Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

The Spacing Effect: How to Improve Learning and Maximize Retention

leave a comment »

An interesting post in the FS blog. (The idea of spaced repetition is built into Anki’s (powerful, free) flashcard system.) The blog post begins:

We are not taught how to learn in school, we are taught how to pass tests. The spacing effect is a far more effective way to learn and retain information that works with our brain instead of against it. Find out how to use it here.

“Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”

— Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge

The most important metaskill you can learn is how to learn. Learning allows you to adapt. As Darwin hinted, it’s not the strongest who survives. It’s the one who easily adapts to a changing environment. Learning how to learn is a part of a “work smarter, not harder” approach to life—one that probabilistically helps you avoid becoming irrelevant. Your time is precious, and you don’t want to waste it on something which will just be forgotten.

During the school years, most of us got used to spending hours at a time memorizing facts, equations, the names of the elements, French verbs, dates of key historical events. We found ourselves frantically cramming the night before a test. We probably read through our notes over and over, a gallon of coffee in hand, in the hope that the information would somehow lodge in our brains. Once the test was over, we doubtless forgot everything straight away.1

Even outside of formal education, we have to learn large amounts of new information on a regular basis: foreign languages, technical terms, sale scripts, speeches, the names of coworkers. Learning through rote memorization is tedious and—more important—ineffective. If we want to remember something, we need to work with our brains, not against them. To do that, we need to understand cognitive constraints and find intelligent ways to get around them or use them to our advantage.

This is where the spacing effect comes in. It’s a wildly useful phenomenon: we are better able to recall information and concepts if we learn them in multiple, spread-out sessions. We can leverage this effect by using spaced repetition to slowly learn almost anything.

It works for words, numbers, images, and skills. It works for anyone of any age, from babies to elderly people. It works for animals, even species as simple as sea slugs. The effect cuts across disciplines and can be used to learn anything from artistic styles to mathematical equations.

Spaced repetition might not have the immediacy of cramming or the adrenaline rush of a manic all-nighter. But the information we learn from it can last a lifetime and tends to be effectively retained. In some ways, the spacing effect is a cognitive limitation, yet a useful one—if we are aware of it.

In Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language and Never Forget It, Gabriel Wyner writes:

Spaced repetition…[is] extraordinarily efficient. In a four-month period, practising for 30 minutes a day, you can expect to learn and retain 3600 flashcards with 90 to 95 percent accuracy. These flashcards can teach you an alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, and even pronunciation. And they can do it without becoming tedious because they’re always challenging enough to remain interesting and fun.

In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans explore further:

Our memory is simultaneously magnificent and pathetic. It is capable of incredible feats, yet it never works quite like we wish it would. Ideally, we would be able to remember everything instantly, but we are not computers. We hack our memory with tools like memory palaces, but such techniques required effort and dedication. Most of us give up, and outsource our memory to smartphones, cloud enabled computers, or plain old pen and paper. There is a compromise…a learning technique called spaced repetition which efficiently organizes information or memorization and retention can be used to achieve near perfect recall.

“If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.”

— Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia

The Discovery of The Spacing Effect

Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909), a German psychologist and pioneer of quantitative memory research, first identified the spacing effect. After earning his PhD in Germany, he traveled to London. Like so many people, he found his life forever changed by a book.

The work in question was

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2022 at 8:46 pm

Newsletter Natural Selection

leave a comment »

Slime Mold Time Mold has a very interesting post, which begins:

Apparently, Substack wants to destroy newspapers. And maybe that would be good — maybe it would be good for journalism to be democratized, for bloggers to inherit the earth. Of course we’re bloggers and not newspapers, so maybe we’re biased.

Obviously it would be great if someone came up with a set of blogging and newsletter tools that were just amazing, that were the clear front-runner, that outperformed every other platform. We’d love it if the technical problems were all solved and we just had a perfect set of blogging tools.

But if everyone ends up on the same platform, well, that’s kind of dangerous. If one company controls the whole news & blogging industry, they can blacklist whoever they want, and can squeeze users as much as they want.

Even if you think Substack has a good track record, there’s no way they can guarantee that they won’t squeeze their writers once they control the market. Even if you trust the current management, at some point they will all retire, or all die, or the company will be bought by, and then you’re shit outta luck.

Substack just can’t make a credible commitment that makes it impossible for them to abuse their power if they get a monopoly. You have to take them at their word. But since management can change, you can’t even really do that. They just can’t bind their hands convincingly.

But there may be some very unusual business models that would fix this problem. 

On the Origin of Substacks

Imagine there’s a “Substack” company that commits itself to breaking in half every time it gets 100,000 users (or something), creating two child companies. Each company ends up with 50,000 users. All the blogs with even-numbered IDs go to Substack A, and all the blogs with odd-numbered IDs go to Substack B. The staff gets split among these two companies, and half of them move to a new office. Both companies retain the same policy of breaking in half once they hit that milestone again — an inherited, auto-trust-busting mechanism.

(Splitting into exactly two companies wouldn’t have to be a part of the commitment. They could equally choose to break up into Substack Red, Substack Blue, and Substack Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition.)

In addition, a core part of the product would be high-quality, deeply integrated tools to switch from one of these branches to another. Probably this would involve an easy way to export all your posts and a list of your subscribers to some neutral file format (maybe a folder full of markdown, css, and csv files), and to import them from the same format into a new blog. If you end up in Substack B and you want to be in Substack A instead (your favorite developer works there or something), the product would make it very easy to switch, maybe to the point of being able to switch at the push of a button.

To help with this, the third and final commitment of the company, and all child companies, would be to . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — and no paywall. And it’s intriguing — and something a company could easily do.

What I like is that it harnesses the power of cultural evolution in a way that supports the common welfare.

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2022 at 5:25 pm

The Rise of A.I. Fighter Pilots

leave a comment »

After poker, warfare. Sue Halpoern in the New Yorker describes how A..I. will be flying fighter planes. Skynet, here we come! The article begins:

n a cloudless morning last May, a pilot took off from the Niagara Falls International Airport, heading for restricted military airspace over Lake Ontario. The plane, which bore the insignia of the United States Air Force, was a repurposed Czechoslovak jet, an L-39 Albatros, purchased by a private defense contractor. The bay in front of the cockpit was filled with sensors and computer processors that recorded the aircraft’s performance. For two hours, the pilot flew counterclockwise around the lake. Engineers on the ground, under contract with DARPA,  the Defense Department’s research agency, had choreographed every turn, every pitch and roll, in an attempt to do something unprecedented: design a plane that can fly and engage in aerial combat—dogfighting—without a human pilot operating it.

