Are saccades (rapid eye movements) synchronized to speech during lipreading?

November 14th, 2013

Now I am reading the book “Visual Thinking for Design” by Colin Ware (ISBN 978-0-12-370896-0).  The book starts by describing the way the brain processes visual information.  Essentially, the brain processes it chunk by chunk, where the chunks are separated by saccades (rapid eye movements).

Since my V2V project requires finding a way to translate auditory information into visual information for processing by the brain, I’m looking also for the corresponding information about the way a brain processes auditory information.

One question, which arose in my mind, as I am reading the aforementioned book is as follows.

Assume a hearing (or hard of hearing) lipreader, who follows a speech by listening and uses lipreading as an auxiliary aid to filter out environmental noises and other speakers.  Given that the lipreader’s eyes perform saccades as usual, are the saccades synchronized to times at which the speaker produces vowels rather than consonants?

And would the saccades still by synchronized to vowel production periods also for a deaf lipreader?

What to do if the notetaker’s mom passes on few minutes before the meeting is due to start?

October 4th, 2013

Or: How not to shame the company?

Or: My first firsthand experience with remote notetaking.

Last Thursday I was in a meeting of a technological consulting workshop.  In this workshop, technical people advise people with disabilities, who need technological solutions to overcome or workaround their disabilities.  A notetaker was summoned to notetake the meeting in my behalf.

Few minutes before the meeting was due to start, the notetaker notified Efrat, the meeting organizer, that she has to cancel because her mom has passed on a moment ago.  Another notetaker has to be summoned.  However, Dina, the nearest available notetaker is about 40Km away and won’t be able to arrive at the meeting on time.

What to do?

I have two alternatives.  One is to give up participation in the meeting and go back home.  The other is to participate even if I lose almost all information conveyed during the meeting.  This time I chose the second alternative.  It is like lifting a wheelchair-bound person upstairs because the accessible ramp is temporarily blocked.

Since I’ll live with partial information loss, Dina suggested to look into remote notetaking.  At this method, one puts a microphone in the meeting room and the notetaker hears the discussions through it.  She takes notes at home and the notes go to a laptop in the meeting room through the Internet.  However we were not technologically organized to have remote notetaking.  We did not expect to need it.

There was a suggestion that the notetaker take notes and send them by E-mail to me after the meeting.  I disliked the suggestion.

Another solution was to use an Instant Messaging (IM) application.  The IM application that I use at home is Pidgin, which runs under Linux.  In this application, one can change preferences so that it’ll save chats in log files.  Can chats be saved also in Dina’s or Efrat’s computers?  I did not check it but it is not that important for me.  What’s sure is that on my smartphone I have only WhatsApp.  Dina has no Skype.  Turned out that she has Google Talk, and so does Efrat.  Thus, Efrat contributed her laptop to the cause of remote notetaking.  The microphone problem was solved by using an Android cellphone, which is connected cellularly to Dina’s cellphone.

I did not expect my first firsthand experience with remote notetaking to happen under such circumstances.

In summary, we escaped the shame of technology consultants, who fail to solve a technological problem needed to make a meeting accessible.  The setup worked better than I expected.  Of course, there was a problem that the notetaker did not hear people who sat far away from the Android, but Efrat summarized what they said.  Overall I felt I am on top of things almost all the meeting.

מה עושים כשאמא של המתמללת הולכת לעולמה כמה דקות לפני תחילת המפגש?

או: איך לא לבייש את הפירמה

או: התנסות הבכורה שלי בתמלול מרחוק

ביום חמישי האחרון הייתי במפגש של סדנת יעוץ עמיתים וטכנולוגיה. בסדנה זו נותנים ייעוץ לאנשים עם מוגבלויות שצריכים פתרונות טכנולוגיים כדי להתגבר או לעקוף את מוגבלויותיהם. למפגש הוזמנה עבורי מתמללת.

