Knowledge Media to Aid Multimedia Communications and Human Cognition


   Scott Jenson   Ron Baecker, Univ. of Toronto

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design

Knowledge media were anticipated although not named as such in seminal papers by Vannevar Bush in 1945 and JCR Licklider in 1960.  This talk reviews 40 years (1966-2006) of my work in the design of knowledge media for multimedia communications, and previews 40 years (2001-2041) of work in the design of knowledge media that aid human cognition.

The review of tools for multimedia communications begins with a seminal interactive computer animation system, digresses to a landmark example of algorithm animation, returns to the main thread with tools for creating and publishing structured digital videos (including our current ePresence Interactive Media system), and concludes with an attempt to abstract lessons learned.

I will then describe current work (funded by the Alzheimer’s Association) in the participatory design of DVD-based multimedia biographies for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and their families.  Result from this last project are aids to cognition, specifically, the memory process of reminiscence by AD or MCI individuals.

Since demographers forecast significant increases in the numbers of senior citizens and in the prevalence of cognitive impairments caused by afflictions such as AD, it is compelling to consider how information technology, and especially advances in mobile, ubiquitous, and multimedia computing, could allow us to create powerful new aids to cognition.  I have therefore begun a research programme to envision, prototype, design, construct, and evaluate powerful and flexible electronic cognitive aids.  These should help people, including individuals who are aging and who have cognitive impairments, carry out activities of daily living; remember names, faces, and appointments; find objects of importance, such as glasses, wallets, and keys; understand and remember procedural instructions, such as taking medications; reminisce about their lives; and communicate with distant loved ones.

I shall then describe one other current project, the work of PhD student Mike Wu with individuals who have anterograde amnesia and their families, and conclude with mention of several projects that illustrate different points in the design space of technological aids to cognition.  Of particular interest is whether the technology is intended as a prosthesis, or as an aid to rehabilitation, or most ambitiously as a mechanism for prevention, e.g., helping to delay cognitive decline.

Ron Baecker is Professor of Computer Science, Bell University Laboratories Chair in Human-Computer Interaction, founder and Chief Scientist of the Knowledge Media Design Institute at the University of Toronto, and Affiliate Scientist with Baycrest’s Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit.  Baecker is Principal Investigator of the Canada-wide Network for Effective Collaboration Technologies through Advanced Research (NECTAR), has been named one of the 60 Pioneers of Computer Graphics by ACM SIGGRAPH, has been elected to the CHI Academy by ACM SIGCHI, and has been awarded the Canadian Human Computer Communications Society Achievement Award.  He has published over 125 papers and articles, is author or co-author of 4 books, and has founded and run 2 software companies.  His current University of Toronto “entrepreneurial” venture ( develops and distributes the open source ePresence Interactive Media system.

View this talk on line at CS547 on Stanford OnLine

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