The exercise was an early step in the agency’s Air Combat Evolution program, known as ace, one of more than six hundred Department of Defense projects that are incorporating artificial intelligence into war-fighting. This year, the Pentagon plans to spend close to a billion dollars on A.I.-related technology. The Navy is building unmanned vessels that can stay at sea for months; the Army is developing a fleet of robotic combat vehicles. Artificial intelligence is being designed to improve supply logistics, intelligence gathering, and a category of wearable technology, sensors, and auxiliary robots that the military calls the Internet of Battlefield Things.

Algorithms are already good at flying planes. The first autopilot system, which involved connecting a gyroscope to the wings and tail of a plane, débuted in 1914, about a decade after the Wright brothers took flight. And a number of current military technologies, such as underwater mine detectors and laser-guided bombs, are autonomous once they are launched by humans. But few aspects of warfare are as complex as aerial combat. Paul Schifferle, the vice-president of flight research at Calspan, the company that’s modifying the L-39 for DARPA, said, “The dogfight is probably the most dynamic flight program in aviation, period.”

A fighter plane equipped with artificial intelligence could eventually execute tighter turns, take greater risks, and get off better shots than human pilots. But the objective of the ace program is to transform a pilot’s role, not to remove it entirely. As DARPA envisions it, the A.I. will fly the plane in partnership with the pilot, who will remain “in the loop,” monitoring what the A.I. is doing and intervening when necessary. According to the agency’s Strategic Technology Office, a fighter jet with autonomous features will allow pilots to become “battle managers,” directing squads of unmanned aircraft “like a football coach who chooses team members and then positions them on the field to run plays.”

Stacie Pettyjohn, the director of the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security, told me that the ace program is part of a wider effort to “decompose our forces” into smaller, less expensive units. In other words, fewer humans and more expendable machines. DARPA calls this “mosaic warfare.” In the case of aerial combat, Pettyjohn said, “these much smaller autonomous aircraft can be combined in unexpected ways to overwhelm adversaries with the complexity of it. If any one of them gets shot down, it’s not as big of a deal.”

All told, the L-39 was taken up above Lake Ontario twenty times, each sortie giving the engineers and computer scientists the information they need to build a model of its flight dynamics under various conditions. Like self-driving cars, autonomous planes use sensors to identify discrepancies between the outside world and the information encoded in their maps. But a dogfighting algorithm will have to take into account both the environment and the aircraft. A plane flies differently at varying altitudes and angles, on hot days versus cold ones, or if it’s carrying an extra fuel tank or missiles.

“Most of the time, a plane flies straight and level,” Phil Chu, an electrical engineer who serves as a science adviser to the ace program, explained. “But when it’s dogfighting you have to figure out, O.K., if I’m in a thirty-degree bank angle, ascending at twenty degrees, how much do I have to pull the stick to get to a forty-degree bank angle, rising at ten degrees?” And, because flight is three-dimensional, speed matters even more. “If it’s flying slowly and you move the stick one way, you get a certain amount of turn out of it. If it’s flying really fast and you move the stick the same way, you’ll get a very different response.”

In 2024, if the ace program goes according to plan, four A.I.-enabled L-39s will participate in a live dogfight in the skies above Lake Ontario. To achieve that goal, DARPA  has enlisted three dozen academic research centers and private companies, each working on one of two problem areas: how to get the plane to fly and fight on its own, and how to get pilots to trust the A.I. enough to use it. Robert Work, who was the Deputy Secretary of Defense during the Obama Administration, and pushed the Pentagon to pursue next-generation technologies, told me, “If you don’t have trust, the human will always be watching the A.I. and saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got to take over.’ ”

There is no guarantee that ace will succeed. DARPA projects are  . . .

Continue reading. (Unfortunately, the New Yorker offers no gift links.)

Update: Here is the man vs. AI dogfight mentioned in the article.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 4:04 pm

How A.I. Conquered Poker

leave a comment »

In the NY Times Magazine, Keith Romer describes how poker has now been solved. (Gift link, no paywall.)

Last November in the cavernous Amazon Room of Las Vegas’s Rio casino, two dozen men dressed mostly in sweatshirts and baseball caps sat around three well-worn poker tables playing Texas Hold ’em. Occasionally a few passers-by stopped to watch the action, but otherwise the players pushed their chips back and forth in dingy obscurity. Except for the taut, electric stillness with which they held themselves during a hand, there was no outward sign that these were the greatest poker players in the world, nor that they were, as the poker saying goes, “playing for houses,” or at least hefty down payments. This was the first day of a three-day tournament whose official name was the World Series of Poker Super High Roller, though the participants simply called it “the 250K,” after the $250,000 each had put up to enter it.

At one table, a professional player named Seth Davies covertly peeled up the edges of his cards to consider the hand he had just been dealt: the six and seven of diamonds. Over several hours of play, Davies had managed to grow his starting stack of 1.5 million in tournament chips to well over two million, some of which he now slid forward as a raise. A 33-year-old former college baseball player with a trimmed light brown beard, Davies sat upright, intensely following the action as it moved around the table. Two men called his bet before Dan Smith, a fellow pro with a round face, mustache and whimsically worn cowboy hat, put in a hefty reraise. Only Davies called.

The dealer laid out a king, four and five, all clubs, giving Davies a straight draw. Smith checked (bet nothing). Davies bet. Smith called. The turn card was the deuce of diamonds, missing Davies’s draw. Again Smith checked. Again Davies bet. Again Smith called. The last card dealt was the deuce of clubs, one final blow to Davies’s hopes of improving his hand. By now the pot at the center of the faded green-felt-covered table had grown to more than a million in chips. The last deuce had put four clubs on the table, which meant that if Smith had even one club in his hand, he would make a flush.

Davies, who had been betting the whole way needing an eight or a three to turn his hand into a straight, had arrived at the end of the hand with precisely nothing. After Smith checked a third time, Davies considered his options for almost a minute before declaring himself all-in for 1.7 million in chips. If Smith called, Davies would be out of the tournament, his $250,000 entry fee incinerated in a single ill-timed bluff.

Smith studied Davies from under the brim of his cowboy hat, then twisted his face in exasperation at Davies or, perhaps, at luck itself. Finally, his features settling in an irritated scowl, Smith folded and the dealer pushed the pile of multicolored chips Davies’s way. According to Davies, what he felt when the hand was over was not so much triumph as relief.

“You’re playing a pot that’s effectively worth half a million dollars in real money,” he said afterward. “It’s just so much goddamned stress.”

