TEDMED coverage: Bringing Music Into the Visual World

This article was originally posted on inspirational news site Ever Widening Circles.

Have you ever looked up the lyrics to a song? When you read them alone, they’re flat, stagnant, and lacking the feeling the piece is meant to elicit. But add tone, expression, and a few instrumentals to the equation and you’ve got a piece overflowing with emotion and character, lifting those words into a new meaning.

So, if only those lyrics are being interpreted for the deaf community, to what extent are they being included in the art form?

Here’s one of the people bridging this gap between the auditory world and the visual by expressing the emotional power of music through a special variation of American Sign Language (ASL) created specifically for music.

For years, Amber Galloway Gallego has been interpreting songs, both live at music festivals and on her YouTube channel, with this dynamic variation of sign language.

Here’s how TEDMED describes what she does,

“Sign language music interpreter Amber Galloway Gallego demonstrates the emotional connection between lyrics and sounds with the flow of her hands. Responding to a desire from the Deaf community to see, experience and connect emotionally to music in the same way hearing people do, Amber developed an immersive style that brings music to life in a way not often seen in music interpreting.” 1

So, how does it work? Here’s Vox with the story. Just a warning for sensitive ears, there are a few f-bombs dropped midway through.

The multitude of ways we’re able to communicate and share experiences with one another is one of the aspects of humanity that truly sets us apart from the rest of the animal world. Music is one of our oldest and most expressive forms of communication. It’s a part of who we are, so why should the ability to feel the emotions it conjures be limited to a specific group of us?

“That’s the whole reason we go to music events–is to be a part of this experience and forget about the rest of the world, and be there in that moment. And so many times deaf people are not allowed that experience because we as hearing people choose to say no.” — Amber Galloway Gallego 3

To see one example of how she truly expresses the music, take a look at Amber’s interpretation of Michael Jackson’s song, Beat It, from her YouTube channel.

You can learn even more about how Amber Galloway Gallego found herself with this knack for music interpretation and what drives her to keep going in this wonderful feature from the Houston Chronicle. Be sure to explore the rest of her YouTube channel for more amazing interpretations and, as always, stay open to new possibilities!

TEDMED Coverage – Medical Video Game Guru: Interview with Sam Glassenberg, Level Ex CEO

This article was originally posted on medical news site Medgadget

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Sam Glassenberg has spent his career in the video game industry, and now is on a mission to bring the leading edge of video game technology into healthcare. Sam is the founder and CEO of Level Ex, an award winning company making professional video games for doctors. Before Level Ex, Sam was CEO of a leading independent game publisher in Hollywood, led the DirectX team at Microsoft, and has been pushing limits in the gaming industry. Sam has an M.S. in Computer Science and Graphics from Stanford University, and a B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois. I met Sam at the recently concluded TEDMED 2018 and spoke with him about his company and the direction they are headed.

Tom Fowler, Medgadget: What is your favorite video game of all time? (excluding Level Ex games of course)

Sam Glassenberg: It’s a toss-up between Duke Nukem 3D (1996) and Half-Life 2 (2004). Both of these games introduced revolutionary graphics technologies, physics-based gameplay, storytelling techniques, and most importantly – raised the bar for interactable environments. The world of Duke Nukem really came to life – it felt as though you could interact with almost any element in the urban environment, which was unheard of in 1996. Half-Life 2 had breathtaking graphics and artwork for the time. Most importantly, its in-game physics were sophisticated enough to enable groundbreaking physics-based gameplay in the genre. It was the first-person-shooter to have complex puzzles that required you to manipulate objects in the scene the right way to achieve the goal – combining rigid objects, water, forces, and other physical elements. My favorite game in the last few years is Mushroom 11. It’s a physics puzzler that was actually designed by our Lead Game Designer at Level Ex before he joined us. I’m not the only one with that opinion – it won an Apple Design Award and Google Play Independent Game of the Year in 2017.

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Medgadget: When did you first get interested in expanding your video gaming interests into healthcare?

Sam Glassenberg: The whole thing happened by accident in 2012.

I’ve enjoyed an exciting and impactful career in the video games industry animating Star Wars cutscenes at LucasArts/LucasFilm and managing teams at Microsoft and elsewhere.

I come from a long line of doctors – my grandfather, both my parents, uncles, and my wife. I was the black sheep of the family that didn’t go to medical school.

Back in 2012, my father, who is an anesthesiologist at Northwestern in Chicago, asked me to put all this “video game nonsense” to good use and build him a fiberoptic intubation simulator for his colleagues and residents. “I don’t want to drag anyone to the sim center,” he said. “Make me something that’ll run on their iPads.”

Two years later he called me up and asked, “How many people downloaded that thing?” “I have no idea,” I responded. “Let me check.”

So I did. We had 100,000 downloads from doctors, nurses, and EMTs worldwide. At that point, I googled it and they had done efficacy studies on it that showed it improved physician performance. Clearly, this was fulfilling a major unmet need in the medical community.

