Health games platforms mature in preparation for mainstream adoption

Business models and sustainability will drive success in the health games space.


SPARX, a behavioral therapy game for youths,
combines a fantasy setting with skills for life.

For the past several years, researchers have strived to create compelling games that improve behavior, reduce stress, or teach healthy responses to difficult life situations. Such healthy games tend to arise in research settings because of the need to demonstrate clinically that the games are effective. I have covered such efforts in my postings from the Games for Health conference in 2012 and 2013.

These efforts have born fruit, and clinical trials have shown the value of many such games. Ben Sawyer, who founded the Games for Health conference more than 10 years ago, is watching all the pieces fall into place for the widespread adoption of games. Business plans, platforms, and the general environment for the acceptance of games (and other health-related apps) are coming together.

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Why local state is a fundamental primitive in stream processing

What do you get if you cross a distributed database with a stream processing system?


One of the concepts that has proven the hardest to explain to people when I talk about Samza is the idea of fault-tolerant local state for stream processing. I think people are so used to the idea of keeping all their data in remote databases that any departure from that seems unusual.

So, I wanted to give a little bit more motivation as to why we think local state is a fundamental primitive in stream processing.

What is state and why do you need it?

An easy way to understand state in stream processing is to think about the kinds of operations you might do in SQL. Imagine running SQL queries against a real-time stream of data. If your SQL query contains only filtering and single-row transformations (a simple select and where clause, say), then it is stateless. That is, you can process a single row at a time without needing to remember anything in between rows. However, if your query involves aggregating many rows (a group by) or joining together data from multiple streams, then it must maintain some state in between rows. If you are grouping data by some field and counting, then the state you maintain would be the counts that have accumulated so far in the window you are processing. If you are joining two streams, the state would be the rows in each stream waiting to find a match in the other stream.

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New scalable solutions for data analysis with R

Addressing in-memory limitations and scalability issues of R.

The R programming language is the most popular statistical software in use today by data scientists, according to the 2013 Rexer Analytics Data Miner survey. One of the main drawbacks of vanilla R is the inability to scale and handle extremely large datasets because by default, R programs are executed in a single thread, and the data being used must be stored completely in RAM. These barriers present a problem for data analysis on massive datasets. For example, the R installation and administration manual suggests using data structures no larger than 10-20% of a computer’s available RAM. Moreover, high-level languages such as R or Matlab incur significant memory overhead because they use temporary copies instead of referencing existing objects.

One potential forthcoming solution to this issue could come from Teradata’s upcoming product, Teradata Aster R, which runs on the Teradata Aster Discovery Platform. It aims to facilitate the distribution of data analysis over a cluster of machines and to overcome one-node memory limitations in R applications. Read more…

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How to build and run your first deep learning network

Step-by-step instruction on training your own neural network.


When I first became interested in using deep learning for computer vision I found it hard to get started. There were only a couple of open source projects available, they had little documentation, were very experimental, and relied on a lot of tricky-to-install dependencies. A lot of new projects have appeared since, but they’re still aimed at vision researchers, so you’ll still hit a lot of the same obstacles if you’re approaching them from outside the field.

In this article — and the accompanying webcast — I’m going to show you how to run a pre-built network, and then take you through the steps of training your own. I’ve listed the steps I followed to set up everything toward the end of the article, but because the process is so involved, I recommend you download a Vagrant virtual machine that I’ve pre-loaded with everything you need. This VM lets us skip over all the installation headaches and focus on building and running the neural networks. Read more…

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Materials that make up our world

Digital manufacturing is the future — reusable, composable, and rapid from top to bottom.


Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series reflecting on the O’Reilly Solid Conference from the perspective of a data scientist. Normally we wouldn’t publish takeaways from an event held nearly two months ago, but these insights were so good we thought they needed to be shared.

In mid-May, I was at Solid, O’Reilly’s new conference on the convergence of hardware and software. In Part one of this series, I talked about the falling cost of bringing a hardware start-up to market, about the trends leading to that drop, and a few thoughts on how that relates to the role of a data scientist.

I mentioned two phrases that I’ve heard Jon Bruner say, in one form or another. The first, “merging of hardware and software,” was covered in the last piece. The other is the “exchange between the virtual and actual.” I also mentioned that I think the material future of physical stuff is up for grabs. What does that mean, and how do those two sentiments tie together? Read more…


A good nudge trumps a good prediction

Identifying the right evaluation methods is essential to successful machine learning.

Editor’s note: this is part of our investigation into analytic models and best practices for their selection, deployment, and evaluation.

We all know that a working predictive model is a powerful business weapon. By translating data into insights and subsequent actions, businesses can offer better customer experience, retain more customers, and increase revenue. This is why companies are now allocating more resources to develop, or purchase, machine learning solutions.

While expectations on predictive analytics are sky high, the implementation of machine learning in businesses is not necessarily a smooth path. Interestingly, the problem often is not the quality of data or algorithms. I have worked with a number of companies that collected a lot of data; ensured the quality of the data; used research-proven algorithms implemented by well­-educated data scientists; and yet, they failed to see beneficial outcomes. What went wrong? Doesn’t good data plus a good algorithm equal beneficial insights? Read more…