Real validation wouldn’t come until around 2:30 that morning, after the first day of the tournament had come to an end and Davies had made the 15-minute drive from the Rio to his home, outside Las Vegas. There, in an office just in from the garage, he opened a computer program called PioSOLVER, one of a handful of artificial-intelligence-based tools that have, over the last several years, radically remade the way poker is played, especially at the highest levels of the game. Davies input all the details of the hand and then set the program to run. In moments, the solver generated an optimal strategy. Mostly, the program said, Davies had gotten it right. His bet on the turn, when the deuce of diamonds was dealt, should have been 80 percent of the pot instead of 50 percent, but the 1.7 million chip bluff on the river was the right play.

“That feels really good,” Davies said. “Even more than winning a huge pot. The real satisfying part is when you nail one like that.” Davies went to sleep that night knowing for certain that he played the hand within a few degrees of perfection.

The pursuit of perfect poker goes back at least as far as the 1944 publication of “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,” by the mathematician John von Neumann and the economist Oskar Morgenstern. The two men wanted to correct what they saw as a fundamental imprecision in the field of economics. “We wish,” they wrote, “to find the mathematically complete principles which define ‘rational behavior’ for the participants in a social economy, and to derive from them the general characteristics of that behavior.” Economic life, they suggested, should be thought of as a series of maximization problems in which individual actors compete to wring as much utility as possible from their daily toil. If von Neumann and Morgenstern could quantify the way good decisions were made, the idea went, they would then be able to build a science of economics on firm ground.

It was this desire to model economic decision-making that led them to game play. Von Neumann rejected most games as unsuitable to the task, especially those like checkers or chess in which both players can see all the pieces on the board and share the same information. “Real life is not like that,” he explained to Jacob Bronowski, a fellow mathematician. “Real life consists of bluffing, of little tactics of deception, of asking yourself what is the other man going to think I mean to do. And that is what games are about in my theory.” Real life, von Neumann thought, was like poker.

Using his own simplified version of the game, in which  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — and no paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 3:44 pm

Useful free file-transfer sites

leave a comment »

Occasionally I’ll see an article I want to send someone, and after I print it as a PDF, I see that it’s large — say, 18MB. That’s too large to email, so today I looked for a file-transfer site, where I could upload the file and email the link to the file to the person whom I wanted to receive it. I found a list of such sites, and I went with the first one listed: WeTransfer. A few things to note:

  1. It has you verify your email address. If you register for a free account, you do the verification only once; thereafter, when you log in, it knows your email address is good. You don’t have to register, but then each time you use it you go through an email-verification routine.
  2. The free version limits you to two recipients. I wanted to send the article to four people, so I uploaded the file twice, sending it each time to two (of the four).
  3. The files are encrypted.

The comment in the article:

WeTransfer is a service to send big or small files from A to B. It can transfer any type of file – such as presentations, photos, videos, music, or documents – to friends and colleagues. You can send files up to 2 GB and they will be available for two weeks, with no registration. WeTransfer is the simplest way to send your files around the world. Every month, users in 195 countries send one billion files through our platform. Founded in 2009, our team is based in the Netherlands and the US.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2022 at 7:29 pm

Color in movies and TV: Where did it go? An investigation.

leave a comment »

Emily VanDerWerff reports in Vox:

If you watch a lot of movies and TV shows, you might have noticed that over the last few decades everything has gotten a lot more … gray. No matter the kind of story being told, a sheen of cool blue or gray would wash over everything, muting the colors and providing an overall veneer of serious business.

So many TV shows and movies now have a dull filter applied to every scene, one that cuts away vibrancy and trends toward a boring sameness. Every frame’s color scheme ends up feeling the same as every other frame. And when there are so many projects using similar techniques, you end up with a world of boring visuals that don’t stand out.

The best term I’ve read for this comes from incisive film Twitter member Katie Stebbins. She calls it the “intangible sludge,” and her comparison of screenshots from season one of Dexter (2006) and the new Dexter limited series (2021) underlines what she means.

Notice how in the first image, you can see the pinks of Michael C. Hall’s skin, the various blues of his shirt. But in the second, everything is muted. Hall’s skin is pale and even yellowish. His shirt is an indefinable blue/green/black/brown. A shadowy blandness coats everything.

The word that describes the look of that second picture is “desaturated.” Colors have been pulled way back, giving everything a slightly washed-out appearance, like in an old photograph. Desaturation is not in and of itself bad. It’s a tool that can be used poorly or used well. But why is it everywhere now?

There’s no one answer to that question, but here are my five best guesses as to what I think might be behind the endless desaturation of Hollywood.

Possible answer No. 1: The rise of digital color grading made it really easy to come up with all-purpose looks

Okay, things are about to get technical, but we’ll have some fun along the way. Promise.

From the dawn of color film, color timing has been an important part of moviemaking. (“Color timing” is more colloquially known as “color correction,” but people who actually work in the field don’t view it as “correction.”) When you’re filming something over multiple weeks or months, you might be piecing together a scene or sequence from bits and pieces shot over multiple days. The light might not match, or the leaves on the trees might not be the same shade of green. And if things don’t match, we’ll notice almost immediately on a subconscious level.

Hence: color timing. For most of the history of film, color correction was achieved physically, via chemicals applied to film negatives in a lab.

And pretty soon, filmmakers figured out that you could use these sorts of color shifts — whether they were created on set or in the lab — to guide an audience emotionally through a film. Cutting between scenes with wildly different color schemes could even provoke certain responses within viewers.

“It’s not just the color in any given scene. It’s how that color bumps up against the scene, that’s before and after it,” said Steve Cosens, one of the directors of photography on the new HBO Max miniseries Station Eleven. “There’s color latency. If your eye is looking at a scene, and it’s so warm that when you go to the next scene, your eye is automatically going to compensate, and it’s going to make it cooler.”

In the late 1990s, it became possible to digitally scan film negatives in a way that allowed people who would eventually become known as digital imaging technicians (henceforth a DIT) to manipulate the properties of the image. The first film to have its run scanned for this sort of manipulation was the 1998 movie Pleasantville. In that movie, two ’90s teenagers are sucked into a black-and-white 1950s sitcom world, and as they introduce things like sex and literature and weather (yes, somehow they introduce weather), elements of the town burst into color. The entire film was shot in color, then digitally converted to black and white, with a handful of elements kept in color for effect.

At the time, this was treated as hugely groundbreaking filmmaking, but the articles written about it in 1998 undersell how ubiquitous these techniques would become.

