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"technology"

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Why Are Glasses Perceived Differently Than Hearing Aids?


All bodies are getting assistance from technology all the time, yet some are stigmatized.Abler is one woman's quest to rectify this.

Without technology, the human body is a pretty limited instrument. We cannot write without a pen or pencil, nor eat hot soup without a bowl and, perhaps, a spoon.

And yet, only certain technologies are labeled "assistive technologies": hearing aids, prostheses, wheelchairs. But surely our pens and pencils, bowls and spoons assist us as well. The human body is not very able all on its own. 

My curiosity about how we think about these camps of "normal" and "assistive" technologies brought me to Sara Hendren, a leading thinker and writer on adaptive technologies and prosthetics. Her wonderful site, Abler, was recently syndicated by Gizmodo. I talked to her about why crutches don't look cool, where the idea of "normal" comes from, and whether the 21st century might bring greater understanding of human diversity.

Read the full article at the Atlantic 

(http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/why-are-glasses-perceived-differently-than-hearing-aids/282005/)

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Doctor Paralyzed from the Waist Down is Still Able to Perform Surgeries



Nov 28, 2013 12:32 PM EST By Camille H

Doctor Paralyzed from the Waist Down is Still Able to Do Surgeries
(Photo: Army Medicine/Flickr) Doctor Paralyzed from the Waist Down is Still Able to Do Surgeries
An orthopedic surgeon who was paralyzed from the waist down still performs surgeries through the use of a stand-up wheelchair, according to the Daily Mail.
Dr. Ted Rummel, an orthopedic surgeon from O'Fallon, Missouri suddenly became paralyzed in 2010 after a blood-filled cyst burst in his spine.
After a year of rehabilitation, he went back to work and started operating on his patients using a traditional wheelchair.
Dr. Rummel told the Enquirer that his freedom has been a lifesaver. "When I'm able to do this, and I can get a piece of my life back, it's huge. It's so special," he said.
Read the full article at Parent Herald 
(http://www.parentherald.com/articles/3092/20131128/doctor-paralyzed-waist-down-still-surgeries.htm)

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A Communication App For Those We Love With Autism

by Tiffany Khoshaba
Everyone ought to speak. The goal of Aut2Speak is to make that more of a reality for those suffering from non-verbal autism.
Here's to the crazy ones!
While watching a documentary about autism I knew that there must be a better way for them to communicate. If you search youtube for 'autism typing' you can find video-after-video of children and adults who are now able to express themselves through keyboard typing. The problem is that the traditional keyboard was designed for and by those who do not suffer from Autism. I wondered how we could alter this so that it can expedite the process of tying, and thus communicating, for those we love with autism. I have created a wonderful keyboard that has many features. We need your support and we appreciate every dollar we can raise for this worthy cause.
 "It would be a shame not to nurture someone's intelligence just because they cannot express it". -Gail Gilbert
Read the full article & the whole project at Kickstarter 
(http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1119286895/a-communication-app-for-those-we-love-with-autism)

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Health care through the lens of a technology entrepreneur



If you want to see the future of health care, the can’t miss conference of the year is the Health Innovation Summit hosted by Rock Health in San Francisco. As a practicing primary care doctor, I had the opportunity to view health care through the lenses of technology entrepreneurs. I thought the conference was even better than the one I attended last year. Absent was the provocative rhetoric by 2012 keynote speaker Vinod Khosla who noted that “technology will replace 80 percent of doctors.”
What continued to remain was the curiosity, confidence, enthusiasm, and optimism that health care and medical care could be even better and the willingness of entrepreneurs to fix a problem and build a business around it.
Themes I found particularly interesting included the following:
  • Make health care smarter by creating platforms, whether software or hardware, like wearables, to collect patient data and to analyze data, whether at the individual or population level, to gain insights and change behavior or predict outcomes.
  • Make health care better by using expertise from other fields, like the wisdom of the crowds, to provide patients more accurate diagnoses particularly when it revolves around a constellation of systems more likely due to a rare diagnosis.
  • Make the health care a more personalized care experience comparable to other industries with the use of information technology and mobile computing.
  • The creation of the ACA will fundamentally shift how patients will access care. This provides a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs.
  • Entrepreneurs believe that they can both do good, improve the health and medical care of individuals and the community, and make money.
Read the full article at Kevin Md
(http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2013/09/health-care-lens-technology-entrepreneur.html)

