Cadillac releases sophisticated array of semi-autonomous sensors for self-driving cars

Google isn’t the only company working on a self-driving car. Cadillac today announced that it is actively road testing a semi-autonomous system called Super Cruise that can control a vehicle’s steering, braking and lane-centering capabilities. Super Cruise, according to Cadillac, is designed to help make freeway driving easier on the driver when either stuck in traffic or during long hauls down the interstate.

The system works by combining on-board radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS data to give your car the ability to read lane markings and detect curves in the roadway.

via Laptop Magazine

 

For certain luxury cars, we are already half-way (or more) there. From the Cadillac news release:

Many of the building block technologies for Super Cruise are already available on the all-new 2013 Cadillac XTS and ATS luxury sedans, as part of the available Driver Assist Package:

  • Rear Automatic Braking
  • Full-Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Intelligent Brake Assist
  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Safety Alert Seat
  • Automatic Collision Preparation
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Adaptive Forward Lighting
  • Rear Vision Camera With Dynamic Guidelines
  • Head Up Display

The key to delivering semi-autonomous capability will be the integration of lane-centering technology that relies on forward-looking cameras to detect lane markings and GPS map data to detect curves and other road characteristics, said John Capp, General Motors director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation.

 

 

Pretty crazy to think about all the technology needed to self drive a car. That’s 12 sensors/alerts/displays with more needed to fully automate the simplest of driving tasks. Makes our brains seem pretty sophisticated.

Dynamically priced seats – Baseball is using big data to improve ticket sales

“We work with half of baseball right now,” said Barry Kahn, CEO of Qcue, a company that helps teams sell dynamically priced tickets. That’s up from just four teams at the start of last season (2011). In all, 17 of 30 Major League teams will use dynamic pricing this season, according to Ticket News.

via NPR

What is “dynamic pricing”?

From the website of Qcue, an Austin, TX, based start-up:

“50% of tickets are never sold, while 10% are resold for twice the face value”

Dynamic pricing is smart pricing. It considers all the available data points to price tickets more accurately before they go on sale. Once tickets begin to move, dynamic pricing applies advanced analysis to adjust prices based on sales and other measures of shifting demand.

  • Determines what drives sales using variables such as start time, opponents, etc. to set more accurate prices from the onset and maximize demand across the house.
  • Captures opportunity for markups and encourages sales across every section of the stadium.
  • Recognizes shifting values even before fans do by constantly evaluating weather, players, playoffs, promotions, etc.
  • Improves business efficiency and optimizes revenue opportunities through automation of valuable business intelligence.

Sophisticated algorithms analyze real-time sales data and other external factors to generate forecasts based on various pricing strategies.

 

More from NPR

Baseball teams are finally doing what airlines have been doing for decades: changing ticket prices on the fly, based on demand.

At ballparks around the country this year, ticket prices will fall when rain is in the forecast and rise when a superstar comes to town.

From an economic standpoint, the only question is why they didn’t do it sooner. Why not sell seats on the cheap if they’d sit empty otherwise? Why not charge a premium for sellouts?

 

Personally, I’m happy that MLB owners are picking up on this technology, maximizing revenue, cutting into scalpers, even though it may end up in higher ticket prices for me:

They (Qcue) estimate that a team can generate an additional $900,000 in incremental revenue over the course of a season by making one additional change to each of its section prices.

  • Average price change per seat: $1.55 increase
  • Average percentage change per seat: 3% increase
  • Average price decrease: -$13.63
  • Average price increase: $3.27

via The Business of Sports

“We tried to make a difference from within the belly of the beast” – Rebels at Work

Carmen Medina, Former Director, CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, explains how a combination of optimism, outrageousness and sense-making can help leaders positively impact an organization.

Learn more at Rebels at Work.

"We tried to make a difference from within the belly of the beast" – Rebels at Work

Carmen Medina, Former Director, CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, explains how a combination of optimism, outrageousness and sense-making can help leaders positively impact an organization.

Learn more at Rebels at Work.

Amy’s Amygdala: the emotional brain that controls fight-or-flight

The brain evolved from the bottom up and one of its first structures was the Amygdala. An almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

It plays a key role in the processing of emotions and is linked to both fear responses and pleasure. For this reason it is often known as the “emotional brain”.

While a lot of research concentrates on the rational brain in the frontal cortex, not much is said about the Amygdala even though it plays a central role in so many current problems, including alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Here is an in-depth look at the Amygdala.