The first movie to use digital color manipulation in the way we’d think of it today — i.e., shifting the colors within a film image to meet a digitally achieved palette — is generally considered to be the 2000 Coen brothers’ Great Depression picaresque O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins knew that the Coens wanted the film to have a Dust Bowl tinge, but he also knew that the film would shoot in Mississippi in the summer, which would mean lots of lush greenery. To tilt the picture more toward the yellow sepia tone the Coens wanted, he initially thought about applying physical filters to the lens. But he found that process limiting and decided to turn to a company called Cinesite — which had just broken new ground with its work on the 1998 film Pleasantville.

The results are striking. Watch O Brother, Where Art Thou? and you will never know it was filmed in a lush, green Mississippi summer. It looks dried out and beaten to hell. Deakins and the Cinesite folks talk about that process in the following video (which is really worth a watch if you want to get into the weeds on all of this).

O Brother, Where Art Thou? showed how color grading could be used in much more subtle ways. In this case, the palette of neutrals and brown tones was subtle and desaturated,” said Dr. Jennifer O’Meara, a film professor at Trinity College Dublin, who has studied digital film coloring techniques extensively. “Notably, Deakins worked collaboratively with the colorist, Julius Friede. The specifics of their working arrangement helped to reduce fears among cinematographers that postproduction color editing would take the creative control of a film’s image track away from those who shot it.”

In 2022, nearly every movie and TV show has a dedicated DIT who works with the cinematographer and the director to figure out what an image might look like after it’s been run through a series of digital filters. As with so many technologies in film history — from hand coloring to Technicolor — a handful of pioneers showed what was possible, O’Meara explains, and then everybody else got on board.

“It usually takes some overt demonstrations of new color processes in action to make them look appealing enough for more filmmakers to invest the time and money required to use them,” O’Meara said.

Now, cinematographers and others on a film’s production team have to know how to work with these digital processes.

Digital color timing “really is like

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 7:43 pm

5 best web browsers as of now

leave a comment »

I use Vivaldi. How about you?

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 3:38 pm

Absolutely terrific browser extension: OneTab

leave a comment »

I frequently resolve to have fewer tabs open in my browser — “frequently” because I can never keep the resolution even for a week. Today, for example, I had 48 tabs open — “had,” because I installed OneTab. OneTab, a Chrome extension (which may also be available for other browsers as well). Here’s what it does:

Whenever you find yourself with too many tabs, click the OneTab icon to convert all of your tabs into a list. When you need to access the tabs again, you can either restore them individually or all at once.

When your tabs are in the OneTab list, you will save up to 95% of memory because you will have reduced the number of tabs open in Google Chrome.

I just installed OneTab, and I can already tell it will greatly enhance my life — at least, with respect to browsing the web.

  1. Each link is the OneTab list is clearly labeled, so you can see instantly what it is (MUCH better than the tiny little crowded tabs the list replaced).
  2. I use Vivaldi (a wonderful browser), fully Chrome compatible, so I shop for extensions in the Chrome extension store, and can readily click to install in Vivaldi the Chrome extensions I want. Update: I also use Opera, also Chrome compatible (Vivaldi, Opera, and Chrome are all built on the Chromium engine), and I just installed OneTab on Opera as well. /update
  3. When OneTab converts the tabs to the list of links, it leaves pinned tabs alone: they remain as tabs and do not appear in the list.

Read more about it — and take a look at a sample page.

Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2022 at 7:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

The Unreality of Money

leave a comment »

David Troy writes in Medium:

The Tenuous Relationship Between Money and Reality

What’s Happening Now

Continue reading. There’s more. The game is afoot.

Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2022 at 3:44 pm

Readwise free trial

leave a comment »

I mentioned yesterday, in a post on learning something as a language (that is, learning something so that you can use that something just as you use a language, to express your own ideas without (in the case of language) worrying about things like vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and all the other basics. Your adaptive unconscious has absorbed how to handle those, so your conscious mind simply follows its train of though (as I am doing now as I write this, having also learned touch-typing as a language: I just think of words — or even phrases — and my fingers do their job (generally accurately) without any conscious effort on my part).

In that post I mentioned that, for readers who use a Kindle, the service known as Readwise is both interesting and useful, because it shows you passages you have highlighted on your Kindle — and also offers some passages often highlighted by others.

I just learned that I can offer a free month’s trial of Readwise. If you accept that offer, I get another free month’s use. So if you read ebooks using a Kindle, I urge you to give Readwise a (free) try. Using that link gives me another month of Readwise as well.

And if you use any ebook reader, let me (again) point out Standard Ebooks, which offers free downloadable ebooks, well formatted (and edited and proofread). They offer books whose copyright has expired, which includes some very good books indeed — and some that don’t seem all that old (Hemingway, for example). They just recently released the new books for December, and you can review their list of available titles in descending order of recency (that is, the most recently available books first). One nice thing is that when they publish books that are part of a series, they show the books location in the series — quite useful for an author such as Anthony Trollope (and readers like me, who like to read a series in order).

And as I’ve noted in the past, I use Calibre, a free library management program, to manage those titles: I download the books as a file in the proper format, import them into Calibre, attach my Kindle to my computer, and then export the books from Calibre to the Kindle, all of which are done by clicking the appropriate button in Calibre’s menu. (Calibre can also convert an ebook from one format to another — note at the bottom right corner of the screen the little “job” icon, which shows when a job’s in progress and when it’s done, whether the job is converting a book or importing it or exporting it.)

Calibre’s library is important because, sooner or later, your Kindle battery will fail, and Amazon has been careful to design the device so that the battery cannot be replaced. When the battery dies and can no longer be recharged, you must perforce buy a new device. Amazon keeps track of your book purchases (on the Amazon site: Accounts & Lists > Content & Devices), so when you do get a new Kindle, you can readily download the books you bought from Amazon.

Amazon does not, however, keep track of books you’ve loaded onto your Kindle from other sources, so putting those onto your new Kindle is up to you. That’s why when I import a book into Calibre I keep it there even after I export a copy onto my Kindle. When I replace my Kindle, I still will have all my free books available, and I can easily stock the new Kindle with them.

And I repeat: give Readwise a (free) try. It leverages the technology in an interesting way.

Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2022 at 6:53 am

The dark historical background of cryptocurrencies

leave a comment »

Read this Twitter thread by David Troy.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 7:37 pm

The Case Against Crypto

leave a comment »

I have close to zero interest in Crypto, but it seems as though a bubble has grown from the idea. Stephen Diehl lays out some reasons to avoid it. He writes:

These days so much of my free time is booked with calls to explain to people outside the software industry why crypto assets are such a destructive force and why I support forceful regulation to halt this financially corrosive enterprise from spreading further into markets. I basically have to repeat myself on the basic arguments for every call covering the same basic monetary theory, American history and technical limitations. Thus I’m going to summarize the basic argument so we have a reference and I don’t have to keep repeating myself all day.