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Digital education shouldn’t bypass disabled


By Kyle Shachmut

 |   
  SEPTEMBER 09, 2013


The Braille terminal is one type of aid for visually impaired computer users.
ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE
The Braille terminal is one type of aid for visually impaired computer users.

AS STUDENTS return to school this fall, most will find a plethora of new technologies and virtual environments, on which their institutions have been spending millions of dollars to bring into the classroom. Yet many of these resources will be needlessly discriminatory. What would happen if an institution constructed a new state-of-the-art building but neglected to make it accessible to the disabled? People would rightly be outraged. Yet even as new technology-rich environments revolutionize the classroom, few make provision for people who are blind, dyslexic, or otherwise print-disabled.
Just like buildings, digital resources can be made accessible to all through good design and planning. Electronic resources should be inherently accessible; for most people, the zeroes and ones that make up digital content are translated for display on screens, but the same information can be transmitted audibly or connected to an accessory that puts it into Braille. Mainstream touchscreen devices like the iPad and iPhone are fully accessible to blind users right out of the box.
Read the full article at Boston Globe 
(http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/09/08/classroom-technology-must-accessible-those-with-disabilities/svRyLPnmnBSNCDUuQaUEVJ/story.html)

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3D-Printed Medical Devices Spark FDA Evaluation



By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
Published: 09/03/2013 09:22 AM EDT on LiveScience
When Kaiba Gionfriddo was just a few months old, a 3D-printed device saved his life.
Kaiba was born with a rare condition called tracheobronchomalacia, which meant his windpipe was weak, and would collapse and prevent air from flowing to his lungs. Researchers at the University of Michigan sought approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a 3D-printed tracheal splint, which they implanted around the baby's airway to help him breathe.
Thanks to 3D printing, a technology that produces objects of any shape, including medical devices highly customized for patients, from a computer model, these kinds of stories are becoming increasingly common. In order to keep up, the FDA is now looking at how it might evaluate medical devices made using 3D printers.
Read the full article at the Huffington Post 
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/03/3d-print-medical-devices-fda_n_3860477.html?utm_hp_ref=tw)

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71% of Americans Believe That by 2050, Artificial Limbs Will Perform Better Than Natural Ones





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Fascinating new data from the Pew Research Center
AUG 6 2013
In a report out today, the Pew Research Center offers a fascinating look at Americans' views on aging -- and on, specifically, the practice known as "radical life extension." The majority of American adults, the survey found, don't believe that such life extension capabilities will be generally feasible in the near future: 73 percent of them, asked whether the average person would live to be 120 years old by the year 2050, answered in the negative.

Where Americans place more confidence, it seems, is in the incremental technologies that could contribute to longer life spans. As part of its survey, Pew asked its respondents how optimistic they are about things like artificial limbs and cures for cancer. And the responses they got were fascinating:

Read more at the Atlantic 

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Cyberdyne's robotic exoskeleton heads to European markets as a medical device


August 7, 2013 by Arezu Sarvestani


Japan's Cyberdyne Inc. lands certification from a German-based medical device certifier, paving the way for the company's robotic exo-skeleton to march through Europe.
Cyberdyne's robotic exoskeleton heads to European markets
Germany may be about to get some new robots, courtesy of Cyberdyne Inc., a Japan-based robotics company developing mind-controlled exoskeletons for medical use, rescue support, manual labor and entertainment.
Parallels to the Terminator movies aside, the robotic technology has left a fairly hefty footprint in Japan in a short amount of time, suggesting a potentially similar market abroad.
The Robot Suit HAL (hybrid assistive limb) is described by the company as "a cyborg-type robot that can supplement, expand or improve physical capability." The device non-invasively captures nerve signals by detecting them on the skin as the brain transmit signals to the muscles of the body.
Read the full story at Mass Device 

