 20 minutes a day. After six weeks, the majority of the girls’ math scores had reached those of their peers.

“They made a switch so that their brain functions more similarly to a typically developing child,” Kesler says.

Prior to the study, all girls were given lessons on different strategies to help conquer their mathematical struggles. Because there was no control group, the results could be skewed, Kesler says.

“Lumosity comes in by allowing a nice way of having kids and adults practice certain skills that they’re weak at, but it doesn’t necessarily give them the strategy,” Kesler says. “You have to have a strategy sometimes, too.”

Ongoing research

Although more research is needed to draw an actual conclusion, Kesler says Lumosity appears to dominate the digital brain fitness marketplace. “I think Lumosity is the best one out there so far, because it has a wide range of curriculum,” she says.

However, other programs do exist, many of which are targeted to a specific audience.

MindSparke is another Web-based brain-fitness program that works to increase memory and the ability to multitask. Play the game 30 minutes a day for about a month, and your memory and attention span will jump more than 40%, according to the MindSparke website. Then there is Cogmed Working Memory Training. It offers a five-week training program for people with attention deficit disorder or other learning disabilities, victims of brain injuries or senior citizens. The program involves 25 computerized training sessions that take 30-45 minutes to complete.

Posit Science is a CD-based computer game that focuses on improving the brain speed and memory of aging people.

“It’s a critical thing to speed up the brain so that it operates like you’re young again,” says Mike Merzenich, Posit Science’s chief scientific officer.

Personalized mind workouts and brain speed, in particular, certainly helped Louis. Since the boxer’s comeback, he boosted his ranking to the top 200 from his previous ranking of No. 625 in the world.

Plastic Bag Ban

On Thursday July 14, 2011 the California Supreme Court ruled that the City of Manhattan Beach does not have to complete an environmental review in order to ban retailers from providing single-use plastic bags to customers at the point of sale.

“Substantial evidence and common sense support the city’s determination that its ordinance would have no significant environmental effect,” Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for a unanimous court, which included Court of Appeal Justice Walter Croskey of this district’s Div. Three, sitting on assignment.

The high court reversed a contrary ruling by a divided panel of this district’s Div. Five. In so doing, it vindicated Justice Richard Mosk’s argument in dissent that the potential negative effects of requiring increased paper bag use were too minimal to force the city to go to the expense of completing an environmental impact report. The city passed the ordinance in July 2008, citing concern over the marine environment. It prohibits certain retailers, including grocery stores, from providing plastic bags to customers at the point of sale, but allows them to provide reusable or recyclable paper bags.

Over objections by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a group of manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, the city adopted a negative declaration, rather than an EIR, under the California Environmental Quality Act. The city concluded an environmental impact report was not required after an initial study found the ban was likely to have “some modest impact on improving water quality and removing a potential biohazard” and only limited negative effects from increased paper bag use. The coalition, however, convinced Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe, now retired, and the Court of Appeal that the potential impacts supported a fair argument that the ban would be worse for the environment than the status quo. Those impacts, the coalition argued, include greater nonrenewable energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste production and acid rain. In seeking Supreme Court review, the city argued that the coalition lacked standing, and that the lower courts were wrong on the merits.

Corrigan said the coalition had standing, both as a citizen and as a representative of directly affected businesses. A 2000 Court of Appeal case cited by the city, holding that citizen standing is less available to corporations than to individuals, was wrongly decided, the jurist concluded.

But the city is right on the merits, the justice said, because the coalition failed to demonstrate a prejudicial abuse of discretion in adopting the negative declaration.

While the overall negative impacts of manufacturing, distributing, and disposing of paper bags were amply demonstrated, Corrigan explained, it is not the role of a reviewing court under CEQA to engage in such comprehensive environmental analysis.

“When we consider the actual scale of the environmental impacts that might follow from increased paper bag use in Manhattan Beach, instead of comparing the global impacts of paper and plastic bags, it is plain the city acted within its discretion when it determined that its ban on plastic bags would have no significant effect on the environment,” the justice wrote.

A city the size of Manhattan Beach—which has fewer than 40,000 residents—is not likely to suffer significant new pollution or congestion from vehicles delivering paper bags, the justice reasoned. Nor is it likely that the number of consumers who would use paper bags—as opposed to alternatives reusable bags or recycled plastic—is so great as to significantly increase the city’s solid waste disposal burden, she said.

Corrigan acknowledged that a finding of significant environmental impact may, in an appropriate case, be based on cumulative impacts a challenged action might have in conjunction with similar actions in other localities or by the state.