כמה דקות לפני תחילת המפגש, המתמללת הודיעה לאפרת, מזמנת המפגש, על ביטול כי אמא שלה הלכה לעולמה לפני רגע. צריך להזמין מתמללת אחרת.  אבל דינה, המתמללת הפנויה הקרובה ביותר, נמצאת במרחק 40 ק”מ ולא תספיק להגיע למפגש בזמן.

מה עושים?

יש לי שתי חלופות. אחת היא לוותר על ההשתתפות במפגש ולחזור הביתה. השניה היא להשתתף במפגש אפילו אם אפסיד כמעט כל המידע שיועבר בו. הפעם בחרתי בחלופה השניה. זה כמו להעביר נכה, שמרותק לכסא גלגלים, במדרגות מפני שהשיפוע הנגיש לו חסום זמנית.

מכיוון שאחיה עם זה שאפסיד חלק מהמידע, דינה הציעה לבדוק אפשרות לתמלול מרחוק. בשיטה זו מציבים מיקרופון בחדר הישיבות והמתמללת שומעת את הנאמר באמצעותו. היא מתמללת בביתה והתמלול עובר ללאפטופ דרך האינטרנט. אבל אנו לא היינו מאורגנים טכנולוגית לבצע תמלול מרחוק. לא ציפינו לכך שיהיה צורך בכך.

היתה הצעה, שהמתמללת תתמלל ותעביר אלי את התמלול בדואר אלקטרוני אחרי המפגש. לא אהבתי את הרעיון.

פתרון אחר היה להשתמש בתוכנת מסרים מיידיים. התוכנה שאני משתמש בה בביתי למסרים מיידיים היא פידג’ין שרצה בסביבת לינוקס. בתוכנה זו יש אפשרות לשנות הגדרות כך שהיא תשמור את הצ’אטים בקובץ לוג. האם אפשר לבצע שמירה גם במחשבים של דינה או של אפרת? לא בדקתי אבל זה לא כל כך חשוב לי. מה שכן, יש לי רק וואטסאפ על הסמארטפון שלי. למתמללת אין סקייפ. התברר שיש לה גוגל טוק, וגם לאפרת. אפרת נידבה את הלאפטופ שלה למטרה זו. בעיית המיקרופון נפתרה על ידי שימוש באנדרואיד בשיחה סלולרית עם הפלאפון של דינה המתמללת.

לא פיללתי, שהתנסות הבכורה שלי בתמלול מרחוק תהיה בנסיבות כאלה.

לסיכום, ניצלנו מהבושה של יועצי טכנולוגיה שלא מצליחים לפתור בעיה טכנולוגית, שפתרונה דרוש כדי להנגיש מפגש. העסק עבד יותר טוב ממה שציפיתי. כמובן שהיתה מגבלה שהמתמללת לא שמעה אנשים שישבו רחוק מהאנדרואיד, אבל אפרת סיכמה לי בקצרה את דבריהם. בסך הכל הרגשתי שאני בעניינים כמעט כל המפגש.

How to exploit a revolutionary physical discovery?

May 29th, 2013

Suppose you have the good fortune to make a stunning physical discovery.  However, you are a practical person and would like to put your discovery to a practical use.  Where would you look for problems, which your new discovery can solve?

  1. Measure quantities more accurately than was possible before, or measure previously unmeasurable quantities (example: a sample/hold circuit based upon Josephson junctions).
  2. Non-destructive tests.
  3. Transport energy to long distances (such as superconductive materials).
  4. Transportation, including space transportation (such as various levitation forces).
  5. Improved electronic computers.
  6. Manufacturing much stronger materials.
  7. New energy sources (such as neutrino flows, if a good neutrino trap is ever developed).
  8. Synthesis of novel chemical materials.
  9. Separation of materials (to make very clean materials or simply to desalinize water).
  10. “Molecular engineering” - construction of 3D integrated circuits (or simply, manufacturing materials having layered structure).
  11. More efficient cooling (closer to Absolute Zero and/or easier to achieve a target temperature).

מה אפשר לעשות עם תגלית פיסיקלית מהפכנית?