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Researchers Aim To Create Virtual Speech Therapist


PHILADELPHIA — Debi Green is trying to book a vacation, but she's having a hard time getting the words out. Even though it's been nearly nine years since she suffered a stroke, language sometimes fails her.
"I would like ... um ... um ...," she said, faltering.
Luckily, the computerized travel agent has all the time in the world. It's an avatar being tested at Temple University in Philadelphia, where researchers are working to develop a virtual speech therapist.
Cyber-clinicians can be a crucial tool in overcoming the language disorder known as aphasia, experts say. While the verbal impairment can be life-long, health insurers only pay for a limited amount of therapy. Yet patients like Green need to continuously practice their skills.
Read the full story at the Huffington Post 

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Electronic ‘Skin’ Responds to Your Fingertips


 Jon M. Chang
Jul 23, 2013 6:00am
ht e skin mi 130722 Electronic Skin Responds to Your Fingertips
Image credit: UC Berkeley
Bendable sensors and displays have made the tech rounds before, but a team of engineers at the University of California-Berkeley have found a way to combine the two.
Ali Javey and his lab have successfully created e-skin, a pressure-sensitive circuit array that is thin, flexible, and luminescent. His research can be found in the journal Nature Materials.
“It’s called skin, but the material is for more than just prosthetic limbs,” said Javey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the university.
He sees the human body’s skin as a thin and stretchable substance that relays all types of information like touch and temperature.
“It provides us with the ability to interface with the environment,” he told ABC News. “That’s skin.”
Read more at ABC News

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Disability rights advocates press for accessible technology

Kimberly Railey, USA TODAY

                       10:04 a.m. EDT July 14, 2013



 






























                                                                                                                  While technology takes on a greater role in the college classroom, disability rights groups are seeking to ensure visually impaired students aren't left behind.

Jordan Moon graduated from Arizona State University last year with a lesson that may outlast his journalism and political science degrees: how to get help.
As a visually impaired student, some assignments, like newspaper designs, were nearly impossible to complete on his own.
"There are a lot of times where materials are way too print-featured and graphic-oriented that you have no choice but to get an aide," says Moon, who is legally blind. "Braille and software technology can only do so much."
Read the full story at USA TODAY

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This Crazy Exoskeleton Suit Gives Schoolgirls (or Anyone) Super Powers - Video







This Crazy Exoskeleton Suit Gives Schoolgirls (or Anyone) Super Powers

ANDREW LISZEWSKIMonday 1:16pm

There are two paths to gaining super powers that don't involve mutations, radiation, or intergalactic origins. You can go the RoboCop route, where your body—or what's left of it—is permanently melded to a robotic frame. Or the Iron Man route, where you temporarily don a robotic supersuit and kick ass. The latter approach is, of course, the most desirable, and thanks to Japan's Sagawa Electronics, for $124,000 it could be your reality.

Read more at Gizmodo

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Rewiring a Damaged Spinal Cord [Video]


Rewiring a Damaged Spinal Cord [Video]

New treatments leverage “neuroplasticity,” the nervous system’s innate ability to repair itself



