Wednesday, August 27, 2008

8/26 Ted Talk Tuesday--Torsten Reil "Using biology to make better animation"

Torsten Reil talks about how the study of biology can help make natural-looking animated people -- by building a human from the inside out, with bones, muscles and a nervous system. Note that this talk took place in some of these cool, innovative techniques should now be a reality.

Reil was a neural researcher working on his Masters at Oxford, developing computer simulations of nervous systems based on genetic algorithms- programs that actually used natural selection to evolve their own means of locomotion. It didn't take long until he realized the commercial potential of these lifelike characters. In 2001 he capitalized on this lucrative adjunct to his research, and cofounded NaturalMotion. Since then the company has produced motion simulation programs like Euphoria and Morpheme, state of the art packages designed to drastically cut the time and expense of game development, and create animated worlds as real as the one outside your front door. Animation and special effects created with Endorphin (NaturalMotion's first animation toolkit) have lent explosive action to films such as Troy and Poseidon, and NaturalMotion's software is also being used by LucasArts in video games such as the hotly anticipated Indiana Jones.

But there are serious applications aside from the big screen and the XBox console: NaturalMotion has also worked under a grant from the British government to study the motion of a cerebral palsy patient, in hopes of finding therapies and surgeries that dovetail with the way her nervous system is functioning. The animation of a patient's gait was to be used by surgeons to predict what impact the surgery would have to the final gait and they could make adjustments to the plan before even getting started.

"It might be surprising to find a biologist pushing the frontiers of computer animation. But Torsten Reil is bringing cheaper, lifelike digital characters to video games and films."
Technology Review

8/26 Ted Talk Tuesday--Jill Bolte Taylor "My stroke of insight”

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain exploded and she realized she was having a massive stroke. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding, self-awareness -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story of recovery and awareness -- of how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another. Jill started studying the brain as her brother had schizophrenia.

Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before. In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right.

As she went through this experience, she spoke about going back and forth between the sides of her brain…”la-la land” and conscious thought that something was going wrong and she should get help. As a group, we wondered if she consciously jeopardized her health to go through this experience as she had several warning signs and never called 911. When she finally tried to get help (after exercising, showering and dressing), it took quite a while as she waited for her stream of consciousness to come back each time as it swung like a pendulum. It took her 45 minutes to find a colleagues business card on her desk and then she still had to dial the phone number. It was amazing to hear her thoughts and feelings as she went through this process and that she remembered them to be able to relate them back to us. Once she finally called her colleague, she remembered him sounding like a golden retriever…sound was not processing into words.

"How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career."
Jill Bolte Taylor

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

8/19 Ted Talk Tuesday--Hans Rosling "New Insights on Poverty and Life Around the World"

For those of you who were unable to attend this week’s session, I highly encourage you to visit the TED web site and watch the video when you have some extra time – it truly is intriguing:

Hans Rosling Talks: New Insights on Poverty and Life Around the World
Researcher Hans Rosling uses his cool data tools to show how countries are pulling themselves out of poverty.

Most everyone in the session agreed that we have never seen information presented like this!! The software Hans has created takes data showing to another level so that it is even more engaging, easy-to-understand, to-the-point, and artistic…all characteristics our team strives to achieve in our projects in order properly educate different audience types in unique ways. So…how can we apply this to what we do here at HealthEd?

Main discussion points / follow-up ideas:

· Can we leverage similar story telling and presentation techniques when presenting our capabilities to clients?

· Is there a way we can show brand ROI in a similarly engaging fashion?

o Show patient participation in programs from sign-up through Rx redemption

o Show patient behavior change modeling (reach trends)

More information on Hans:

Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the west. In fact, most of the third world is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.

What sets Rosling apart isn’t just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You’ve never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling’s hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.

Rosling’s presentations are grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling takes this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster’s flair.

Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.)

"Rosling believes that making information more accessible has the potential to change the quality of the information itself."
Business Week Online