Technology supporting performance, and an app launch by Duncan Babbage

People are applying technology to supporting cognitive performance in a wide range of contexts. In the health system, people are increasingly turning to ways to provide timely and accurate delivery of health information and interventions, on demand and at low cost. Likewise, smartphones are providing effective tools for people to function well and reduce the effects of a disabling society at a fraction of the cost of previous generations of assistive technology. Finally, many of us are using such technologies to improve our cognitive performance, even when we don’t perceive ourselves as experiencing disability.

An example of the potential of such enabling technologies is discussed in the latest episode of my occasional Synapse Voices podcast, which has been released today. With an eye to the future, Maudie Biessel joins me in that episode to discuss how technology could support people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maudie draws on her own experience to discuss the importance for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to re-ground themselves after experiencing flashbacks or dissociative episodes in the community. She shares a number of ideas for ways that a future smartphone app could provide people with practical assistance in that process. Have a listen—subscribe via iTunes or listen directly on the website—and perhaps you’ll be the person who builds that app! Either way, it’s an example of ways we could apply the technology we already have today to solving problems in new ways. Meanwhile, practical applications of technology today brings me to my other topic...

I’m pleased to announce Intro, an iPhone app I’ve developed to assist people with learning names, recalling faces, and retrieving information about interactions you have with people. While Intro has potential relevance for people with memory impairment, it’s focussed on the general population. I’m scratching my own itch here, and as someone with a lifelong difficulty with learning names and recognising faces, developing and using this tool has been a revelation for me. Since January, I’ve been working two days a week on my startup-of-one-person Intro Limited to bring this tool to reality. (I also continue in my roles as Director of the Centre for eHealth and with the Centre for Person Centred Research at Auckland University of Technology three days a week.)

Intro provides a deceptively simple tool that supports learning names using an errorless learning approach, and supports you through spaced retrieval practice to be able to effortlessly recall them when you need them. Intro also includes the ability to dial up a visual depiction of the key physical characteristics for your contacts. When you then see someone at a later date and can’t recall who they are—maybe they are out of context—you can search your contacts by quickly getting a list of your contacts who match their physical characteristics. And there’s a lot more to Intro, including tools to help you locate online photos to add to your contacts, to form links between contacts, groups and events, and to record notes on key interactions you have. The best way to find out more is to see the screenshots and info at intro.fm. While there, please visit the Confessional. Lots of us have stories about near misses or social disasters that occurred when we couldn’t recall someone’s name. Share yours—under a fake name if you like—to be in to win one of two chances to receive a fully paid five year subscription to Intro when it launches.

Intro is now going out to the first users receiving early access, with the next wave of early access users being added in a couple of weeks time. I’m keen to get the word out as widely as possible, so if you like the look of Intro I’d love it if you shared the link with your own networks. To receive early access, or be notified when it ships on the App Store, sign up for the mailing list at intro.fm, or follow Duncan and Intro on Twitter. Meanwhile, if you’re an Android user, you can also be notified about an Android version of Intro.