When Christopher Reeve became quadriplegic, there was little hope for patients with spinal cord injury. Now researchers are combining what they know about the central nervous system’s ability to rewire and regrow with a new understanding of the hidden smarts of the spinal cord to dramatically improve treatments.
Even the most devastating spinal cord injuries usually do not completely sever the link between the brain, spine and the rest of the body. Scientists are now finding ways to make the most of the remaining connections using a variety of technologies. Studies on electrical stimulation and locomotor training (a treatment that relies on human or robotic assistance during a walking exercise) suggest that it is possible to regrow damaged neuronal circuits in the brain and spine and recover some voluntary control. Some of these studies find that circuits in the spinal cord itself can be coaxed into helping the body move again.
When we walk, two sources of information are processed by the spinal cord. One comes from above: instructions from the brain about where we want to go based on what we see. The other comes from below: sensory information from the muscles, tendons and skin. After a spinal cord injury the communication lines between the brain and spinal cord are cut or dramatically diminished, depending on the severity of the event. Without instructions from the brain, doctors and researchers thought it impossible to regain any type of control over the limbs. But unlike fixed mechanical circuits, the brain and spinal cord are malleable. The axiom in neuroscience is “neurons that fire together wire together,” meaning that connections between neurons grow or atrophy based on activity.
One promising approach is to help paralyzed patients go through the motions of walking with “assistive” technologies supporting their weight. By amplifying the sensory signals that come from the joints as they move and from the soles of the feet as the pressure is rhythmically switched from one foot to the other, researchers think they can compensate for the lack of a strong brain signal. Clinicians use devices such as the Lokomat that support the patient’s weight with a harness and move his legs on a treadmill via robotic leg braces. Susan Harkema, director of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, notes that when weight-supported on a treadmill, newborns show the right stepping patterns even though they can’t initiate walking on their own. This suggests that some motor “programs” are stored directly in the spinal cord, and can be triggered by sensory input. According to neurologist Volker Dietz, a professor emeritus at the University of Zurich who continues to do research at Balgrist University Hospital in Zurich, scientists have whittled it down to two essential inputs to get stepping patterns in the muscles: contact with the ground and flexion and extension of the hip joint. When researchers measure the activity of the spinal circuits of a paralyzed patient on the Lokomat, they find that the pattern is the same as the one found in healthy volunteers. The difference is that the signal is not strong enough to contract the muscles. Locomotor training is meant to increase the spinal signal.
Read the full story at Scientific American 

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One Man's Quest To Make Medical Technology Affordable To All


One Man's Quest To Make Medical Technology Affordable To All


David Green is a man on a mission to drive down the cost of medical devices and health services.
His tactic: Use market forces and slightly tweaked business strategies to make health care accessible to even the poorest people. And he's had some amazing success.
I caught up with Green (no relation to NPR's David Greene) at a company he is launching in Chicago that's taking on the high cost of hearing aids. He's demonstrating how to program his company's new hearing device on a cellphone.
"So I'm putting the device on my ear, and I'm turning on my Bluetooth enabled phone," he says. "I click personalize on the phone and I start the hearing test. And right now I'm hearing tones and I'm clicking a box."
It must be the smallest Bluetooth earpiece available — about the size of your thumbnail. He has helped create Sound World Solutions to market a new high-quality hearing device developed by his partner, Stavros Basseas.


The device, which we reported on yesterday, will be sold in the U.S. But the main market will be in developing countries, where it will sell for a couple hundred dollars — a fraction of the cost of high-end hearing aids. One reason it's so cheap is that it's based on off-the-self Bluetooth components.
Green says his strategy is to minimize the cost of technology, production and distribution so he can push prices to the lowest possible level and force other companies to compete.
"My competitive juices get flowing when I start to think about a big, $4 billion medical device company and how I'm going to beat them," Green says. "How do we make sight and hearing or even life itself affordable to poor people?"
That might sound like hopeless idealism, but Green has helped create a number of companies that do just that. The most notable may be a company named Aurolab in India that manufactures intraocular lenses. These lenses are implanted in the eyes of cataract patients to correct their vision.
At an operating theater at Aravind Eyecare in Madurai, India, on a reporting trip two summers ago, eye surgeon Hari Pria told me about one of the cases. "This is called the phacoemulsification procedure," Pria says, describing the use of ultrasound to break up the old lens and remove it. "This is considered the gold-standard of cataract surgery across the world."
Aravind does more than 300,000 cataract surgeries a year. And through Aurolab, Green helped drive down the price of the lenses from several hundred dollars apiece to $2 now. Aurolab's lenses have helped millions of people regain their sight.
Green has also set up eye-care programs in countries from Nepal to Kenya, created less expensive testing for people with diabetes, and helped set up social investing funds.
He eschews charity and turns to market forces and business strategies in his enterprises. He sets up for-profit companies, or nonprofits that run operating surpluses, so the firms have the ability to invest and grow.
Green describes his approach as "empathetic capitalism."
A man gets an eye exam at an Aravind Eye Care clinic in Madurai, India.
A man gets an eye exam at an Aravind Eye Care clinic in Madurai, India.
Reinhard Krause/Reuters/Landov