  1. The technology does not solve a real problem.

The crypto project has had 13 years to try and find a problem to solve. It has not found one.

The real world has fundamental constraints that make the technology unworkable, whenever it has to interact with the outside world the benefits of decentralization disappear and the solutions end up simply recreating slower and worse versions of processes and structures that already exist.

Despite that, for the last thirteen years these projects have done nothing but scam people by creating synthetic asset bubbles for gambling and destroying the environment. There are fundamental limitations to the scalability of blockchain-based technologies, and every use case is better served by another simpler technology except for crime, ransomware, extralegal gambling, and sanctions evasion; all of which are a drain on society not a benefit. Taken as a whole the technology has no tangible benefits over simply using trusted parties and centralized databases.

Crypto coins are simply speculative gambling products that only create a massive set of negative externalities on the world. It is introducing artificial volatility into markets untethered to any economic activity and creates an enormous opportunity cost where the only investment opportunity is as an economically corrosive synthetic hedge against all productive assets. This is not innovation, this is technical regression and flirtation with ecological disaster in a time when we cannot afford to gamble our planet’s fate on pyramid schemes and dog memes.

  1. So called “cryptocurrencies” aren’t actually currencies, and cannot fulfil the function of money.

Money exists to exchange for goods and services in an economy. It is created to mediate the exchange of goods so that we have a common unit of account we can trade instead of bartering goods directly. Money needs to have a reliable and stable value compared to a domestic basket of common goods and services, in order to achieve that the supply of the money needs to be controlled by a monetary authority which can expand or contract the supply according to market fluctuations.

A dynamic money supply is a fundamental necessity for a modern economy. A small amount of inflation discourages hoarding and incentivizes investment into productive enterprises which grow the economy and produce prosperity. Conversely a static fixed money supply encouages hoarding, and is inflexible in times of crisis because it does not allow intervention. Economies do not stabilize themselves and require active intervention to curb recessions.

In an environment in which multiple currencies can commingle there is a perverse incentive to create counterfeit currency or to create parallel currencies. Counterfeit currencies dilute trust in commerce, create counterparty risk and catalyze crime. Parallel currencies introduce exchange risk and create artificial barriers to commerce. The optimal solution within any economic region is to thus have a single currency with a single authority to control the supply, protect against counterfeiting and lower barriers to commerce by discouraging other systems through creating demand. The only possible entity that can fulfil this role is the State and it creates demand for a single currency by requiring citizens to extinguish their obligations to the state in that currency. A single currency and single monetary authority is the inevitable role of the state because of its singular monopoly on taxation and justice.

Historically commodity-based money (so called “hard money”) was based on backing by metals and was used extensively in the 18th and 19th century. Instead of vesting power in democratic controls, it instead vested power in non-elected international parties who could source, mine and mint metals. Under a gold standard, inflation, growth and the financial system were all less stable due to trade imbalances. This led to frequent recessions, larger swings in consumer prices and perpetual banking crises. When these events occurred in one part of the world, the distress would be transmitted more quickly and completely to others and thus created a politically unstable, unequal and more violent world. We saw this in the Gilded Age of the 1870s to 1920s in which hard money created a world of massive wealth inequality, thus ultimately leading up to the speculative market manias that lead to the Great Depression. The United States ultimately devalued its currency with the policies of the New Deal which slowly decoupled the dollar’s dependence on gold and which led to an era of economic growth and prosperity. Conversely Europe largely did not engage in these corrective policies and this era saw the rise of populist strong men and fascists who promised to correct the wealth inequality of the common man, and ultimately plunged the continent into the most violent period in human history.

Money is always going to be inseparable from politics. As much as some libertarians want to believe that value should be determined by a God-given order independent of the will of men, they cannot escape the logical and historical contradictions at the heart of this idea. The fixed-supply ideas of deflationary coins like Bitcoin fundamentally misinterpret the properties of fiat money as bugs when they are in fact features. The crypto project contains unresolvable logical and economic contradictions in its stated purpose. State controlled money embeds control and accountability for fiscal stability and market intervention in the democratic process where it inevitably and rightly belongs.

  1. The history of private money is one of repeated disasters that destroy public trust.

Even playing devil’s advocate and assuming cryptocurrency could function as money—which they can’t—we come up against the hard limitation that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2022 at 8:30 am

Disney’s FastPass: A Complicated History

leave a comment »

I have not been to almost no theme parks — in the mid-1950’s, I did go with my family to Knott’s Berry Farm and the first Disneyland. But even then I did not much like the walking and waiting. I’ve been to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk a few times, but that is a pale imitation (and requires less walking and less waiting and has other benefits (fewer people, quicker to enter and to leave, and in a town interesting in itself).

That being said, I found this full-length documentary fascinating, in part because it shows me an alien world — one that I have negative desire to visit, but still find interesting in terms of its operation and the kinds of problems it must solve. 

I imagine that this documentary might be even more interesting to someone who has been subjected to the systems described.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2022 at 6:00 pm

Looking a little more deeply into VR headsets and workout programs

leave a comment »

After my earlier post on using a VR headset with a VR workout program, I got to looking a little more deeply into it. Here’s a playlist of YouTube videos on the Oculus Quest 2, workout programs, and a glimpse of a high-end VR headset (US$1400 but also requires a gaming computer for ideal performance).

My overall impression is that the technology still has a ways to go, but at least now there seems to be a reasonably good reasonably priced starting point.

There are several YouTube videos on “best VR headsets.” The one at the link looks at the best for 2021, as does this one (from a different reviewer).

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 12:44 pm

Video Games Are a Labor Disaster

leave a comment »

Back in June, Alex Pareene published an interesting article in the New Republic on video-game development back. I just came across it. It begins:

In 2006, a professional baseball player named Curt Schilling started a video game company. Schilling was probably most famous for a heroic pitching performance on an injured ankle in a 2004 playoff series for the Boston Red Sox. The team would go on to win the World Series that year, ending a decades-long championship drought, and cementing Schilling’s status as a hero throughout New England.

Schilling named his company 38 Studios, after his uniform number. He headquartered it in Massachusetts. His only experience in video games was as a fan of them, but he hired a lot of industry veterans and talented game developers. He wanted to make a kind of game called a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game.” All you need to know about MMORPGs, for the sake of this tale, is that they are very complex, and potentially very lucrative, because users don’t just spend money on the game once. They have to pay subscription fees, to play the game online, with other players, on computer servers controlled by the game’s publisher. One MMORPG, World of Warcraft, has made billions for its parent company since it launched in 2004.

