Thursday, 17 May 2012

EVENT TONIGHT: Videogames as Telehealth Technology

Speaker: Stuart Smith

Time: Thursday 17 May 2012, 6pm for 6:15pm start

Location: John Goodsell Building Room LG 19 Parking station at Botany St Gate 11, University of New South Wales Kensington Campus

Cost: Free. Public welcome

RSVP: Lyria Bennett Moses (
About the event
Declines in physical or cognitive function are associated with age-related impairments to overall health. Functional impairment resulting from injury or disease contribute to parallel declines in self-confidence, social interactions and community involvement. Fear of a major incident such as a stroke or a bone-breaking fall can lead to the decision to move into a supported environment which can be viewed as a major step in the loss of independence and quality of life. Novel use of videogame console technologies are beginning to be explored as a commercially available means for delivering training and rehabilitation programs to older adults in their own homes. We provide an overview of the main videogame console systems (Wii, Playstation and Xbox) and discuss some use case scenarios for rehabilitation, assessment and training of functional ability in older adults or those living with a disability.

About the speaker

Dr Stuart Smith is an NHMRC Career Development Award-Industry researcher with a particular interest in the application of technologies such as video games and the internet for home-based monitoring of health.

He was involved in establishing the Technology Research for Independent Living Centre in Ireland which developed technologies to monitor the health of older adults to facilitate their continued independent and healthy living.

He currently chairs the working group on Games for Health within the Health Informatics Society of Australia, whose aim is to establish connections between health researchers and video game developers and manufacturers to develop games that are appropriate for patient rehabilitation.

Dr Smith has secured NHMRC funding to develop video games for reducing fall risk in older adults and is a PI on Dr Penelope McNulty’s NHMRC project investigating the use of the Nintendo Wii in rehabilitation of upper limb function following stroke. He is also involved in pilot trials assessing the effect of video game play in rehabilitation of stroke and spinal cord injury patients at the Prince of Wales Hospital.

Dr Smith has recently had a manuscript accepted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine on his modification of the ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ video game for step training in older adults. He has two recent book chapters on the application of video gaming technologies to rehabilitation and has organised workshops on Games for Health at international conferences.

Recently Dr Smith contributed to a successful bid for funding from the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to build video games that are specifically targeted at health.
About the sponsor
The IEEE is a voluntary organisation with more than 350,000 members. The SSIT has about 2000 members in 56 countries worldwide and growing. The Society focuses on the impact of technology on society, including both positive and negative effects, the impact of society on the engineering profession, the history of the societal aspects of electrotechnology, and professional, social and economic responsibility in the practice of engineering and its related technology.
SSIT publishes a quarterly journal, IEEE Technology & Society magazine (free with your Membership).
SSIT can be contacted at

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Recycled music in the digital era

Adrian McGruther

I remember spending countless hours after school, rummaging painstakingly through the ‘new arrivals’ bin of my local second-hand CD store. My meagre income as a suburban paperboy meant the new release section at Brashs Music was well out of my reach (unless I was content settling for a Jason Donovan single in the bargain bin). Having whittled a crate's worth of CDs down to a shortlist of five or six, I was left with the painful decision of which two or three were truly worth shelling out for. Upon arriving home, broke but beaming, I’d invariably discover that one of my new treasures had a deep, long scratch across its surface, right in the middle of a blistering Kirk Hammett guitar solo. Bummer. But, you get what you pay for, I’d remind myself.

Had I gone to school during the digital age, I might’ve turned to a new US-based service, ReDigi, which offers ‘second-hand’ mp3s for sale online.

What is ReDigi?

ReDigi describes its offering as ‘recycled digital media’, but with the benefit that, unlike physical media, its products never scratch or wear out. Users who wish to sell digital music files that they no longer want can ‘upload’ the tracks to ReDigi’s server for other users to purchase and download. ReDigi claims to have what it calls ‘verification’ and ‘hand off’ technology, which ensures that the digital music file is from a legitimate source and that any additional copies of a sold file are also deleted from the user’s computer.

If a copy of a file that has already been sold reappears on a seller’s computer or synced device, and the seller does not delete it after receiving notice from ReDigi, the seller’s account with ReDigi may be suspended or terminated. ReDigi also pays a percentage of sales to the relevant artists and labels. ReDigi is different from file-sharing sites in that each track offered for sale is a unique, identifiable file, and has not been cloned from a master file.

Is it legally legit?

That’s the big question at the moment. Many record labels and industry bodies are casting a raised eyebrow in ReDigi’s direction because the service treads upon a legal grey patch. The way digital music sales normally operate is that when a customer purchases a song, a reproduction of the ‘master’ file is made, which requires a licence from the label or artist.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and international record label EMI Music have objected to the legality of the service on the basis that ReDigi is infringing copyright when a 'copy' of the track is made as it is uploaded to ReDigi’s servers. They claim that this copying has not been done with a licence, irrespective of the fact that the original file is removed from the user’s computer once it has been uploaded to ReDigi.

Google has also weighed in on the legal debate by suggesting that a finding against ReDigi could potentially place the legality of cloud computing under…well, a grey cloud.

But in the midst of the current legal stoush, the short-sighted labels appear to be missing the elephant in the room: consumers are willing to pay for music. In an era when music piracy is rampant and labels desperately scramble to give users a commercial incentive to pay for music, the success of a service like ReDigi should be seen as a silver lining.

What does this mean for music lovers and music labels?

Legal hurdles aside, services like ReDigi provide a compromise between the mainstream digital music stores and the illegal (and unreliable) file sharing sites. As songs on digital music stores in Australia now nudge upwards of $2 each, it is unsurprising that consumers are turning to alternative sources.

Though ReDigi shows promising early signs, it is still difficult to assess its potential popularity with music fans. On one hand, the lower price point may be enough to persuade the teetering, borderline 'pirates' to start paying for music. But, humans are creatures of habit, and convincing someone who perceives little value in digital music that they should all-of-a-sudden pay for music, might require some pretty strong arm-twisting. Nevertheless, the concept of second-hand digital music might serve as an acceptable entry-point for those who don’t currently take part in the legitimate music market.

On the other hand, retail consumers rely on trust and seek consistency. One-stop-shops, like iTunes or Amazon (which never 'run out of stock') offer the reliability and consistency that consumers will want. The seamless shopping experience and interactivity offered by the major players is unlikely to be replicated by ReDigi. But ultimately, that is something that will depend on how widely ReDigi is adopted, and the depth of its repertoire.

Would I use it?

Maybe. If I’m confident that I’m not breaking the law, that the file will be compatible with my devices, and if it’s well-priced, then I don’t see why not. But a lot will come down to the user experience. If I have to spend hours on end refreshing the site, trawling for that one pesky Jason Donovan track, then I’m better off trudging down to my local second-hand CD store and putting up with those darn scratches.