In 2016, I decided to assemble a team of top video game artists, engineers, and designers – along with top physicians in their field and leaders from digital health to build mobile and VR video games for physicians, now becoming a go-to virtual patient platform that allows them to overcome clinical challenges they face in medical practice, learn new approaches and techniques, and keep up to speed on medical device and pharmaceutical products – all in the framework of an entertaining video game.

Medgadget: What was the biggest design hurdle transitioning from creating entertainment oriented games to medically accurate simulations?

Sam Glassenberg: Our company doesn’t have to make this compromise when creating our games. Our team of game designers, who have decades of experience making games across a number of genres [played by 100s of millions of users], are skilled at applying proven game design principles from entertainment-based games to our physician video games. They know how to capture the thrill and challenge of practicing medicine from first-person perspective surgical scenarios to complex diagnosis puzzles that translates to an engaging and fun experience for the physician, especially when you present competitive design mechanics like scoring, time limits and leaderboards.

 

Medgadget: Do you foresee Level Ex expanding to mannequins and simulation hardware?

Sam Glassenberg: No; I don’t see us heading in that direction. There’s an ecosystem out there already of companies selling simulators and mannequins into hospitals. Unfortunately, only a fraction of medical professionals can even access this ecosystem since these tools are locked away in a few hundred simulation centers or inconsistently used across hospitals due to cost, lack of realism, and/or limited use cases. We’ve found that our ability to deliver our high bar of realistic content on mobile gives us the ability to impact the practice of medicine at scale (we’ve already crossed 300,000 medical professionals in just a year).

 

Medgadget: If I gave you $1 billion to develop a product of any kind, what would you create?

Sam Glassenberg: In short: I’d fix EHRs.

Transitioning from a career in video games to healthcare has been a sequence of what I’d call, for lack of a better term, “face-palm-able” moments. Moments where we realize how gruesomely far behind-the-curve healthcare can be relative to other industries. To their credit, healthcare folks readily admit this and share their frustration.

Coming from video games, we are constantly uncovering the challenges doctors face in learning new techniques. The stories all follow the same arc, with a climax that’s some variation of: “Wait a minute – we solved that problem over a decade ago in the games industry!”.

At Level Ex, we’re solving the problem for physician training – which is an important step in improving both patient outcomes and physician job satisfaction.

What is even more crushing to physician job satisfaction? EHRs.

When I order a Lyft on my phone, the user interface has been tuned and optimized to the point that I literally have to move one finger the minimal possible distance with the fewest number of taps to order a car.

My wife’s a pediatrician. At night, I watch her type and click endlessly for hours into her EHR. Typing the same things – over and over again. Dragging her mouse for miles in a slow, unwieldy interface that looks straight out of 1991. She’s literally doing it right now as I type up the answer to this question.

This is someone who has spent a substantial percentage of her life, at considerable expense, learning how to be a doctor. I shudder to think of the billions of dollars wasted as specialists are relegated to data entry, not to mention the immeasurable cost of the resulting attrition.

Facebook, Google, Uber, Grubhub, Siri, video games – we’ve solved these UX and data entry problems many times over. With $1B I’d unleash that on EHRs and disrupt that entire industry.

Another Options Consultant working on Sesame Workshop South Africa project

Bettina (in the middle with a camera) poses with two puppateers and their puppets from the Takalani Sesame production. The two puppets are Neno (Elmo for US audiences) and Kami (South Africa’s HIV-positive muppet).

Bettina (in the middle with a camera) poses with two puppateers and their puppets from the Takalani Sesame production. The two puppets are Neno (Elmo for US audiences) and Kami (South Africa’s HIV-positive muppet).

In addition to her ongoing communications work with Another Option, our consultant Bettina has been hard at work with some new furry friends! Over the last few months, she has been supporting Sesame Workshop’s launch of a new vision, strategy, and program office in South Africa. Known as Takalani Sesame (Be Happy, Sesame in Venda), the South African co-production of Sesame Street has aired since 2000.  As the program gears up to produce another two seasons of the children’s show, Bettina is supporting the South African team in a variety of ways including branding, report writing, photography, and social media outreach.

Nepal EGRP Public Awareness report published

To support Another Option’s ongoing work promoting Early Grade Reading in Nepal, the Social and Behavior Change Technical team for the RTI-managed and USAID-funded project designed a national study to measure awareness of key messages and behaviors related to early grade reading. In partnership with various branches of the Government of Nepal, the study used a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to interview families about their beliefs and behaviors related towards reading and their children.

 Overall key findings identified that 57.1% parents and 81.9% teachers had listened to radio PSAs published by Another Option, and 39.1% parents and 50.5% teachers had listened to the radio program “Ramailo Padhai, Digo Sikai” (in English, Reading is Fun). Significant numbers of parents and teachers could recall key messages from the materials as well.

 

The full report is available here for download.

Another Option is a partner with TEDMED 2018

The TEDMED conference provides a shared space for leaders in health and medicine to come together and share ideas. At TEDMED 2018, attendees the power of Chaos + Clarity to advance science, global public health, and medical innovation across a wide range of topics.

Events explore the technology, creativity and innovation that contribute to a healthier future. Transformative startups and inspiring entrepreneurs also play an important role in the annual conference, sharing innovations with the TEDMED family.