נניח שהתמזל מזלך וגילית תגלית פיסיקלית מהפכנית.  עם זאת, הינך אדם מעשי והיית רוצה לנצל את תגליתך למטרה מועילה כלשהי.  איפה תחפש אחר בעיות שהתגלית החדשה שלך יכולה לפתור?

  1. פשוט למדוד דברים בצורה יותר מדוייקת ממה שהיה אפשר בעבר, או למדוד דברים שבכלל אי אפשר היה קודם למדדם (דוגמא: מעגל sample/hold המבוסס על צמתות Josephson).
  2. בדיקות לא הרסניות.
  3. העברת אנרגיה למרחקים גדולים (כמו חומרים על-מוליכים).
  4. תחבורה, כולל תחבורה בחלל (כמו כוחות levitation למיניהם).
  5. מחשבים אלקטרוניים משופרים.
  6. ייצור חומרים חזקים ביותר.
  7. מקורות אנרגיה חדשים (כגון שטף נאוטרינוס, אם יפתחו מלכודת-נאוטרינוס טובה).
  8. סינתיזה של חומרים כימיים חדשים.
  9. הפרדת חומרים (לייצור חומרים נקיים ביותר ו/או פשוט להתפלת מים).
  10. “הנדסה מולקולרית” - בניית מעגלים משולבים תלת-מימדיים (או פשוט ייצור חומרים הבנויים שכבות-שכבות).
  11. קירור יותר יעיל (יותר קרוב לאפס המוחלט ו/או יותר קל להגיע לטמפרטורת יעד מסוימת). 

Feedback From a Mainstreamed Deaf Student’s Classmate - For the First Time! (Hebrew)

May 13th, 2013

לראשונה - משוב מחברה לכיתה של חרש שלמד בשילוב אינדיבידואלי

הקדמה

המאמר הבא הינו מיוחד מאוד. אינני זוכר שראיתי אי פעם, בפורום כלשהו הדן בחינוך חרשים, משוב מחבריו לכיתה השומעים של חרש ששולב שילוב אינדיבידואלי בכיתה בבית ספר רגיל.

קרן היתה אחת מחברותי לכיתה בתיכון (והתיכון שלנו מתגאה בכך ששני חתני פרס נובל ואחד מנשיאי ישראל נמנים על בוגריו), וכעת היא גרה ועובדת בנורבגיה. אני חייב לה טובה תמורת התצפיות להלן.

נקודות הראות של קרן

קודם קצת רקע למה אני תומכת בהוראת שפת סימנים לילדים חרשים.

נקודת הראות שלי היא שיש לשפה מטרה עיקרית אחת, והיא תקשורת. אילוץ ילדים חרשים ללמוד שפה ראשונה בתהליך שהם עלולים לא להצליח בו, ישאיר אותם מתוסכלים וללא תקשורת. לימוד שפת סימנים הינו המפתח לתקשורת וללימוד שפה מדוברת. נקודת הראות השניה שלי היא שכולנו צריכים יותר מערוץ תקשורת אחד, והגבלת ילדים חרשים לשפת סימנים או לשפה מדוברת אינה יותר טובה מלומר שילדים בנורבגיה צריכים ללמוד רק נורבגית, אינך יכול להרחיק לכת בעולם בצורה זו.

הרקע של קרן

ועכשיו - לסיבות שהביאוני למחשבות האלה - אחותה של סבתי היתה חרשת, ולא היא ולא בני משפחתה למדו שפת סימנים. היא חיה כל חייה עם אחותה (סבתי) ונאלצה להיות תלויה בקרובי המשפחה שלה לכל דבר. היא לא היתה אידיוטית ולא היתה מוגבלת אבל אף אחד לא הכין אותה כך שתוכל להתמודד בעצמה עם הקהילה. זה עצוב וזה כזה בזבוז. היא היתה מוכשרת מאוד במלאכת יד וסריגה, ועבודותיה הופצו בקרב המשפחה המורחבת. יש לי עדיין שתי שמיכות מעשה ידיה. אם היו נותנים לה את הכלים הנכונים, היא היתה יכולה להצליח בעסק למכירת עבודות מלאכת יד, אבל מעולם לא ניתנה לה הזדמנות כזו.

