The Augmented Memory Championship

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#1 7 December, 2017 - 13:04
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The Augmented Memory Championship


[copied from my blog, so please excuse the rambling digressions...]

So, I was in Lancaster University, giving a keynote speech on "A Mnemonist's Perspective on Memory" at a memory-themed workshop last week. I mumbled my way through a five-minute talk directed at an audience of science people (all of them with PhDs and probably loads of the extra special secret kind of qualifications you get after a PhD if you're really clever) and then resigned myself to two days of being bewildered by clever science-people ideas about memory that would mean nothing to me at all. But as it turned out, we spent the second afternoon making things with pipe-cleaners, coloured paper and other primary-school craft supplies, so they'd obviously geared the whole thing to my own level of intellectual development.

But while there, I found out that the Creative Arts building has two 'pods' outside it in the scenic woodland across the footpath from the main building (which is itself very scenic, with a wooden bridge over a moat to get to the front door, and lots of ducks). The pods (used as meeting rooms) are circular domes, little things just able to accommodate a central round table with seating around it for maybe six people at a squeeze. There's two round windows in each one and a circular skylight on top. Oh, wow, I said, this is just such the perfect location for the next UK Memory League Championship! Imagine the video footage we could put on YouTube of the two pairs of competitors walking through the woods to their Isolation Pods, with squirrels, ducks and who knows what else happily wishing them good luck on their way!

(When I mentioned this to Nelson, he said "Sounds great, did you take pictures?" and I said "Oh yes, I could have done that, couldn't I? I mean, I did have a smart-phone in my pocket and everything. But I'm still unused to the idea of mobile phones, so it never occurred to me." I might have to go back there and take pictures I can show to you all. Or maybe find them on the internet.)

So I mentioned this to the university people, and they said it would be great to have the competition there - especially if we could do it in conjunction with the other event we spent that afternoon discussing!

See, the main theme of this workshop was how technology could assist human memory. And a great way to promote and develop this idea for the future would be to have an Augmented Memory Championship! It would work like this - teams, consisting of a memoriser and their 'pit crew' of scientists and technologians, would compete against each other in disciplines that would combine human memory skills with the best assistance technology could provide.

In some disciplines, the technology would be used in the memorisation process, followed by an unassisted human memoriser recalling by themself. So for example, we could do speed cards in which (we're projecting into the future now, rather than anything available today) the memoriser picks up the cards, drops them into a hopper which the computer immediately reads and converts into an image (with sounds and any other sensations the memoriser might want) according to the memoriser's specifications, and plays it on the memoriser's VR headset. The whole process takes five seconds, and the memoriser has seen/heard/felt everything they need in order to know exactly what the sequence of cards was.

Then there's the disciplines where the memorisation is technology-free, but then the memoriser is able to use technology to prompt their recall - displaying the appropriate images to fill in the gaps in recall, pointing out pre-programmed instances of possible confusion, things like that.

And then there's the forgetting competition (because technology to help people forget is a goal as well as to help people remember), in which one team tries to memorise and the other tries to use as many technological means as they can to make the memoriser forget. All sorts of possible strategies there, and it might just hit on something that has a universal application...

And a team memorising competition, where people and technology (for example) watch a video and prepare to answer questions about what they've seen. Technology can be programmed to pick up certain details, the humans can co-ordinate with it to make sure everything's been covered by someone or some thing.

This is something that needs to happen - who would be interested in taking part? Memorisers seeking scientists and scientists seeking memorisers would be matched together by some sort of academic dating agency, and all the academics at the workshop were very confident that the whole event could get: 1) Funding, that all-important thing in the academic world; 2) The possibility of a really good academic paper about it; and 3) Genuine possibility that a spin-off from this competition could turn into a genuine new development that could really improve human life in general. I love it!

7 December, 2017 - 14:16
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Joined: 1 year 6 months ago

Quote:
In some disciplines, the technology would be used in the memorisation process, followed by an unassisted human memoriser recalling by themself. So for example, we could do speed cards in which (we're projecting into the future now, rather than anything available today) the memoriser picks up the cards, drops them into a hopper which the computer immediately reads and converts into an image (with sounds and any other sensations the memoriser might want) according to the memoriser's specifications, and plays it on the memoriser's VR headset. The whole process takes five seconds, and the memoriser has seen/heard/felt everything they need in order to know exactly what the sequence of cards was.

At this point, why use a physical deck? Using a digitally shuffled pack of cards has much less "cool" factor but achieves pretty much the same thing with less cost, time, effort, and much less likehood to fail.

If I have this right, you want some software to generate a short video or image type of thing that can communicate the order of a whole deck of cards in 5 seconds? I can see several ways that this could speed up memorization but I don't think it is realistic to cram it into that small amount of time.

Quote:
Then there's the disciplines where the memorisation is technology-free, but then the memoriser is able to use technology to prompt their recall - displaying the appropriate images to fill in the gaps in recall, pointing out pre-programmed instances of possible confusion, things like that.
I can see this being a useful thing to study but where is the competition in this? Would there be a thing where you get a limited number of "hints" and so memorizing can be done with more risky times and more holes because the hints exist?
Quote:
And then there's the forgetting competition (because technology to help people forget is a goal as well as to help people remember), in which one team tries to memorise and the other tries to use as many technological means as they can to make the memoriser forget. All sorts of possible strategies there, and it might just hit on something that has a universal application...

Weird as hell but sounds like it could be a blast.

8 December, 2017 - 09:01
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Joined: 6 years 5 months ago

The aim of the game is to adapt technology to a given task, rather than to adapt the task to suit the technology - since the traditional challenge starts with a real deck of cards sitting on the desk in front of the memoriser, the first step is to make a machine that can read the cards quickly. And I think five seconds is a good time to aim for - it would have the advantage of being able to present a whole complex picture/experience at once, rather than building it one piece at a time. The memoriser could take it in, then process it in their own brain after turning the machine off. :-)

And the aim with the recall is to develop a technology that can prompt memory - obviously, it's not allowed to see what's been memorised, but it has to help the human recover memories as much as possible. It needs some creative ideas behind it, but there are all kinds of possibilities...

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