Schilling’s dream was to make a game as popular and profitable as World of Warcraft. He hired the popular fantasy author R.A. Salvatore to create the backstory and “lore” of his game’s fictional world, and comics artist Todd McFarlane to create its visual identity. He continued bringing on video game artists, developers, and designers, paying them well and spoiling them with perks, like free meals and personalized laptops. He was, after all, trying to lure top talent from more established video game studios.

To start with, Schilling was paying for most of this himself. But he soon found a lifeline, in the form of America’s incoherent, cronyist approach to industrial policy. Schilling met Donald Carcieri, the Republican governor of Rhode Island, and a plan was concocted: The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation would give Schilling a large loan guarantee if he moved his company to the state. Carcieri would get the residual star appeal of association with a baseball hero, and a promise of 450 new jobs in Rhode Island. Schilling would get $75 million, guaranteed by the state. So Schilling moved his team to Providence, Rhode Island, a charming city, but not exactly the home of the games industry. (Though, as we’ll see, there is no true home of the video game industry.) He promised that the company would take on the mortgage payments of anyone having trouble selling their Massachusetts homes (the loan, and the move, happened over 2010 and 2011, in the aftermath of the housing crash and Great Recession).

In 2011, 38 Studios was burning through about $4 million a month; by early 2012, the company ran out of cash. It quietly stopped paying most of its outside vendors or hiring new employees to work on Schilling’s dream game, which was probably still more than a year away from completion. It missed a loan repayment, leading the new governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, to reveal to the public just how dire the company’s financial situation was. The story of Rhode Island’s loan to Curt Schilling’s video game company became a local scandal and a national joke. In May, the company abruptly laid off the entire staff, who were “left stranded in Rhode Island, where there were no other video game companies or jobs.”

An entire book could be written about the saga of 38 Studios. In Press Reset, the video game industry journalist Jason Schrei­er covers it in a few dozen pages. Each chapter of the book covers the closure of a different game studio. In an industry worth $150 billion, mass layoffs and untenable working conditions are surprisingly common, though rarely examined. Most of the video game press is aimed at either the consumer or the investor, and most outlets concern themselves with how a game plays, or how much it sold. Instead, by looking at the labor of video games, Schreier sets out to answer one of the industry’s weirdest mysteries: Why is making video games, something an entire industry of highly paid, intelligent people has been doing for decades, so difficult?

While reporting on video games for the news site Kotaku, where he started in 2012 (he now works for Bloomberg), Schrei­­er developed a unique beat: He became, most likely, the industry’s first labor reporter. At Kotaku, Schreier started soliciting stories from people who made the games, often after reports of layoffs or studio closures. He began reporting on the creation of complex, big-budget games from the perspectives of the people responsible for developing the code, designing the levels, or testing nearly complete games for bugs. These stories—perhaps unexpectedly—were popular with Kotaku’s audience of video game enthusiasts. Many gamers, who might once have blamed “lazy devs” for a game’s flaws or shortcomings, are now more likely to direct their ire toward greedy executives or exploitative managers.

Schreier has been successful enough that Press Reset is his second book about the tribulations and treatment of the people who make video games. His prior book, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, was a developer’s-eye-view of the making of a handful of popular games, ranging from Stardew Valley, a solo developer’s years-long labor of love, to high-profile, big-ticket games with incredibly messy production histories, like a Star Wars game that Disney canceled after years of tortuous development. As one reviewer noted, fiascoes are always more interesting than successes, which could explain Schreier’s decision to build this book around stories of companies and game studios failing.

Dysfunction is baked into the video game production process, as it currently exists. The big-budget games industry is dominated by . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s very interesting. Movies — another creative industry — depends on workers who belong to strong unions, so that works better. The article lays out why this approach is more difficult in the video-game industry.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2021 at 1:45 pm

Wandermap for finding (and planning) hikes

leave a comment »

Wandermap lets you find hikes and also plan your own hikes: draw a route on the map and it shows you distance and changes in elevation. ( also has this feature, and works for bike rides and drives as well.) With Wandermap, if you plan a route on your computer browser, the website generates a QR code to let you easily transfer it to your phone.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2021 at 8:16 am

Workout via virtual reality (VR)

leave a comment »

The workout shown above (left = actual, right = virtual) shows the kind of routines you get with the Supernatural app by Metaquest using their Oculus Quest 2.

Here are a few user reviews from the first link:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. After completing chemotherapy and radiation (I am now cancer free!!!), I didn’t think that I would be able to get back in shape or feel good about myself again. It was hard staying motivated even after trying different exercise regimens. I heard Tiffany Haddish attribute her fitness and weight loss to the Supernatural app. I decided to give it a try and I’m so glad I did! I now look forward to working out every day! The coaches, the scenery, workouts, and meditation are awesome! I typically do not write reviews, but I had to write a review concerning how much of an impact this app has had on my desire to get up and move. I am truly in love with Supernatural and this is just the beginning of a better and healthier me!!!


I gained 35 pounds since the pandemic began. Even before that, I hated working out. Going to the gym, home treadmills and bikes? Nope. I never looked forward to working out. I put it off as long as I could – till AFTER work. I didn’t want to work out, and I wanted to WANT to work out. Enter SuperNatural. Now, I want to work out. To the point where I’m getting up early in the morning (I work from home, sedentary) and will put in somewhere at least between 20 and 30 minutes every day. Sometimes, when I have the time available (weekends or days off from work), I’ll put in up to an hour and a half. I WANT to do better and be better and I WANT to work out. At this point, I’ve been working out daily for 113 days (July 14) and no plans to quit any time soon. I’ve added healthier eating about a month ago as well, nearly eliminating sodas altogether. How? There’s a community on social media of others like me. The encouragement from the group members, including the coaches (who participate as well), and those I follow in the companion app is extremely supportive – reminds me I’m not alone. I tried the (at the time) 30 day trial. After 3 weeks, my wife encouraged me to pay for the year. Bonus, she has a logon on my account and can use it too – she’s excited about the boxing modules. As a therapist, I know that social support and outreach is important to reach goals. Since July, I’ve lost 21 lbs. Heck, since September 27, I’ve lost 13. 13lbs in a month! But even more important than that is I’m stronger, I have more energy, I have a better mood – I have hope. I see what’s possible. And I don’t have to go back!

And one more, from a senior couple:

I saw an advertisement for Supernatural on a YT video. Told my wife, “ Hey, that looks interesting!” We are not gamers at all. In fact, my wife despises how kids are obsessed with them. I watched YT videos on the product and decided to buy a VR and Supernatural. Holy smokes, we love it!!! We are both in our 50’s and we are excited to do it every morning. We are competing against each other and having fun! We are entering week #2 and we are already losing weight. I can’t wait for more!

