Let’s start 2016 with a very interesting talk by Randy Sargent about how to visualize the very large data sets produced by some kinds of self-tracking. Randy’s idea about using spectrograms, normally used for audio signals, to create a portrait of your own time series data, is completely novel as far as I know. If you have tried something similar, please get in touch.
In this fascinating short talk by geneticist Jim McCarter, we see detailed data about the effects of a ketogenic diet: lower blood pressure, better cholesterol numbers,and vastly improved daily well being. Jim also describes the mid-course adjustments he made to reduce side effects such as including muscle cramps and increased sensitivity to cold.
Jim begins: “When I tell my friends I’ve given up sugar and starch and get 80% of my calories from fat, the first question I get is: Why?”
The rest of the talk is his very clear answer.
I talked with Vinod Khosla over the summer about machine learning and the Quantified Self.
Khosla was a founder of Sun Microsystems and is one of Silicon Valley’s most experienced investors in Quantified Self companies. His portfolio includes AliveCor, Ginger.io, Jawbone, Misfit, Narrative, and many other toolmakers that people doing QS projects will recognize. In our conversation, I ask Vinod about the role machine learning can realistically play in QS practices.
Below are links to three papers Vinod mentions in the interview:
Beck, Andrew H., Ankur R. Sangoi, Samuel Leung, Robert J. Marinelli, Torsten O. Nielsen, Marc J. van de Vijver, Robert B. West, Matt van de Rijn, and Daphne Koller. “Systematic analysis of breast cancer morphology uncovers stromal features associated with survival.” Science translational medicine 3, no. 108 (2011): 108ra113-108ra113.
Ioannidis, John PA. Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Med 2, no. 8 (2005)
We haven’t gotten the full report yet, but this looks like a wonderful meeting!
For people who take insulin, self-measurement is a matter of life and death. No wonder, then, that people with diabetes who track their blood glucose have been so important in advancing techniques of visualization,and understanding data. At the Quantified Self Europe conference in Amsterdam this year, we were honored to host a panel discussion on Data Visualization and Meaning with Joel Goldsmith (Abbott Diabetes Care), Jana Beck (Tidepool), Doug Kanter (Databetes), and Stefanie Rondags (diabetes coach and blogger).
This discussion strikes me as widely important for self-trackers whether or not we have diabetes. Many of us will be tracking blood glucose in the near future. And the issues of data access, understanding, and clinical relevance that people with diabetes are working on resemble challenges commonly faced by anybody who is tracking for health.
For instance, Jana Beck was asked during the Q&A about her health care providers. How receptive are they to the important experiments she’s done to improve her health based on the data she’s collected? ”None of my endocrinologists have been very receptive to this approach,” she answered. “My A1C tends to fall within the range of what’s considered the gold range for people with Type 1. But I’m interested in optimizing that further. Often, I don’t even see them more than twice a year.”
Jana, Stefanie, and Doug all showed their own data in the context of discussing experiments and decisions that have had a major impact on their wellbeing. All were clear that the domain of these experiments and decisions is not healthcare as traditionally understood; but nor is it a matter of general fitness or lifestyle. The domain of these experiments is different and perhaps still unnamed. Self-collected data can and should essential health decisions, but the most advanced techniques of understanding this data are still being developed in an ad-hoc, grassroots way, by knowledgeable and open minded individuals who have a strong interest in learning for themselves.
At the end of the session I asked Joel Goldsmith, of Abbott Diabetes care, about the future prospects of the Freestyle Libre, a minimally invasive wearable blood glucose monitor that is not yet available in the US. (Disclosure: Abbott Diabetes Care was one of the sponsors of the QS Europe Conference.) The Freestyle Libre has a sensor in the form of a patch worn on the arm, and a touchscreen reader device that you lift close to the sensor to get a reading. There is no finger prick involved. While this and competing minimally invasive or non-invasive glucose monitors will almost certainly continue to be regulated as medical devices and understood as part of the health care system, many other people will also use them, and the flood of data and the questions that go with it will challenge our understanding of where this type of information should live.
The video above contains the full session, including the Q&A.
Do you have a Quantified Self idea that can help ease the burden of pain?
On November 5th, 2015, we’re convening the first QS Symposium on Pain and Innovation Challenge on the campus of Singularity University at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. For this meeting, we’re trying a new kind of innovation challenge, designed to advance your ideas for helping people who are dealing with acute and chronic pain. If you have an idea that can help people in pain, please join us for an intense and inspiring one day workshop with some of the world’s leading experts to advance your idea and connect with collaborators who can support its development, from prototyping to reaching the market.
At the end of the day, we’ll award a $10,000 cash prize to the idea that has most challenged and inspired us to look beyond what is already known about reducing the burden of pain.
We’re looking for ideas based on deep insight into the practical challenges faced by people dealing with acute and/or chronic pain, with a particular focus on tools that enhance self-awareness, self-efficacy, and empower people of all types to better understand themselves and live joyful lives. We welcome participation from all innovators interested in sensing, devices, apps, services, and social innovations.
This is a unique challenge, designed to unfold from start to finish over the course of a single day. Instead of competition, co-operation. Instead of obscure judgments made behind closed doors, an open conversation about what we are learning. Instead of long lead times and uncompensated design work, a short, intense, inspiring immersion among the makers of the most innovative tools of tracking and learning emerging from the Quantified Self movement today.