תצפיותיה של קרן

ועכשיו, אליך בתור חבר לכיתה. אני חושבת, שכל חברינו לכיתה התרשמו מאוד משילובך ומיכולתך לתקשר, ועם זאת, אין ספק שהתנסיתי בכך שהיית מתוסכל ותוקפני כשראית “קבוצות” של חברים לכיתה שמשוחחים ביחד, כמעט כאילו חשבת שאם אנו לא מדברים אליך, אנו אומרים משהו עליך. היית נוהג להתפרץ לתוך “מעגל”, לטפוח לנו על הכתף ולשאל “מה אמרתם? מה אמרתם?” במבט לאחור אני חושבת שלמעשה היה זה חבל שאף אחד לא דרש מאיתנו, חבריך לכיתה, ללמוד גם שפת סימנים, כך שהאחריות והנסיונות לתקשורת יהיו דו-סיטריים. אינני יודעת אם זה נכון, אבל הרגשתי שלעתים קרובות היית מתוסכל מאוד ובודד בכיתה. אינני בטוחה אם אפשר להתייחס לזה כאל נסיון חיובי או שלילי למען או נגד שילוב, ולא ידעתי אפילו אם הבנת שפת סימנים מכיוון שהבנתי ששולבת בכיתות רגילות בכל השנים שהיית בבית ספר.

Guest Article: What to Expect from Forex Trading

May 9th, 2013

By: T.H.

If you’re thinking about trading currencies as a way to diversify your portfolio or as a means to supplement your income, you probably know all about the risk and reward potential. What you probably won’t know until you get started, is exactly how the industry works. Success in the world of currency trading, also known as foreign exchange or Forex trading, actually begins long before the first trade is placed.

In order to ensure a positive trading experience, traders must first choose the right Forex broker, from literally hundreds of brokers worldwide. Making the choice from such a large menu can be difficult, but there are ways to make it easier. Forex broker reviews, for example, can help traders get an understanding of what their options are. Bear in mind, however, that that won’t necessarily provide the truest picture as in some instances there may be some bias toward those brokers which remunerate the website for their “honest” assessment. How other traders rate their experiences with a specific broker is an alternative way to assess a Forex broker. But again, this may not provide the truest picture as you cannot know whether the trader is just expressing “sour grapes” for what would otherwise be construed as risky trade activity – in other words, the trader may have lost all his money because he didn’t know what he was doing in the first place. Therefore, diligent traders should make sure to read both types of evaluations, and to weigh their reliability carefully.

Once a trader has narrowed down his options, he can take them for a test drive by using each broker’s free demo account. Once you’ve got your demo set up you can start making trades, fine-tuning your strategy and seeing how it works with each broker.

The demo period is also a great time to assess the responsiveness of the Forex broker, so make sure to ask questions – lots and lots of questions about anything you are unsure of or want to know more about. What you want to gauge is not only how quickly your question was responded to, but also how thoroughly and comprehensively the response was. Was the response timely and did it satisfy you? When there’s real money at stake you don’t want to be left in limbo by some bimbo; if you need an answer, you need one that satisfies your needs appropriately.

The brokers’ fees are also things that you will need to take into consideration; most brokers build their fees into their spread, which is the difference in pips between the bid and ask price. Spread fees vary from broker to broker, and may seem insignificant at first blush but can add up over the long run; ideally, the smaller the spread the better for you. Your potential Forex broker might have other fees that you should be aware of so look for the Fee schedule on their website and ask your broker’s representative about anything that doesn’t sound right or simply for more information.

Once you’re comfortable with using the platform, and are okay with the spreads and fees and the responsiveness of the Forex broker’s team, now’s the time to consider funding your real account. But before you do that, it’s critical to understand that you should never risk any money that you cannot afford to lose. It’s a simple fact: Forex trading is risky and no Forex broker can guarantee that you will always win. In fact, the majority of Forex traders don’t profit as much as they’d like.

