A perfect Vine video?

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I visited The Grove — a rather celebrated shopping center, replete with Apple Store and Nike Running store among others. In any event, at the center, there is a fancy fountain that is musically coordinated. Playing with Vine, I managed to cut an almost seamless video… with a great degree of luck. Hope you’ll enjoy!

Chimpanzee AI – Memory Experiment to Blow Your Mind

Here is a 10-minute video that had me giggling, at first, then laughing blissfully out loud. This video is from the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University in Japan, where scientists have managed to train a chimpanzee named AI (Artificial Intelligence?) to count and, well, show off his memory skills. [In fact there are 6 chimpanzees that have all been trained to the same levels]. What particularly amused me was the nonchalant, almost ADD-like, attitude, complete with non-stop snacking that accompanied these experiments. The chimp’s behaviour would seem to indicate that the exercise was “child’s play.” The same could not be said for the stalwart human beings attempting to ape the chimpanzee.

I have a few questions/comments to make about this video:
1/ Can the chimpanzee be made to understand the value of the numbers?
2/ What does the baby chimp pick up in the exercise?
3/ Clearly, our own minds have not reached their maximum capacity.

Take a view and drop me your thoughts!

Chimpanzee AI from Javed on Vimeo.

You can also play the game yourself here, to see how good your own memory is. Since the site is in Japanese, here are the instructions before you go to the site: 1. Touch ‘start’ 2. The numbers 3-2-1 will pop up on the screen. Immediately following the number 1, several numbers will flash on the screen for barely one second. 3. Memorize the numbers’ position on the screen then click the circles from the smallest to the biggest number. 4. At the end of game, the computer will cheekily tell you in years, how old your brain is. http://flashfabrica.com/f_learning/brain/brain.html

You have to admire the researchers who have patiently enabled this experiment. For further reading: a Dec 2007 article in The Guardian and the Kyoto Research Institute website. Also, a quick “news” report on ABC.

Credits to Brain, Mind, Consciousness & Learning blog from Professor Javed Alam for allowing me to discover AI.

Tetris helps in trauma therapy — But what about kids’ memories?

Tetris Video Game

Via Sciences Humaines, a very insightful and thorough French magazine, I read [this article in the aug-sept 2009 issue] about how the video game, Tetris, has been identified as helping trauma victims recover. A study* by scientists at the University of Oxford discovered that Tetris might have a preventive action in helping to efface a [bad] recent memory. The study, published in January 2009, evaluated the memory of people who had just watched a scary [i.e. traumatic] movie and then played at least 10 minutes of Tetris. The theory more or less goes that, in the process of playing tetris, the memory bank is forced to do some gymnastics that effectively wipe out the ability to retain the traumatic events in the scary film. So, is the moral of the story, if you have just watched a scary movie with the kids, to allow them to play 10 minutes of a docile video game, such as Tetris, before going to bed? I imagine not. Whatever the therapeutic nature for medical purposes — and I surely hope that Tetris may be a useful solution — I think that a further study would also be worthwhile if directed at the impact on children’s memory banks.

My feeling is that, if you evaluate the effects of video games played right after doing homework, you will likely have the same type of phenomenon going on! I believe that the visual stimulation, however docile or violent, will likely have a similar “anaesthetising” effect on the child’s capacity to retain information learned in homework. There has been ample work on the impact of playing one game over and over again, as well as the obvious influence of violent games. But, what of docile games?

Anyone have empirical evidence on the impact of even docile video games on children’s memories right after doing homework?


*The study is entitled: “Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science.” by Emily A. Holmes*, Ella L. James, Thomas Coode-Bate, Catherine Deeprose, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Available for reading here via Plos One.

Television Viewership Still Rising; Reading Too?

Television viewership still risingTelevision and Internet viewing versus dwindling attention span…

I was stunned to see that television ogling by Americans, who are over 12 years old, has continued to rise despite the Internet. A census bureau study, published in the USA Today of June 25, 2008, said that since the year 2000, people over 12 years old are watching television 71 days/year, up 8 days, and spending 202 hours more per year (1704 hours vs 1502 in 2000). What’s not clear in the USA Today poll is whether television via the Internet has been included. Then, between video games and Internet, the American adult is giving new meaning to screen capture.

And, it would be interesting to then compare book sales (which of course do not necessarily mean book reading) during the same period. This Publishers.org site, via the Association of American Publishers, says that “U.S. publishers had net sales of $25 billion in 2007; a 3.2 percent increase from 2006 with a compound growth rate of 2.5 percent per year since 2002.” Naturally, this is no indication of whether people are actually reading more (dollar value is not indicative of units; and there is no neutralisation of the population increase). While internet and television can allow for “zapping” behaviour, reading in byte sizes is hardly propitious for a good read; and with reduced time, it seems hardly likely that reading activity will increase. Then again, is reading on the Internet (news stories, stories, blogs, etc.) viable reading?

Emirates Airline: Superlatives for flight to Dubai

Emirates Airline Lovemark?Emirates Airline Customer ServiceWow! I felt like I actually rediscovered the pleasure of traveling yesterday. And, ironically, I did so going on holidays in the economy class of Emirates Airline, on a brand new Boeing 777-300ER. Expectations were totally outpaced. I was left utterly and positively surprised, almost regretting the fact the flight was ONLY seven hours long… That sums up what I have to say about my very first Emirates Airline flight, EK074 from Paris to Dubai.