Here’s what’s actually involved.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2021 at 7:35 am

The Tabular Self: Out-sourcing memory to material objects

leave a comment »

I’ve long recognized that people often out-source memory to things like journals, daybooks, photographs, and even material objects — cf. “souvenir“:

1775, “a remembrance or memory,” from French souvenir (12c.), from Old French noun use of souvenir (v.) “to remember, come to mind,” from Latin subvenire “come to mind,” from sub “up from below” (see sub-) + venire “to come,” from a suffixed form of Proto-Indo-European root *gwa- “to go, come.” Meaning “token of remembrance, memento” is first recorded 1782.

Sophie Haigney writes in The Cut:

The 20th century brought with it a deluge of paper. As American businesses expanded in both number and scale in the wake of the Civil War, so did their printed material; there were graphs, memos, charts, forms, and more correspondence than ever. This “paperization” eventually spilled into the home, where a rise in personal documentation meant that houses were filling up with bills, letters, tax forms, receipts, birth certificates, recipes clipped from magazines. As these archives ballooned, a new technology rose in popularity: the filing cabinet, whose history the scholar Craig Robertson documents in The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information. One 1918 advertisement described the filing cabinet as “oracle-like” with a “great gigantic memory”: “It is only a bit o’ steel, yet no brain was ever made / That could wholly supersede it with the busy business man.” The filing cabinet, then, was better than a human brain — it could hold and organize the entire contents of one’s professional and domestic life, broken down into discrete bits of information and made retrievable at will.

Not everyone was happy with the invention. The writer Montrose J. Moses was wary of how filing cabinets externalized personal memory: What would be the consequences of trying to turn every aspect of your life into “information” to be hoarded for later? “You can’t expect yourself to say, when you give your wife the first kiss, ‘File that, my dear, for future reference,’ ” he wrote in 1930.

Nearly a century later, Moses’s anxiety has become our reality. We are constantly turning our lives into data, much of it nonphysical: photographs and screenshots and stray notes, reams of text messages and bookmarked tabs and other digital detritus. I could tell you with a glance at my iPhone exactly where I was on October 24, 2015, or how many hours of sleep I got last night. This compendium of self-knowledge seems only to expand, prompting our devices to expand along with it: The first iPhone’s maximum storage space was 16 gigabytes, while the newest release offers a terabyte. By now, we may even rely on our devices’ memories so completely that we’ve lost our ability to recall things without them. But the contents of our digital memories have themselves grown unwieldy, fractured across multiple devices and accounts, impossible to process.

Amid this flood of data, a new category of app has emerged, one that promises to collect all the digital material we generate into one single, seamless interface. They are sometimes referred to as “knowledge-management systems” or “personal-knowledge bases,” though many users refer to them as simply “second brains.” The best known is Notion, which was released in 2016 and has grown from 1 million to more than 20 million users in the past two years (and was recently valued at $10 billion). There is Roam Research, founded in 2017, and Obsidian, founded in 2020, and Mem, which is in public beta. Like the filing cabinet for the pre-digital era, these apps are designed not only to store everything that our brains can’t hold — grocery lists, passwords, meditation schedules, work tasks — but also to make us better at retrieving the information in them. Instead of tabs and folders, they allow us to sort our archives into customizable, easy-to-navigate tables — and, in the case of Mem and Obsidian, can even show us how one piece of information (say, your to-do list) is related to another (notes from a recent meeting). “Our thinking is, If a thought can’t be retrieved, then it’s not a useful thought,” said Kevin Moody, the 26-year-old former Google employee who co-founded Mem, which recently raised $5.6 million in venture capital. Srinivas Rao, an author and podcast host who uses Mem, once described the app as “the closest thing I’ve seen to being able to upload your brain to the internet.”

These platforms have fostered thriving subcultures of devotees. Enthusiastic Roam users call themselves the Roamcult, and the Obsidian Discord server has nearly 50,000 members. On massive Facebook groups, fans who identify as “Notioneers” trade templates they’ve built on the platform: customized tables like “Plants Manager” or “Pokémon Collection Tracker” that others can download. There are certified Notion consultants who work to help businesses and people organize their lives using the app. There are Notion influencers who make instructional videos. On her YouTube channel, lifestyle influencer Michelle Barnes, who works with Notion, shows how she has organized her Notion into an enormous “Life Dash” that includes her master to-do list. That to-do list is further broken down into categories, including a list of things she wants to purchase accompanied by a “ Life Impact” column, in which she assigns a number to how much the item will improve her life. (“Buy blackout curtains for bedroom” gets an eight, while “Buy silver scissors” gets only a one.) These apps can often encourage a radical level of self-documentation, especially as  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2021 at 2:40 pm

The therapists using AI to make therapy better

leave a comment »

Charlotte Jee and Will Douglas Heaven write in MIT Technology Review:

Kevin Cowley remembers many things about April 15, 1989. He had taken the bus to the Hillsborough soccer stadium in Sheffield, England, to watch the semifinal championship game between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool. He was 17. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. The fans filled the stands.

He remembers being pressed between people so tightly that he couldn’t get his hands out of his pockets. He remembers the crash of the safety barrier collapsing behind him when his team nearly scored and the crowd surged.

Hundreds of people fell, toppled like dominoes by those pinned in next to them. Cowley was pulled under. He remembers waking up among the dead and dying, crushed beneath the weight of bodies. He remembers the smell of urine and sweat, the sound of men crying. He remembers locking eyes with the man struggling next to him, then standing on him to save himself. He still wonders if that man was one of the 94 people who died that day.

These memories have tormented Cowley his whole adult life. For 30 years he suffered from flashbacks and insomnia. He had trouble working but was too ashamed to talk to his wife. He blocked out the worst of it by drinking. In 2004 one doctor referred him to a trainee therapist, but it didn’t help, and he dropped out after a couple of sessions.

But two years ago he spotted a poster advertising therapy over the internet, and he decided to give it another go. After dozens of regular sessions in which he and his therapist talked via text message, Cowley, now 49, is at last recovering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s amazing how a few words can change a life,” says Andrew Blackwell, chief scientific officer at Ieso, the UK-based mental health clinic treating Cowley.

What’s crucial is delivering the right words at the right time. Blackwell and his colleagues at Ieso are pioneering a new approach to mental-health care in which the language used in therapy sessions is analyzed by an AI. The idea is to use natural-language processing (NLP) to identify which parts of a conversation between therapist and client—which types of utterance and exchange—seem to be most effective at treating different disorders.