For this reason, Forex trading isn’t for everyone. If you can’t afford to lose some money, you should consider alternate investment opportunities. If you have a tendency to be hasty, you may want to consider strongly whether the volatile Forex market will play to your strengths or whether haste will cause you to lose your money too quickly.

It is absolutely critical to understand that currency trading isn’t about getting one good trade. It’s about maximizing profits and minimizing risks over the long run. How do you achieve all that? By paying attention to these “rules” of Forex trade:

  • Start small; 1% or 2% of your capital is generally a good amount to bet
  • Don’t be greedy; if you’re in the green, lock in or take your profit
  • Don’t get cocky; overconfidence is the quickest path to failure
  • Don’t be impatient; patience is not only a virtue it’s a necessity in Forex trading
  • Diversify your portfolio but don’t over-diversify; rely on only a few pairs to spread risk
  • Make good use of the Stop Loss feature
  • Cut your losses (don’t push back a Stop Loss!)
  • Learn from your mistakes

For a conscientious person, Forex trading can provide excellent opportunities for financial gain. But for those who are just looking for a quick buck, currency trading may not be the best way to go. When exploring your options, make sure to know your broker, know yourself and to make careful, educated decisions.

Feedback From a Mainstreamed Deaf Student’s Classmate - For the First Time!

May 5th, 2013

Introduction

The following article is very special.  I do not remember ever seeing, in any forum discussing deaf education, feedback from classmates of a mainstreamed deaf student.

Keren was one of my classmates at high school (and our high school boasts two Nobel Prize winners and a President of Israel among its graduates), and now she lives and works in Norway. She obliged me by providing the following observations.

Keren’s points of view

First a little background for why I support teaching deaf children sign language.

My point of view is that language has one major goal, which is communication. Forcing deaf children into a first language learning process that they may not succeed in, will leave them frustrated and without communication. Learning sign language is their key to communication and learning audio-verbal language. My other point of view is that we all need more than one channel of communication, and limiting deaf children to either sign language or aural-verbal language is no better than saying that children in Norway only need to learn Norwegian, you don’t get very far with that in the world today.

Keren’s background

And to the background for my thoughts - my great aunt (my grandmother’s sister) was deaf, and neither she nor her nearest family learned sign language. She lived her whole life together with her sister (my grandma) and had to rely on her relatives for everything. She was not an idiot, she was not an invalid, but nobody prepared her to be able to manage on her own in society. That is sad, and such a waste. She was very accomplished in handiwork, knitting and crochet, and her work was widely distributed in the extended family. I still have two blankets that she produced. If she had been given the right tools she could have run a successsful handiwork business, but she was never given that opportunity.

Keren’s observations

Then to you as a classmate. I think everybody in our class was very impressed by your integration and ability to communicate, and yet, I certainly experienced that you were frustrated and aggressive when you saw “groups” of classmates speaking together, nearly as if you thought that if we were not speaking to you, then we were saying something about you. You would break into a “circle” tap us on the shoulder and say “what did you say, what did you say?”. In hindsight I think it was actually a pity that one didn’t require that we classmates must also learn sign language, so that it could be a two-way responsibility to try to communicate. I do not know if it is true, but I felt that you were often very frustrated and alone in the class. I am a bit unsure if this can be seen as a postive or negative experience for or against integration, and I did not even know then if you understood sign language because I understood that you had been mainstreamed during all of your school years.

What really prevents us from making 20 thousand NIS a month?

April 5th, 2013

Those days there is a commotion in Israel due to a speech by Yair Lapid, the new Finance Minister, about Riki Cohen who earns 20 thousand NIS a month but cannot make ends meet due to various expenses of living in Israel.

Several Israelis do not reach income of 20 thousand NIS a month. Some of them nevertheless manage to make ends meet but their monthly savings are not enough to buy an apartment at reasonable time. Others do not succeed in making ends meet.

I propose that instead of being angry at Yair Lapid for his failure to know the situation of the lower socioeconomic classes in Israel - each one is to think, check and inquire what really prevents him from making 20 thousand NIS a month.

