Tag Archives: parenting
I’m starting to wonder – is there any aspect of life that cannot be tracked? This week’s roundup on lifestyle-tracking tools moves into deeply personal areas like sex life, baby’s sleep schedule, amount of drinking, menstrual cycles, meditation, and media consumption. Proceed with caution if you are squeamish.
It’s part of our regular tool roundup for the complete catalog we’re putting together of all the self-tracking tools out there. Please help us to make sure we include your favorite tool, your company, or your project. Self-promotion is allowed!
Here are all the lifestyle-related tracking tools we’ve found so far. Please let me know what we’re missing in the comments below, and please check our bigger list as well to check if your suggestion is already there.
The Quantified Self is primarily about self-monitoring, and not about monitoring others. But your baby is close to the self, so there may be some technology in baby monitoring to be of use to adults.
Trixie Tracker tracks and displays the activity patterns of babies. As they claim on their website:
“Uncover patterns in your baby’s sleep rhythms and daily activity. Develop a good sleep schedule with helpful charts. Share online with family and friends.”
Using this software parents can track what goes into baby, and when; what comes out, when; when baby sleeps, when baby wakes, and any other activity you want to collect data for.
This is a primitive version 1.0 of tracking tools because you need to manually enter all data. The tool provides a web-based fancy spreadsheet with cute charts. You provide the data entry. It has an iPhone input option, too, which could make a difference. What you can take away — particularly if you are willing to share your baby’ data — is some sophisticated analysis of say baby’s sleep probability.
Trixie Tracker is part of a larger idea called data-driven parenting, which I suspect has a small following right now, because who wants to spend their lives inputing data? But once all these ubiquitous devices collect data for us, crunching your kids’ day later in the evening after they go to bed may be the new parental chore.
The New York Times magazine published a story last weekend about a [special kind of baby monitor](http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/magazine/24wwln-essay-t.html), the [LENA](http://www.lenababy.com/Default.aspx), a $400 device that is tucked into a child’s clothing and evaluates the “language environment” throughout the day:
> A voice recorder tucked into a child’s clothing records all the sounds in the environment. At the end of each day, special software evaluates both the amount of exposure the child has had to verbal stimulation as well as the child’s own utterances. Ultimately, the device generates percentile rankings that help assess a child’s language development, just as doctors provide such rankings for a child’s height, weight and head circumference.
The value of the LENA obviously depends on the quality of the analysis. Speech recognition software has come a long way. Security agencies have long [lusted](http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/systems/asr.htm) after it. But whatever tricks the CIA might be deploying, at the consumer level our devices are not yet able to efficiently recognize and transcribe every utterance, especially in natural environments, where there is high background noise and multiple speakers. In fact, we’re not even close. So the inventors the LENA took a shortcut. As Yudhiji Bhattacharjee reports:
> The best solution, it seemed, was to eschew the identification of particular words and focus on a recording’s acoustic features. Modeling every conceivable sound in a household, they designed a system that distinguishes different voices from one another, gives a rough count of the number of words directed at a child and counts also the number of conversational “turns” that are taken as child and interlocutor exchange words.
The use of sound “signatures” to model behavior is allowing rapid progress in life-monitoring systems. This is the same general tactic used by the inventors of the [e-watch](http://www.kk.org/quantifiedself/2007/10/wristdevice-for-real-time-stre.php), who can track and identify almost any common activity using just three measurements with small sensors that fit on a strap on the wrist: ambient sound; ambient light; and motion, as measured by a small accelerometer.
[Technovelgy.com](http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1477), which tracks the emergence of science-fiction ideas into real life, has a very good post that connects the LENA to other life-logging phenomenon, such as the [SenseCam](http://research.microsoft.com/sendev/projects/sensecam/default.htm). The SenseCam has long been criticized as a solution in search of a problem. And so the notion of a ubiquitous baby monitor might seem, at first, more a symptom of neurosis than a useful tool. But both these types of systems will eventually prove their worth, and the first stage of this will be in palliating chronic conditions or aiding in the diagnosis of subtle illnesses and disabilities. A story late last year in the MIT technology review described the proven value of the SensCam in [helping people with dementia](http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/19840/).
There are set of technical papers on the LENA site that explain the system, and compare its effectiveness at analyzing a child’s verbal environment with the effectiveness of human observer-listeners. The results are impressive. These are not refereed scientific papers. They are the detailed technical claims of the inventors. But, on the reasonable assumption of good faith, this report ([PDF](http://www.lenababy.com/TechReport.aspx/Reliability/ITR-05-1)) shows that computer observation is capable of subtle and effective analysis of natural environments.