Eye-tracking devices will read your thoughts

Continuing the theme of ubiquitous surveillance an dour complicity in allowing this invasion through our addiction to the use of the technology we expose ourselves to marketers relentless pursuit,  from smartplanet by Amy Kraft see also Facial Monitoring: The all-telling eye

The way you read things offers a lot of information about who you are. Blinking, the dilation of pupils, settling on a word for a fraction of a second longer–it all means something. And to marketers who are trying to understand what consumers want, eye-tracking devices might be key.

A few companies are developing applications to attach eye-tracking devices to computers and smartphones to bring this technology into the mainstream market.

Apple has already filed a patent for a 3-D eye-tracking user interface for use in iPhones and iPads. And the European company Senseyeplans on installing eye-tracking software in smartphones next year.

Slate reports:

“This information will be collected, analyzed and resold to hundreds of companies–advertisers, data analytics providers, and others–across the digital ecosystem in what the industry calls the ‘mobile marketing value chain.’ In theory, they will be anonymous, ‘nonpersonal’ data. But, in practice, the anonymity will be easy to penetrate.”

Of course, there are privacy concerns. By now, we’re all too familiar with companies collecting data without our consent. Facebook, Google and Twitter have all done it. But there never seemed to be any dire repercussions for those transgressions.

Slate’s John Villasenor says: “Today, when we read something online, our thoughts are still our own. We should enjoy it while it lasts.”

Photo via flickr/Mikleman

Are e-books bad for long-term memory?

Some research to let you rethink – should you throw out all those books that are cluttering up your  post-modern minimalist space yet – your “pad” – once hip before it acquired  an “i-” and “kindle” was something you did to a fire. From Smart Planet by Amy Kraft

As the world becomes more and more digital, Kindles and Nooks are replacing classroom textbooks as learning aids. But new research shows that students should hold onto their hardcovers if they want to remember what they read.

Studies show that people have a harder time remembering facts and recalling the names of characters and details when reading an e-book. Researchers think this has to do with the way we evolved to remember things.

In one study by Kate Garland, a psychology lecturer at the University of Leicester in England, participants got a crash course in economics–a subject nobody understood. Those who were instructed to learn on an e-book required more repetition of the information before they could retain it. Participants learning on a hard book were able to understand the material more fully, meaning they were able to know the material so well that it just came to them.

Researchers think the problem with e-books could have to do with the lack of physical landmarks or associations that a person’s memory can use to help recall information. After all, it is just a blank screen with words that you read down. There is no right or left side of the page and some e-books don’t even have page numbers.

A recent article in Time magazine reports, “This seems irrelevant at first, but spatial context may be particularly important because evolution may have shaped the mind to easily recall location cues so we can find our way around. That’s why great memorizers since antiquity have used a trick called the ‘method of loci’ to associate facts they want to remember with places in spaces they already know, like rooms in their childhood home.”

Other studies by Jakob Nielsen, Web usability consultant and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, show that smaller screens make reading material less memorable and typing or scrolling back to search for something is more distracting than turning the page. Nielsen told Time magazine: “Human short-term memory is extremely volatile and weak. That’s why there’s a huge benefit from being able to glance [across a page or two] and see [everything] simultaneously.”

Further studies are needed to show the types of learning material best suited for digital books. But it does make me wonder if an e-book called Improve Your Memory actually works