Usually the reason is a low-paying profession, and the blocking factor is the absence of ability to convert to another, better paying profession. But there are several other blocking factors, and it would be a swell idea if someone is to run a survey so that we’ll know why most Israelis cannot make 20 thousand NIS a month.

Several possible reasons:

  • No funds or time for vocational change course, or the course is held in a place which requires 3 hours commutation from home to course and back each day.
  • During high school years, I could not study, and after army service, while I can study, there is no time or appropriate organization.
  • The rabbi or ADMO”R forbade me from studying “secular studies” lest I sin and deviate from the way of the Holy Torah.
  • I am screwed because I am an Arab.
  • There is a good job in my profession but there is no reasonable public transportation from my home to the workplace, and I cannot move to live near the workplace.
  • My vocation is important for the community but due to some reason has a low pay (examples: primary school teacher, social worker, nurse, caregiver).
  • I have children who need to be taken care of but the regular work hours in my vocation are crazy so I cannot work in my well-paying profession.
  • I have a disability which causes employers not to want to give me a job even though I can do it well.
  • I have a medical problem which prevents me from working.

All this - under the assumption that we are speaking about industrious people, who want to honorably support themselves, rather than be parasites living off at the public expense. This assumption is correct for most people, but we still need to filter out the parasites.

The Python module for file type identification, called ‘magic’, is not standardized

March 3rd, 2013

I found the hard way that the API exported by the Python module ‘magic’ differs among different versions of the module.

The version installed when installing the Debian package ‘python-magic’ expects the following API:

import magic
mymagic = magic.open(magic.MAGIC_MIME_TYPE)
mymagic.load()
mtype = mymagic.file(inpfname)
print(”The MIME type of the file %s is %s” % (inpfname,mtype))

The version installed using ‘pip install python-magic’ expects the following API:

import magic
mymagic = magic.Magic(mime=True)
mtype = mymagic.from_file(inpfname)
print(”The MIME type of the file %s is %s” % (inpfname,mtype))

The following code allows the rest of the script to work the same way with either version of ‘magic’:

import magic
def build_magic():
  try:
    mymagic = magic.open(magic.MAGIC_MIME_TYPE)
    mymagic.load()
  except AttributeError,e:
    mymagic = magic.Magic(mime=True)
    mymagic.file = mymagic.from_file
  return(mymagic)
mymagic = build_magic()
mtype = mymagic.file(inpfname)
print(”The MIME type of the file %s is %s” % (inpfname,mtype))

Few thoughts about the American constitutional right to bear arms

December 15th, 2012

After the Connecticut elementary school massacre, there’ll be several calls for repealing the constitutional right to bear arms.

This article points out several aspects of this issue.  I do not have answers, yet.

On one hand, the right to bear arms is important for making it more difficult for an oppressive government to gain power.  On the other hand, this right is abused by insane people, who then commit massacres.  Common criminals are not part of the equation, because a group of armed criminals can always be countered by a bigger group of equally armed law abiding citizens.

One aspect, which seems to be overlooked by both sides of the argument, is the impact of technological advances.  Technological advances mean that arms are no longer the only means by which people and governments can hurt other people.  Such advances can be heavy armory (cannons, tanks, even A-bombs), cyberspace warfare (breaking into computers and cloud accounts, hacking one’s reputation in social networks), advanced radioactive/chemical/biological poisons, “smart dust” programmed to damage people it encounters, and nominally non-lethal weapons such as tasers.

Another aspect is the practicality of enforcing any bans on weapons.  The 3D printing technology will eventually make it impossible to control the spread of advanced weapons by controlling their points of manufacture.

The constitutional right to bear such advanced arms is not as clear-cut.  Neither is it clear whether constitutionally protected arms are effective against the new weapons.

The placebo effect

December 1st, 2012

I wonder if there is any research about the placebo effect itself.
Research questions:

  1. Under which circumstances, will the placebo effect be stronger?
  2. Which personality traits make someone more susceptible to the placebo effect?
  3. Is there correlation among hypnotizability (ability to get hypnotized) and susceptibility to the placebo effect?