Read the full story at NPR

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High-Tech Gains Get Disabled People Into Workforce


High-Tech Gains Get Disabled People Into Workforce

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — When high school football coach Kevin Bella needs an intense, heart-to-heart with a player, he goes home and sits on his couch. That's because Bella, who is deaf, communicates with his hearing players most clearly with a new technology that brings a live sign language interpreter to his television screen. The player, on a phone elsewhere, hears the interpreter give voice to Bella's signs.
"It's a huge improvement over typing messages back and forth," said Bella, a defensive coordinator at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, Calif. "This allows me to work with hearing players, because there's a lot in my language that has to do with expressions. The meaning is lost if sign language is reduced to written text."
Bella is among a rising number of disabled people who are increasingly able to find and keep jobs, as well as engage more broadly in their communities, because of new technologies specifically aimed at helping them better communicate or complete tasks.
The past few years have seen a number of technological breakthroughs targeting disabled consumers. Apple, for example, is incorporating technologies such as voice recognition and screen readers, which can synthesize text into speech, into all of their products, rather than offering them as add-ons.
Applications such as GoTalk NOW and TapSpeak Sequence allow users to combine text, pictures and symbols with audio programs that put voice to thoughts and ideas. Someone who can't speak clearly can touch a picture of a hand, then a book, and the tablet will say: "Please pass me the book."
Blind people can take notes using voice-recognition programs, and listen to emails or "read" a website with screen readers. People with attention deficit disorder can use apps that remind them to stay focused by announcing appointments with lights and sounds. And those with spinal cord injuries share tips on forums such as apparelyzed.com for how to go hands-free on digital tablets using mouth sticks like those mounted on wheelchairs.
"High-tech advances are starting to help level the playing field, opening the door for so many people," said Therese Willkomm of the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire.
Kathleen Martinez, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor overseeing disability employment policy, said these advances have translated into higher numbers of disabled people being able to land jobs.
"In the professional careers, technology has helped increase the employment rate immensely. It's actually allowed us to participate in office careers more than ever before," said Martinez, who has been blind since birth.
The unemployment rate last year was 13.4 percent for the 28 million Americans who are deaf, blind or have serious physical, mental or emotional conditions, compared with a 7.9 percent rate for people without disabilities. But a Labor Department survey released earlier this month showed that the number of employed disabled adults jumped close to 4 percent over the past two years, more than the 3 percent gains among nondisabled people.
Meanwhile, unemployment rates among the disabled dropped 1.6 points in a year, a bigger decrease than what was seen among able-bodied workers.
Another factor in the increasing job rates is that baby boomers are retiring later, and today half of the people working over age 65 have a disability, said John D. Kemp, president of the disability advocate nonprofit The Viscardi Center.
"Many people have aged into a disability and are in denial," said Kemp. "But they can't hear as well, can't see as well, and they're using an immense number of assistive devices aimed at retaining valued employees."
The technological advances are a massive upgrade over older, disability-specific clunky devices. Swedish firm Tobii, for example, has developed eye-tracking programs that make it possible for people who can't use their hands to navigate on computers. Instead of moving a mouse, users look into a box that uses a camera and infrared light to track what they're looking at when they blink, triggering a cursor to move.
And Google Glass — a tiny eyeglasses-mounted device capable of shooting photos, filming video and surfing the Internet — has a built-in camera and voice-command capability, meaning disabled wearers could read what people are saying to them or control wheelchairs with their gaze or voices.
The U.S. market for assistive technologies is projected to grow from $39.5 billion in 2010 to $55 billion in 2016, according to analysts at market forecasters BCC Research. And in the past few years, large high-tech firms, including Facebook, have added teams focused exclusively on how disabled clients can use their products.
"Most organizations want to bring their technology and experiences to as many people as possible, so it makes sense to address this," said Jeffrey Wieland, who became Facebook's project manager of accessibility a year ago. The company has even brought visually impaired users to its campus in Menlo Park, Calif., to work with accessibility engineers.
Earlier this month, Rocklin, Calif.-based Purple Communications nationally rolled out a new, upgraded videophone that allows deaf people to communicate using Video Relay Service on high-definition televisions. A live sign language interpreter works remotely to convey messages in real-time via video and audio feeds that transmit into landline phones, cellphones or tablets.
Read More at NPR 