Since 2013, Another Option has been a partner with TEDMED managing media relations  for TEDMED’s annual meetings. Media coverage has ranged from NPR, Washington Post, BBC, Fast Company, STAT, and professional media for widespread coverage on TV, blogs, and social media.

Another Option staff and projects reach all corners of Nepal

Another Option’s Prabodh Acharya at Annapurna Base Camp.

Another Option’s Prabodh Acharya at Annapurna Base Camp.

Over a recent holiday, Another Option’s Prabodh Acharya, project manager of the Nepal Early Grade Reading Program, trekked to the Annapurna Base Camp at the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal.

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 During the trek, Prabodh saw something really interesting in a small, isolated village – a poster developed by Another Option from two years ago! The poster was part of a nationwide campaign to promote early grade reading and was found on the front door of a house in a village only reachable by foot.

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 The work to promote early grade reading for all children in Nepal continues – and it’s moments like this that motivate us to keep promoting such an important behavior for children and their families across Nepal.

Nepal leaders join in to promote early grade reading

Ms Sita Gyawali, an advocate for people who are blind in Nepal, shared her experiences reading as a child.

Ms Sita Gyawali, an advocate for people who are blind in Nepal, shared her experiences reading as a child.

The Another Option team in Nepal has recently finished a whirlwind of interviews of leaders and leaders passionate about promoting the importance of reading to children and their families. The radio program  is a continued partnership with the government of Nepal’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (Modest) and the USAID-funded Early Grade Reading Program that began in September 2016. The six new radio programs targeted to parents and teachers of students in grades one and two will begin broadcasting in early 2019.  

For this season, the program team interviewed two Nepalese leaders: managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority, Mr. Kul Man Ghising, and community activist for the blind, Ms. Sita Gyawali.

Mr. Ghising has played an instrumental role in the past few years in addressing national challenges with electricity. His work within the Nepal Electricity Authority has contributed to a significant reduction in load shedding across the country.

The second guest, Ms. Gyawali, was the first visually impaired woman in Nepal to complete her Master’s degree. Since returning to her home after her studies in the US through a Fulbright scholarship, she has created a library and community center for the visually impaired.

Mr Kul Man Ghising being interviewed by Another Option consultant Prabodh Acharya

Mr Kul Man Ghising being interviewed by Another Option consultant Prabodh Acharya

Each guest shared their experiences with reading as a child, emphasizing how it has helped their careers and how parents can help their children learn to read. After each interview,  they each also read a short story provided by curriculum specialists (and project partners) at Nepal’s Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology.

This is the second round of radio based programming coordinated by Another Option in Nepal as part of the Early Grade Reading Program. The first round of programming, broadcast nationally, was found to have had significant reach across Nepal. Overall key findings identified that 57.1% parents and 81.9% teachers had listened to radio PSAs, and 39.1% parents and 50.5% teachers had listened to the radio program "Ramailo Padhai, Digo Sikai" (in English, Reading is Fun). . A study also showed that 24% parents and 34% teachers had listened to the radio drama "Ujjwol Bhawishyako Suruwat" (in English, Beginning of a Bright Future), and 21.9% parents and 49.2% had listened to the 'guest reader' segment of the radio program. Parents from Banke, Saptari and Kanchanpur districts said that they had listened to the radio PSAs in their local languages as well.

 The Early Grade Reading Program is a five-year project to support the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology to improve the foundational reading skills of Nepali primary school students in grades one through three. Another Option provides technical assistance in social and behavior change communication with an emphasis on mass media, advocacy and public awareness to increase family and community support for early grade reading.

Parent Peer Education Participate Guide published for Early Grade Reading in Liberia

Research shows that barriers to education, parental aspirations, and societal norms are similar across the world and do not change that dramatically—whether you are in West Africa or South Asia. Another Option has been working in early grade reading for four years in Africa and Asia under several USAID-funded awards.

As part of the USAID Read Liberia project, our technical experts have just published two guides for peer educators and lead trainers working across Liberia to promote early grade reading. These guides were vetted through a series of focus groups to ensure that they were relevant to parents and caregivers in urban and rural communities across Liberia. One major component of making the two documents accessible to Liberian parents and caregivers were illustrations by local artist Brima Wolobah which show real life situations that parents can use to talk about reading with their peers or support their child’s learning. 

These materials are available for download and may be adapted for use with attribution, under Creative Commons Attribution. Specific requirements for reuse can be found within each document.

Early Grade Reading Project Public Awareness Report Published

To support Another Option’s ongoing work promoting Early Grade Reading in Nepal, the Social and Behavior Change Technical team for the RTI-managed and USAID-funded project designed a national study to measure awareness of key messages and behaviors related to early grade reading. In partnership with various branches of the Government of Nepal, the study used a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to interview families about their beliefs and behaviors related towards reading and their children.

Overall key findings identified that 57.1% parents and 81.9% teachers had listened to radio PSAs published by Another Option, and 39.1% parents and 50.5% teachers had listened to the radio program “Ramailo Padhai, Digo Sikai” (in English, Reading is Fun). Significant numbers of parents and teachers could recall key messages from the materials as well.

The full report is available here for download.