Ensconced in row 21 with the family, I can only shake my head at the extent of the superior performance that Emirates Airline (EK) provided. If I were a competitor of theirs, I would be worried. From a business standpoint, when you take efforts to know what the ‘competition’ is doing or offering, you can get a wicked surprise. I suspect that if American Airlines (United Airlines has a best-in-class partner in Singapore Airlines) or Air France (which generally I enjoy very much) have fully checked out the state of advancement of Emirates Airline, they should be scurrying to invest. The boom in oil prices and the economies in the Middle East are obviously helping EK. In 2007, according to the Gulf News (Apr 20, 2008 article by Abel Ali), Middle East passenger traffic was +11.7%, and up a record +19.2% in December. EK’s ability to invest in state-of-the-art planes (just to absorb rising demand), as well as their efforts on customer service (and the training that goes behind it) will create a significant competitive advantage due to the life cycles of planes and the difficulty to change a corporate culture (not to mention a hideous industry climate?). In the case of EK, according to their website, they have been growing at 20% annually and have recorded every year since its 3rd year of conception (it was started in 1985).

In any event, this type of gap in performance will make a difference in my next booking. I have to believe that a superior Emirates Airline product will contribute to the success of Dubai, benefiting from its opportunistic location as a hub. [The airport works 24/7 and was absolutely bustling with activity when we landed at 1 a.m.]

EEmirates Airlines ICE Entertainment Systemvery economy class seat on this new Emirates Airline plane offers:
* A complete on-demand set of films (multiple categories), games, sitcoms and news… (As good as any good Business Class). Called ICE, the entertainment system has a digital wide screen option.
* A USB socket (never saw that in any business class before) — that anticipates a usage of the personal console as a personal computer.
* Electrical outlet (which is far from a gimme in business)
* A slick multi-size cup holder
* Coat hook on the side (so the jacket doesn’t hang between your legs). Smart.

Among the multiple surprises, we were allowed to fire up the videos while on the ground (I therefore didn’t even notice that we took off 30 minutes late). And we were able to watch the video throughout takeoff and landing. Unheard of, normally.

The kids were offered a whole kit of goodies — hand puppets, teddy bear, crayons, books and more… Between the goodies and the personal entertainment system, the kids felt like they were in Disney…

The kids also got a special dinner, including a Mars bar and a toothbrush…

The main screen featured the viewing from a camera attached to the airplane nose. It was not the first time I have seen this, but I say it is part of best practices. For the remainder of the flight there was a simulated following of the flight over the various geographies.

At the same time as Alexandra said she liked the crackers, I mentioned to the flight attendant that the Shiraz wine was good. Both of us were promptly re-served without even asking. Another surprise.

Even dinner was a result. With a choice between lamb and chicken, Yendi and I both chose the lamb stew (“tender cooked pieces of lamb served in a rich coriander jus”) which turned out to be a wonderfully zesty (and spicy) dish. I suspect that unadventurous palettes might have stumbled.

As I went past the business class seats, I noticed that they featured the same poorly located headphone socket as the one on the KLM flight I took a couple of weeks ago (prior blog post). So, not everything is perfect…

Moral of the story:
* innovation works (in different forms)
* great training of the staff is visible (and great recruitment, too, on YouTube)
* better to keep an eye on the competition

I will report back after the 3 other flights that we have on EK to see how consistent the service is (knowing that Dubai-Nairobi is surely an inferior route). Will see if it deserves lovemark status!

Anyway, here’s to making travel a childish pleasure. Anyone else know of an airline that can surprise thus?

Do you know about any other company taking an industry by storm?

France seeking to open advertising rules on national television

I am reading with interest the debate in France about “liberalizing” the rules around advertising on television. Both the advertisers (behind the Union des Anonceurs) and Patrick de Carolis (President of France Televisions) have asked to relax the “out of date” rules that, among other consequences, have caused TV media prices to climb 10% per year because of a lack of supply which, in turn, has caused pent up demand. And this, despite the arrival of new stations, such as via TNT.

If, for example, regular programs (including sports coverage) are permitted to have one more commercial break per hour, the ad minutes/hour could go back up from 8 to 12 (to recall the context that the Trautmann Law of 2000 cut the minutes in France from 12 to 8 – See Acrimed writeup in French). The magazines are complaining, but it feels more like two losers squabbling. (To qualify my comment, I refer to Google’s ever growing $9B in ad dollars, the groundwork of DoubleClick ($3B) and the open territory offered on YouTube).

The real question, to refer to Joe Jaffe’s premise (Life after the 30 second spot), is what content will advertisers be providing to warrant keeping hold of the viewers on television. With 1.5 hours more of advertising air time per day, will the content improve sufficiently to compete with the 1.5 hours less of TV programming… that, in turn, must seek greater content to compete with alternative objects of desire (Internet, video games, etc.)?

A debate to be followed.

Source: Figaro article “Coupure Publicité: la pression monte”. See Orange writeup.

Serious games – innovations in France

You may have heard of the notion of “serious games”… edutainment in its latest form. You play, and you don’t even see the time pass as you learn. Have a few examples of positively interesting games, in part courtesy of Le Monde article yesterday. (the examples are all in French, sorry!)

1) France has a game helping to learn about how to manage France’s national budget! Cyber Budget I am most impressed… for such a dull, yet important topic. Lots of fun interactive games sprinkled throughout…some of which are based on classic video games. Watch out for the press!

2) In a less constructive way (from McD’s corporate POV), there is McDonald’s video game… try it (in French)! You will learn what you don’t want to know every time you go to Mickey D’s–from a hacker’s pov. Try to spur the sales and profitability of McD’s.

It’s great to see France pioneering in this field (obviously many other countries have examples… which would love to hear about!).