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A Prosthetic Limb, Controlled by an Amputee's Thoughts






Cyborgs are here -- or, at least, they're in DARPA laboratories.
For a while now, the Defense Department agency, alongside civilian researchers, has been working to develop prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the brains -- as in, the thoughts -- of their wearers.

And one of the most promising of those prosthetic devices, especially for near-term, practical application, has been something that emphasizes the "man" in "bionic man." (Or, of course, the "woman" in "bionic woman.") DARPA, through its Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) program, has developed a prosthetic interface that relies on "targeted muscle re-innervation." TMR works, DARPA says, by essentially "rewiring nerves from amputated limbs," allowing the wearer of a given prosthetic to control the device with his or her existing muscles. The approach relies on signals, from nerves or muscles or both at the same time, to control the prosthetics and provide direct sensory feedback to the wearer. Limb to brain and back again.


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Avatars ease voices for schizophrenia patients


29 May 2013


Use of an avatar can help treat patients with schizophrenia who hear voices, a UK study suggests.
The trial, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, focused on patients who had not responded to medication.
Using customised computer software, the patients created avatars to match the voices they had been hearing.
After up to six therapy sessions most patients said their voice had improved. Three said it had stopped entirely.
The study was led by psychiatrist emeritus professor Julian Leff, who spoke to patients through their on-screen avatars in therapy sessions. Gradually he coached patients to stand up to their voices.

Start Quote

The avatar gradually changes to saying, 'all right I'll leave you alone'”
Prof Julian LeffUniversity College London
"I encourage the patient saying, 'you mustn't put up with this, you must tell the avatar that what he or she is saying is nonsense, you don't believe these things, he or she must go away, leave you alone, you don't need this kind of torment'," said Prof Leff.
"The avatar gradually changes to saying, 'all right I'll leave you alone, I can see I've made your life a misery, how can I help you?' And then begins to encourage them to do things that would actually improve their life."
By the end of their treatment, patients reported that they heard the voices less often and that they were less distressed by them. Levels of depression and suicidal thoughts also decreased, a particularly relevant outcome-measure in a patient group where one in 10 will attempt suicide.

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If Your Shrink Is A Bot, How Do You Respond?




Her hair is brown and tied back into a professional-looking ponytail. She wears a blue shirt, tan sweater and delicate gold chain. It's the first time she has met the man sitting across from her, and she looks out at him, her eyes curious.