Plastic bag bans, the justice noted, have been considered or enacted in San Francisco, Santa Monica, Oakland, and unincorporated Los Angeles County, among other places. (A statewide ban was proposed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but rejected last year by the Legislature.)

But “Manhattan Beach is small enough that even the cumulative effects of its ordinance would be negligible,” Corrigan wrote.

The case was argued in the Supreme Court for the city and its amici—Heal the Bay, Californians Against Waste, League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, and The Manhattan Beach Residents Association—by James G. Moose of Sacramento and Christian L. Marsh of San Francisco. San Francisco attorney Stephen L. Joseph represented the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which had the support of amicus Pacific Legal Foundation.

The following is a TED Talk on this subject Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic

2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch!

If you have a Non-Profit that needs funding please consider this opportunity.

Los Angeles Social Venture Partners is pleased to announce that the application period is now open for the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch program! They are seeking innovative nonprofit organizations to participate in this free, two-month communication skills training program and compete for over $100,000 in awards!

Deadline to Apply: Monday, July 18, 2011

About the Social Innovation Fast Pitch
The Social Innovation Fast Pitch program trains nonprofit leaders to powerfully communicate their story and connects them with leaders of the business and funding communities who can help them to achieve their goals. Nonprofits are selected to participate based on their innovative approaches to creating social change and their potential for significant positive community impact.

* Free two-month communication skills training and mentoring program for some of LA’s most innovative non-profits to help them create a compelling 3-minute pitch.

* Culminates with a “fast pitch” competition on October 25th with an expected audience of over 1,000.

* Over $100,000 in awards is at stake.

* One winner will become the next LASVP investee and benefit from multi-year cash grants and the capacity-building expertise of LASVP Partners

This year’s event is made possible by the Annenberg Foundation, and will be held at Annenberg Alchemy’s Peer to Peer event, “The Art of Human Engagement through Effective Storytelling” at L.A. LIVE’s Club Nokia.

Learn more about the program and check out last year’s participants and watch a highlight reel of last year’s event.

Please forward this to any innovative nonprofits you know!

Questions? Please visit the website or contact Rob Biniaz, Los Angeles Social Venture Partners
Phone: 310.281.7509

Transit Ideas for Los Angeles

This video is a conceptual design response by Gensler Los Angeles to an open invitation by Sci-Arc, The Architect’s Newspaper and LA Metro to shift people from their cars to public transit.

Increasing the movement of people, not cars should be the goal of any public transit initiative. For this ambitious project, Gensler Los Angeles proposes an integrated set of ideas to adapt the current system to improve its performance at the various scales based on user needs. The belief is that a more responsive system and an improved user experience ultimately leads to the means to meet that challenge.

NETWORK_LA transit from tam thien tran on Vimeo.

Increasing the movement of people, not cars should be the goal of any public transit initiative. For this ambitious project, Gensler Los Angeles proposes an integrated set of ideas to adapt the current system to improve its performance at the various scales based on user needs. The belief is that a more responsive system and an improved user experience ultimately leads to the means to meet that challenge.

This design proposal is based on four ideas:

* Increase vehicle choices in the LA Metro system to include alternative modes of transportation, which provide various scales of public transport efficiency.

* Increase flexibility of public transport by keeping existing transit stops but liberating the routes that connect them so that it may respond more immediately to user demand. Also provide it an efficiency advantage with dedicated lanes and pull-in stops to allow for bypassing, as well strategically located underpasses.

* Leverage existing data to increase flexibility and optimize choices by overlapping the location of all ground transport, stops and users through GPS to coordinate their relative positions, needs and capacity in real time. To complete this triangulation, a GPS enabled app – tripFinder – automatically scans the network to sort and provide the user with the optimum trip itinerary while also optimizing the current status of the public transit fleet.

* Expand the network and fill in the transport voids by granting access to this real time information through the selling of licenses to more and other alternative ground transport entities. This business could also be a potential profit center for LA Metro.

The result is user-driven, on-demand system that responds to the needs of each individual rider, allowing the network to organically adapt to the shifting needs of its ridership to improve overall service. Los Angeles, as a city of multiple centers whose relationships are constantly changing, can now have transit routes that adapt to the needs of its passengers rather than forcing passengers to use multiple fixed routes.

Thus a software solution that manages the users needs in real time, and assisted by a series of relatively small and achievable infrastructure improvements could form the solution to Los Angeles Public Transportation inefficiencies; thereby avoiding the type of large grand scale infrastructure work that is very disruptive of daily city life while risking being obsolete before it is complete. This type of solution also speaks to the Los Angeles culture: in proposing a public transport system with personalized service, it reasserts the individualist mentality that has
powered Los Angeles’s mythology for generations.