Sunday, January 30, 2011

Contemplative Computing

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge, has posted an interesting overview of the "digital sabbath" movement, which aims to combat the information flood that we all deal with.  It's got interesting implications for mindfulness.  Maybe one good way to aid mindfulness is by stopping/controlling things that hurt mindfulness.

But he doesn't think that pulling the plug is the answer.  I like this argument.  I liken it to food, again.  Food used to be scarce. Now it's plentiful, and we're having trouble dealing with it. But the answer is to eat a skillful diet of a medium amount of good food, not to starve yourself.  Similarly, information used to be scarce, and now it's plentiful, so we should aim for a medium amount of high-quality information.

Anyway, his site is  I'm sold already. A glance shows that he's interested in designing products to be more contemplative, which is cool.  Reminds me of this post. (summary: a Kindle doesn't suck your attention.  It looks like paper.  An ipad sucks your attention with glowing rectangles.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

TypeRacer for your brain, or, EEGs are not just input devices

I've been psyched about the Emotiv EPOC and the NeuroSky MindSet for a while, even though I've never seen them in action.  Now I have: Tan Le gives a demo at TED.  She shows how you can easily use your brain to make a cube move around the screen.

Cool, sure.  But I feel like she, along with a majority of the Brain-Computer Interfaces world, is missing the point by saying "you can use your brain to control the computer."  You can also use the computer to read your brain!

Beer van Geer gets this.  His program, Dagaz, is a game that you win by concentrating.  Naturally, you'll get better at concentrating as you get better at the game.  It's like flipping the input/output around: you can use a keyboard to enter data to your computer, or you can play TypeRacer on your computer to get better at typing.  The difference is that getting better at typing only helps you while you're typing, but getting better at focusing your brain helps you all the time!

Someone in the audience pointed out "could you use this to help you have better (more productive, happier) work days?"  Yes!  Yes, you could!  And that's only the beginning!