The aim is to give therapists better insight into what they do, helping experienced therapists maintain a high standard of care and helping trainees improve. Amid a global shortfall in care, an automated form of quality control could be essential in helping clinics meet demand.

Ultimately, the approach may reveal exactly how psychotherapy works in the first place, something that clinicians and researchers are still largely in the dark about. A new understanding of therapy’s active ingredients could open the door to personalized mental-health care, allowing doctors to tailor psychiatric treatments to particular clients much as they do when prescribing drugs.

A way with words

The success of therapy and counseling ultimately hinges on the words spoken between two people. Despite the fact that therapy has existed in its modern form for decades, there’s a surprising amount we still don’t know about how it works. It’s generally deemed crucial for therapist and client to have a good rapport, but it can be tough to predict whether a particular technique, applied to a particular illness, will yield results or not. Compared with treatment for physical conditions, the quality of care for mental health is poor. Recovery rates have stagnated and in some cases worsened since treatments were developed.

Researchers have tried to study talking therapy for years to unlock the secrets of why some therapists get better results than others. It can be as much art as science, based on the experience and gut instinct of qualified therapists. It’s been virtually impossible to fully quantify what works and why—until now. Zac Imel, who is a psychotherapy researcher at the University of Utah, remembers trying to analyze transcripts from therapy sessions by hand. “It takes forever, and the sample sizes are embarrassing,” he says. “And so we didn’t learn very much even over the decades we’ve been doing it.”

AI is changing that equation. The type of . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s fascinating.

Written by Leisureguy

8 December 2021 at 12:06 pm

The first metaverse experiments are already happening in medicine

leave a comment »

Bob Woods has an interesting report for CNBC:

  • The metaverse will be an extension of the virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality technology already in use today.
  • Facebook and Microsoft glasses like Oculus and HoloLens already are being used in key medical technology applications, from design of medical tools to surgical procedures.
  • “It’s like having a GPS navigator in front of your eyes,” Timothy Witham, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Spinal Fusion Laboratory, said after conducting the institution’s first-ever augmented reality surgery in June.

The metaverse, the digital world’s Next Big Thing, is touted as the internet domain where animated avatars of our physical selves will be able to virtually do all sorts of interactivities, from shopping to gaming to traveling — someday. Wonks say it could be a decade or longer before the necessary technologies catch up with the hype.

Right now, though, the health-care industry is utilizing some of the essential components that will ultimately comprise the metaverse — virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and artificial intelligence (AI) — as well as the software and hardware to power their applications. For example, medical device companies are using MR to assemble surgical tools and design operating rooms, the World Health Organization (WHO) is using AR and smartphones to train Covid-19 responders, psychiatrists are using VR to treat post-traumatic stress (PTS) among combat soldiers, and medical schools are using VR for surgical training.

Facebook, Oculus and Covid

Since Facebook — now Meta Platforms — acquired Oculus and its VR headset technology in 2014 for $2 billion, numerous health-care applications have been developed. One of the latest was a collaboration with Facebook Reality Labs and Nexus Studios and the WHO Academy. The organization’s R&D incubator designed a mobile learning app for health workers battling Covid-19 worldwide. One of the training courses involves AR to simulate on a smartphone the proper techniques and sequence to put on and remove person protective equipment. With content available in seven languages, the app is built around the needs expressed by 22,000 global health workers surveyed by the WHO last year.

Oculus technology is used at UConn Health, the University of Connecticut’s medical center in Farmington, Connecticut, to train orthopedic surgery residents. Educators have teamed with PrecisionOS, a Canadian medical software company that offers VR training and educational modules in orthopedics. Donning Oculus Quest headsets, the residents can visualize in 3-D performing a range of surgical procedures, such as putting a pin in a broken bone. Because the procedure is performed virtually, the system allows the students to make mistakes and receive feedback from faculty to incorporate on their next try.

Meanwhile, as the metaverse remains under construction, “we see great opportunity to continue the work Meta already does in supporting health efforts,” a Meta spokesperson said. “As Meta’s experiences, apps and services evolve, you can expect health strategy to play a role, but it’s far too soon to say how that might intersect with third-party technologies and providers.”

When Microsoft introduced its HoloLens AR smart glasses in 2016 for commercial development, early adopters included Stryker, the medical technology company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2017, it began harnessing the AR device to improve processes for designing operating rooms for hospitals and surgery centers. Because ORs are shared by different surgical services — from general surgery to orthopedic, cardiac and others — lighting, equipment and surgical tools vary depending on the procedure.

Recognizing the opportunity the HoloLens 2 provided in evolving OR design from 2D to 3D, Stryker engineers are able to design shared ORs with the use of holograms. The MR experience visualizes all of the people, equipment and setups without requiring physical objects or people to be present.

Zimmer Biomet, a Warsaw, Indiana-based medical device company, recently unveiled its OptiVu Mixed Reality Solutions platform, which employs HoloLens devices and three applications — one using MR in manufacturing surgical tools, another that collects and stores data to track patient progress before and after surgery, and a third that allows clinicians to share a MR experience with patients ahead of a procedure.

“We are currently using the HoloLens in a pilot fashion with remote assist in the U.S., EMEA and Australia,” a Zimmer Biomet spokesperson said. The technology has been used for remote case coverage and training programs, and the company is developing software applications on the HoloLens as part of data solutions focused on pre- and post-procedures, the spokesperson said.

Microsoft’s holographic vision of the future

In March, Microsoft showcased Mesh, a MR platform powered by its Azure cloud service, which allows people in different physical locations to join 3-D holographic experiences on various devices, including HoloLens 2, a range of VR headsets, smartphones, tablets and PCs. In a blog post, the company imagined avatars of medical students, learning about human anatomy,  gathered around a holographic model and peeling back muscles to see what’s underneath.

Microsoft sees many . . .

Continue reading.  There’s quite a bit, including some videos.

Later in the article:

In real-world applications of AR medical technology, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeons performed the institution’s first-ever AR surgeries on living patients in June. During the initial procedure, physicians placed six screws in a patient’s spine during a spinal fusion. Two days later, a separate team of surgeons removed a cancerous tumor from the spine of a patient. Both teams donned headsets made by Augmedics, an Israeli firm, equipped with a see-through eye display that projects images of a patient’s internal anatomy, such as bones and other tissue, based on CT scans. “It’s like having a GPS navigator in front of your eyes,” said Timothy Witham, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Spinal Fusion Laboratory.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2021 at 1:19 pm

%d bloggers like this: