Tag Archive for Targets

Virtual 3-D Desktop Targets Medicine, Education

Some organizations are looking to a new form of virtual reality to conduct research, educate students and accomplish medical tasks.

Take the Bullis Charter School, a kindergarten through junior-high school in Los Altos, Calif., which is building a fabrication lab (FabLab) that will use technology complete with  a pair of 3-D glasses, a stylus and software integration — along with 3-D printers —  to allow students to create things in the 3-D space, and then materialize their creations once they’re complete.

Developed by a company called zSpace, the new product allows its users greater immersion in their work, while facilitating a work environment more in tune with the 3-D world people are used to. The leap from 2-D to high-resolution 3-D on a person’s desktop is so dramatic and beneficial, said Chief Technology Officer David Chavez, that this technology will eventually become a standard part of a computing work environment.

Bullis Charter’s Superintendent and Principal Wanny Hersey said via email that such technology supports the school’s mission of individualized learning. The school provides a wide variety classes and programs, from things like Lego robotics to guitar, and this FabLab, she said, was a natural extension of the school’s mission to provide opportunities for their students to pursue their passions and discover new areas of interest.

At a cost of about $60,000 for equipment — which includes the zSpace system — the FabLab will give students a head start toward a career in IT or engineering, if that’s what they want, Hersey said.

“Students will now have the opportunity to use the latest technologies to create and test a prototype for their solution, in a process that mirrors what takes place here in the Silicon Valley,” she said, adding that traditional education models have not provided students with such opportunities, and the Bullis FabLab is an opportunity to provide their students an opportunity to learn by doing, while providing a model for other educational institutions to see what’s possible.

And across the country in New  York, the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine also is deploying a virtual lab using the system — which costs  about $4,000 —  that will allow students to perform autopsies on virtual cadavers.

“It’s going to make a lot of people a lot more productive. There’s no question about it,” Chavez said. “Our vision is to give this to everybody. And there’s no doubt in my mind it’s going to happen. It’s that significant.”

Any applications that involve imaging, he said, such as CT scans or MRI, would benefit tremendously by entering a 3-D interface.

As seen in the video below, the system works in a fashion somewhat similar to what Tony Stark uses in Iron Man to virtually build and perfect his suits — but perhaps a very, very early iteration. People use a stylus to pull objects out of screens into the air in front of them, rotate objects and perform various other spatial tasks, and sometimes share the vision with another user wearing their own pair of 3-D glasses, as the system is designed for collaboration both locally and remotely.

What using the technology is like is difficult to explain, Chavez said. “I tell people, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’ It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever worked on. I’ve been making things in Silicon Valley for almost 30 years now, and this is the most exciting. I’ve never seen anything elicit such reaction from people. … It’s almost impossible to set people’s expectations too high.”

And the benefits in the educational and medical field are tremendous, Chavez said.

“They think students will be more immersed,” he said, noting that students will spend more time because, in the case of the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine,  virtual cadavers have many advantages over a real cadaver.  “If you make make a mistake,” Chavez said, “you just put it back.”

Just as with any virtual system, the zSpace 3-D system allows for functions like adding or removing layers to an image, turning it or undoing a mistake — only everything is in 3-D.

Additionally, the zSpace system provides users with 1920 x 1080 resolution as they sit at a desk and use a stylus, whereas traditional virtual reality uses a “cave” that the user must physically walk into while wearing a headset and pointing a device at the walls, he said. The ability to sit at a desk provides comfort and precision, while making collaboration much easier, he added.

“It’s just the beginning,” he said. “It’s our first product. Some people say, ‘Wow! That’s really cheap for what you get’ and other people say it needs to be a lot lower [in price] for mass penetration.”

And, Chavez says, both of those things are true.

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NYC Targets Teen Pregnancy with Mobile Phone Game

A new campaign launched last week by the New York City Human Resources Administration is making waves thanks to its frank depiction of the harsh realities of unplanned teen pregnancy. 

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention campaign combines ads designed by the city’s Office of Communications and Marketing with social media, video and even an interactive texting game. 

The campaign’s ads, which appear on buses and subway trains, pull no punches. The ads (one of which is shown at left) feature distraught-looking children and provocative messages such as “Dad, you’ll be paying to support me for the next 20 years,” and “I’m twice as likely to not graduate high school because you had me as a teen.” 

In a clever appeal to the target demographic, the campaign also includes a “choose your own adventure” style texting game. By texting NOTNOW to 877877, anyone can play the game, which has you choosing to act on behalf of either Louis or Anaya, two fictitious 16-year-olds who are dating.

The game begins with Anaya’s discovery that she is pregnant. Once a player chooses either Louis or Anaya, the game sends text message scenarios with two choices. Each choice leads to other scenarios, which generally illustrate the difficulties of teen pregnancy. 

The game has been criticized by several media outlets. The New York Daily News deemed the effort a “Shame Campaign,” while an article on The Today Show’s website decried the game for apparently failing to offer abortion as a solution — and claiming that the Louis character demeans Anaya in one scenario, supposedly calling her a “fat loser.”

Government Technology contacted the city to answer questions about the game and for a response to the criticisms, but received no reply by press time. 

So I decided to try the game myself, twice as Louis and once as Anaya.

First, as Louis, I made only what seemed to be the best choices:

NYC: DYK as a teen you can call 311 for sexual health care services and contraception near you? Text “more” to play a game.

ME: More

NYC: Hey my name is Louis – my GF Anaya is pregnant! Prom is coming up and she’s not going, should I stay in with Anaya or go to Prom? Reply “PromYes” or “PromNo”

ME: PromNo

NYC: Can’t believe I missed Prom! I need more time with my boys! Should I go shoot hoops w/ them or go w/ Anaya to the doc? Reply “Doc” or “Hoop”

ME: Doc

NYC: I saw the sonagram and still can’t believe I am going to be a father. I need to provide for the baby, should I get a job? Reply “Yes” or “No”

ME: Yes

NYC: Just failed Math and I might not graduate. Should I try to pass Math or get my GED later? Reply “Math” or “GED”

ME: Math

NYC: I’m doing OK in school, can’t wait till I’m done. But Anaya needs more money for the baby – should I get a job or focus on my future? Text “Job” or “Future”

ME: Job

NYC: Louis graduated H.S., but had to put his life on hold after that. Now, he can’t afford to go to college, and has a lot less free time. Text “Done”

Next I tried the game with Louis making what, to me, were the worst possible choices. 

NYC: Hey my name is Louis – my GF Anaya is pregnant! Prom is coming up and she’s not going, should I stay in with Anaya or go to Prom? Reply “PromYes” or “PromNo”

ME: PromYes

NYC: Prom was great, but Anaya won’t talk to me. She’s even ignoring me in school. Should I get her a gift and say sorry? Text “Gift” or “NoGift”

ME: NoGift

NYC: Anaya and I are over! But I am still going to be a great dad. Should I start buying baby clothes or buy new shoes? Reply “Clothes” or “Shoes”

ME: Shoes

NYC: I’m rocking my new kicks, but I’m behind on child support. Should I work overtime to pay off child support or go out with friends? Text “Child” or “Friends”

ME: Friends

NYC: Got a warning letter from the gov’t. They said there’d be “legal consequences” if I don’t pay my debt. What should I do? Text “Ignore” or “Respond”

ME: Ignore

NYC: Louis had his driver license suspended for not paying child support! Now he has to apply for a work-only permit just to get to his job & school. Text “Done”

Finally, I attempted the game as Anaya, meaning I had to imagine what I would choose were I a pregnant, 16-year-old girl. 

NYC: OMG! My BF Louis and I got pregnant. He was going to take me to prom. Now I will look huge in my dress. Should I go? Text “Yes” or “No”

ME: Yes

NYC: My BFF called me a “loser” at prom. I was devastated. Now she’s texting me. Should I text her back? Reply “TextYes” or “TextNo”

ME: TextYes

NYC: My friend says I should get a job to pay for the baby. Should I be a waitress or a cashier? Text “Wait” or “Cash”

ME: Cash (note: I figured that job has more stability)

NYC: Being a cashier is tough – pregnancy makes me tired. After work, should I finish my math homework or just go to sleep. Text “Math” or “Sleep”

ME: Math

NYC: Got a B in Math! But I’m nervous about how I’ll pay for my baby. My `rents won’t talk to me. Should I call my sis for advice? Text “Call” or “NoCall”

ME: Call

NYC: You finished 8th! (note: no ranking system was ever conveyed). Louis pays child support. In NY, you must pay child support until the kid is 21 or face losing your license & possible jail time. 

The game ended, and I was invited to invite my friends to play. The scenarios I encountered seemed random and illogical, making it appear as if the entire campaign is less about informing teens about what to do should they become pregnant and more about scaring them away from the risky behavior to begin with.

I also did not encounter the “fat loser” insult The Today Show claimed to have discovered; it’s possible the offensive word was removed since it was reported.   

Despite the campaign’s widespread criticism, a reader poll on The Today Show‘s blog post that asked what readers think of the anti-teen pregnancy ads showed that most think the ads are good. Of the nearly 17,500 votes on the morning of March 11, only 14 percent of readers said they did not like them. 

Whether the same can be said for the mobile game is not yet determined. 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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Startup Targets Foster Child Health Records

An IT startup is tackling the problem of logistics when it comes to the health records of foster children. While most states are supposed to forward paper-based health records when a foster child is relocated, the records are sometimes lost or never sent at all. A cloud-based records system to track children as they enter the foster care system is being developed by AboutOne in Paoli, Pa., MedCityNews reported.

The system, which is being piloted with the Philadelphia Department of Health and Human Services and the Child Welfare League of America, will help ensure that records are updated more frequently and stored securely in the cloud. An initial $50,000 is being raised using the crowdfunding website IndieGogo.

“Once we have taken lessons learned from this, we will make the system available to all cities and states,” said AboutOne founder Joanne Lang. The company is leveraging its existing cloud-based patient record platform to build this system. 

One challenge in developing such a system is navigating complex medical confidentiality laws, which vary from state to state. Ventura County, Calif., among others, is experimenting with health information exchange programs that allow caregivers and healthcare providers to share information.

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