"So how are you doing today?" she asks cautiously, trying to build rapport.
"I'm doing well," he answers. His eyes blink.
"That's good," she continues. "Where are you from originally?"
"I'm from L.A.," he tells her, and this makes her smile slightly.
"Oh!" she says with surprise in her voice. "I'm from L.A. myself!"
She is from L.A. She was created in Los Angeles and "lives out her life" there on a computer screen in a lab at the University of Southern California. She's not a real woman but a virtual one, created to talk to people who are struggling emotionally, and to take their measure in a way no human can. Her makers believe that her ability to do this will ultimately revolutionize the way mental health care is practiced in this country. Her name is Ellie.
There's Power In A Well-Timed 'Uh-Huh'
The project that resulted in Ellie began almost two years ago at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies. Two scientists in particular are responsible for her existence: psychologistAlbert "Skip" Rizzo and computer scientist Louis-Philippe Morency.
Rizzo and Morency spent months laboring over every element of Ellie's presentation and interaction with patients, experimenting with a range of different personalities, outfits and vocal mannerisms.
"Everything has been thought of," says Morency. For example, when patients talk, Ellie encourages them to continue talking with a well timed "uh-huh," just as real people do.
YouTube
"We have recorded more than 200 of these uh-huhs," Morency says, "and these are so powerful. Because a simple 'uh-huh' and a silence — if they are done the right way — can be extremely powerful. So we spent a lot of time on these little details."
But the most important thing about Ellie is not her skill at gently probing all of the people her scientist brings into the lab to talk to her. Her real value, the reason she was built at all, is her skill at taking and analyzing thousands of measurements of those people.
Under the wide screen where Ellie's image sits, there are three devices. A video camera tracks facial expressions of the person sitting opposite. A movement sensor — Microsoft Kinect — tracks the person's gestures, fidgeting and other movements. A microphone records every inflection and tone in his or her voice. The point, Rizzo explains, is to analyze in almost microscopic detail the way people talk and move — to read their body language.
"We can look at the position of the head, the eye gaze," Rizzo says. Does the head tilt? Does it lean forward? Is it static and fixed?" In fact, Ellie tracks and analyzes around 60 different features — various body and facial movements, and different aspects of the voice.
The theory of all this is that a detailed analysis of those movements and vocal features can give us new insights into people who are struggling with emotional issues. The body, face and voice express things that words sometimes obscure.
"You know, people are in a constant state of impression management," Rizzo says. "They've got their true self and the self that they want to project to the world. And we know that the body displays things that sometimes people try to keep contained."
So, as Ellie gets the person in front of her to ruminate about when they were happy and when they were sad, the machines below her screen take measurements, cataloging how much the person smiles and for how long, how often they touch their head.
Morency says the machines record 30 measurements per second, or "about 1,800 measurements per minute." Literally every wince, pause and verbal stumble is captured and later analyzed.
Ellie was originally commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. After all of the deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military was seeing a lot of suicides and wanted to find a way to help military therapists stop them. Soldiers don't always like to confess that they're having problems, but maybe their bodies would say what their words wouldn't.
via NPR

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Health sites too complex, full of cliches: study