We are toolmakers, pain sufferers and clinical experts, united by a common intention to make a difference in the lives of people who suffer from pain every day.
Include some details about your idea and reference links, and we will follow up with you.
A year ago we released QS Access, a simple app that allows you to see your healthkit data in a table. Our idea was to make it easier for people to explore their data using familiar tools, such as Numbers, Excel, or any spreadsheet program that can open a .csv file. We’ve really enjoyed hearing its been useful, and we’ve received lots of good feedback. This week we released a new version of the QS Access App that contains some commonly requested features. You can now:
- See raw data from individual elements, such as running.
- Store the query details, so you don’t start from scratch each time.
- Choose units for many quantities.
- Get a table of your sleep data.
We’re still listening, so if you are using QS Access and have feedback for us please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleven days and counting!
On September 18th and 19th the Quantified Europe conference returns to the beautiful and affordable Casa 400 hotel in Amsterdam. If you’ve been before you know how special this conference is. The dozens of high-handled guest bikes waiting just outside the hotel door suggest it’s going to be hard to stay inside, but we have a lot of experience programming both “with” and “against” the lure of the city and we expect that nobody will be riding away until the last session ends. With over 70 different talks and sessions scheduled between social breaks with excellent food, our “carefully curated unconference” is the fruition of nearly a year’s work getting to know what’s going on the QS community. We’ve been deeply inspired by what you’re thinking about. It’s time for everybody to get in on what we’ve been learning.
Especially notable themes this year include novel ways of measuring sleep; widening interest in blood glucose sensors; popularization of genome and microbiome tests, and, as always, an amazing range of handcrafted and deeply personal tracking stories about health, sports, emotion, and more.
You can read a preliminary program here. [PDF]
As you’ll see, we’re opening the conference with 10 special “how to” sessions covering topics from heart rate variability to accelerated learning. Our goal with these sessions is to give everybody a chance to learn practical tips from experienced trackers. The heart of the program will be our Quantified Self Show&Tell talks, first person stories on topics like home EEG measurements to improve reading skill, self-collected data on distracted driving, and measuring the effect of music on concentration.
Lively informal breakouts will help set the agenda for the Quantified Self movement in the coming year, and we’ll be joined by dozens of Quantified Self toolmakers bringing their ideas and demos, with special thanks owed to the generous sponsors and Friends of QS who make this meeting possible, including Bayer, Abbott Labs, Intel, Scanadu, Oura, Emfit, and Beddit.
Tickets are almost sold out so register today.
In the nearly 10 years since direct-to-consumer genetic testing was pioneered by 23andme, regulators have grown more watchful over the claims companies can make about the benefits of knowing your genome. In response, direct-to-consumer testing companies have changed their game plan, emphasizing ancestry and fun facts over physiological insight. Meanwhile, at Quantified Self meetings and conferences, interest in using direct-to-consumer genetic data for health and fitness has never let up.
This year at the QS Europe, Ralph Pethica, whose PhD in genetics and obsession with sports performance in surfing and cycling lead him to use his own DNA results to optimize his training, will be contributing two sessions. He’s going to lead a 30 minute “how-to” session on making better use of our genomic data to optimise fitness training; and, he’s going to give a fascinating 5 minute ignite talk about the cycling accident that lead him to explore the relationship between genomics and recovery from injury. You’re invited to join the discussion!
We program our QS conferences to support the exchange of ideas, and we’re always inspired by what we learn. Next up: QS Europe, September 18th and 19th in Amsterdam.
I first got a look at the Oura ring at the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium last May. I was surprised that the Oura engineers had managed to get sleep and activity tracking into a bit of jewelry the size of a ring, and ever since I’ve been deeply curious to experiment for myself. Although a few samples showed up at QS15, there was nothing we can could take home with us. But the Oura ring campaign on Kickstarter launches today, with delivery estimated for November 2015. The company is a QS sponsor, and they’re offering readers here and our followers on Twitter a few hours head start on the campaign’s very limited number of $199 rings. (They have just 500 0f these, after which the minimum pledge to get a ring rises to $229).
The Oura ring has both optical sensors and an accelerometer, an increasingly common duo, used in the Apple watch and quite a few other devices. But I thought that the combination of sensors and battery demands would make a ring-size sleep and activity sensor challenging.
Of particular interest to me is the offer of “laboratory accurate” measurement of heart rate variability, or HRV, using the optical pulse sensor. Heart rate variability is the the variation in the time between heart rates, and it’s useful for Quantified Self experiments involving measurement of emotional arousal and stress. HRV is relatively easy to get, if you have an accurate heart rate monitor, but typically these have taken the form of elastic chest straps. Even Apple, with its relatively capacious watch, doesn’t yet promise accurate measurement of HRV. If the Oura ring ends up offering accurate HRV in a ring that is easy to keep on at all times, it will spark a lot of very interesting new projects.
Thank you to Petteri Lahtela and Hannu Kinnunen, the Oura founders, for giving us a few hours head start. We wish you good luck on your campaign!
For early access use this link: Quantified Self Access to Oura Kickstarter.
Note: both Petteri and Hannu will be at Quantified Self Europe conference in Amsterdam on September 18 & 19.