Tuesday, May 21, 2013
By Ivan Oransky

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The importance of health literacy hit home for Lisa Gualtieri when a Cambodian refugee diagnosed with cancer asked her to act as a patient advocate.
She played the role of a "salty tongue," a Cambodian expression that paints outspokenness in a positive light. But even though the patient's family was in the room when doctors took the time to answer every last question about test results and treatment options, the refugee's family would call Gualtieri hours later to review what doctors had said.
A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests one potential reason for the family's confusion: Despite good intentions, many experts may be creating educational materials that are too difficult for patients and their families to grasp.
"Patients will often come to the office, and one of the first things they say to you, especially about technical information, they'll say that they've been on the Internet, and they'll quote one or two key phrases back to you," said study author Dr. Charles Prestigiacomo. "Unfortunately, the little soundbites, while accurate, may not be complete."
Prestigiacomo and his colleagues at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) in Newark used a number of readability scales - including "simple measure of gobbledygook (SMOG) grading" - to test how challenging materials by 16 different medical specialty societies were to read.
The average reading level of the online materials by groups ranging from the American Society of Anesthesiologists to the American Psychiatric Association, fell anywhere from ninth grade to the sophomore year of college. (See one example here:.)
That's far above the fourth-to-sixth grade level recommended by the American Medical Association and by a number of U.S. government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services.
Those guidelines are based on the fact that the average American reads at 7th or 8th grade level, said Nitin Agarwal, a medical student at UMDNJ and another author of the study.
"We might not be cognizant of the population reading our articles, who might need something more simple," Agarwal told Reuters Health.
The current study's findings agree with those of previous work by some of the same researchers looking at patient education materials in individual specialties.
"Organizations often end up using jargon," said Gualtieri, who studies health communication at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, but was not involved in the new research. They end up "using the language they're accustomed to as opposed to (the language) the people they're trying to reach are accustomed to using," she told Reuters Health.
"You have to think about reaching people where they are," she added.
Sometimes, according to Prestigiacomo, that means using analogies. "There are only so many ways you can describe an aneurysm," said the UMDNJ neurosurgeon, who tells patients such ballooning blood vessels are "like a blister on a tire."
"The problem is that it's not quite perfectly accurate," he said. "But sometimes we have to realize that simplifying it to an analogy may be the best way for patients to understand it."
DROWNING IN CLICHES
When it came to the quality of the writing, obstetrics and gynecology really failed to deliver. Materials in that specialty had nearly six cliches for every 50 pages, and also "contained the highest total number of indefinite article mismatches (the improper use of "a" or "an")."
"You go from region to region in the U.S., people aren't familiar with what each cliche refers to," said Agarwal.
And in a sentence that might have unintentionally demonstrated the authors' point, they report, "The proportion of passive voice sentences used throughout resources ranged from 4% in family medicine to 27% in neurological surgery."
"Concise and to the point is the way to go for this sort of stuff," Agarwal said. Gualtieri recommended that those who produce such materials consider why people are coming to their sites, and what they're looking for. She echoed the authors' suggestion that such sites use pictures and videos.
"The organizations represented should be happy that people are at their sites," Gualtieri said. "It's high-quality, reliable information, there's a lot out there that isn't. If one of these organizations could read something like this, and say, ‘we're not doing everything we can for those who most read us,' that would be a lovely outcome from a study like this."
That's already happened. Prestigiacomo showed the results to one of the specialty groups whose patient materials were analyzed before publishing the paper, and the organization committed to rewriting them.
And the Cambodian man with cancer is doing well, Gualtieri said. "The treatment was successful."
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/13GdSBH JAMA Internal Medicine, online May 20, 2013.

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Young Adults With Autism Can Thrive In High-Tech Jobs



The job hunt is complicated enough for most high school and college graduates — and even tougher for the growing number of young people on the autism spectrum. Despite the obstacles that people with autism face trying to find work, there's a natural landing place: the tech industry.
Amelia Schabel graduated from high school five years ago. She had good grades and enrolled in community college. But it was too stressful. After less than a month she was back at home, doing nothing.
"I did go to a community college for a semester, but that definitely was not for me," she says.
Schabel has Asperger's syndrome, a disorder on the "high functioning" end of the autism spectrum.
According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder. For people like Schabel, attending college and interacting socially can be tough.
"I can look someone in the eye and talk to them," she says, "but if someone treats me in a way I don't think I deserve to be treated, I'm not going to react well. I may lash out, I may not speak to them, I may just glare."
Although symptoms and their severity vary widely, the majority of young adults with autism spectrum disorder won't make it to college and won't get a job after they graduate. This year alone, 50,000 adolescents with autism will turn 18.
A Tech Mecca For Young Adults With Autism
Gary Moore wants to make the transition into the workforce easier for young adults on the autism spectrum. Moore, along with his partner Dan Selic, founded the nonPareil Institute in Plano, Texas. It's a combination training program and software company for young adults on the autism spectrum.
Schabel, now 23, is one of more than 100 students at nonPareil, training in everything from software programing and digital design to 3-D modeling. She's studying visual art and working on a children's book. Two-dozen young adults with autism work as employees there.
Moore's son, Andrew, is a junior in high school and on the autism spectrum. Moore says he used to stay up at night worrying about what would happen to Andrew after graduation
"Although [Andrew] can't tie his shoes or buckle his belt to do a lot of things independently, he can do technology," Moore says. "He's a digital native."
For people like Andrew Moore and Amelia Schabel, high-tech jobs can be a perfect fit. Dr. Patricia Evans, a neurologist at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, says people on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum often have an amazing ability to hyper-focus on a task.
"They may really flourish at engineering-type tasks or computer design, where their interaction with people is somewhat limited," Evans says.

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