Emotional learning

The Amygdalae perform the primary roles in the brain of the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. The most important of which are the memories that elicit fear behavior.

For dangerous situations this behavior can save our life but in today’s modern world it often acts in a role of paralysis, where the central nuclei is the genesis of many fear responses, including freezing (immobility), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased respiration, and stress-hormone release.

Memory modulation

The Amygdala is also involved in the modulation of memory consolidation. Following any learning event, the long-term memory for the event is not formed instantaneously. Rather, information regarding the event is slowly assimilated into long-term (potentially life-long) storage over time, possibly forming permanent neural pathways.

The formation of those permanent pathways, called long-term potentiation, can become vital for behavior. Creating pathways for anxiety, fear conditioning, can be hard to overcome. Whereas, starting with pathways for positive behavior can improve behavior and help during stressful events.

This kind of positive conditioning can be done as an adult. A study performed on Buddhist monks who do compassion meditation have shown that they can modulate their Amygdala during their practice. When tested they showed a calmer reaction to stress than other people.

The Amygdala is most active when emotional. Greater emotional arousal following an event can enhance a person’s retention of that event. Which makes it interesting because it controls both emotion and memory. The full extent of this “bias” is not fully understood.

The obvious studies on fear and anger show positive correlations, where increased fear (emotion) then increase memory of that fear. Not much study has been completed on the opposite, for example, do positive emotions stimulate the Amygdala to create memory as much as negative ones do.

In nature there is certainly a desire to learn quickly from bad experiences, but is there a similarly strong desire to learn from positive outcomes?

Neuropsychological correlates (behavior and disorders)

As early as 1888, rhesus monkeys with a lesioned temporal cortex (including the amygdala) were observed to have significant social and emotional deficits. Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy later expanded upon this same observation by showing that large lesions to the anterior temporal lobe produced noticeable changes, including overreaction to all objects, hypoemotionality, loss of fear, hypersexuality, and hyperorality, a condition in which inappropriate objects are placed in the mouth.

These studies and many more discussed below show that the Amygdala plays a substantial role in mental states, and is related to many psychological disorders.

Of particular focus is the left Amygdala and it’s size.

Some studies have shown that children with anxiety disorders tend to have a smaller left Amygdala which increased in size with the use of antidepressant medication.

The Amygdala exists on both sides of the brain.

Other studies found the left side to be linked to social anxiety, obsessive and compulsive disorders, and post traumatic stress, as well as more broadly to separation and general anxiety.

Similarly, depressed patients showed exaggerated left side activity when interpreting emotions for all faces, and especially for fearful faces. This hyperactivity was normalized when patients went on antidepressants. 

Alcoholism and binge drinking also affects the Amygdala by dampening its activation, reducing its ability for emotional processing. This is thought to happen by inhibiting the protein kinase C-epsilon which is important in regulating drug addiction, drinking, and anxiety.

Amygdala Hijack

In 1996, Daniel Goleman wrote the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. In it he described a biological response we sometimes exhibit, naming it the Amygdala Hijack:

“Some emotional reactions and emotional responses can be formed without any conscious, cognitive participation…because the shortcut from thalamus to Amygdala completely bypasses the neocortex (the rational brain)”.

In scientific terms, the Thalamus bypasses the Cortex and routes the signal directly to the Amygdala, which is the trigger point for the primitive fight-or-flight response, and in our modern settings can often result in irrational or destructive behavior.

“Emotions make us pay attention right now – this is urgent – and give us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: Do I eat it, or does it eat me?”.

Here is Mr. Goleman explaining it himself:

The emotional response “can take over the rest of the brain in a millisecond if threatened” and exhibits three signs: strong emotional reaction, sudden onset, and post-episode realization that the reaction was inappropriate.

In these cases self-control is crucial so as to avoid a complementary hijacking. For example ‘one key marital competence is for partners to learn to soothe their own distressed feelings…nothing gets resolved positively when husband or wife is in the midst of an emotional hijacking’. 

The danger is that ‘when our partner becomes, in effect, our enemy, we are in the grip of an “Amygdala hijack” in which our emotional memory, lodged in the limbic center of our brain, rules our reactions without the benefit of logic or reason…which causes our bodies to go into a “flight or fight” response’.

On the Upside

Finding ways to enlarge your Amygdala can have multiple obvious benefits beyond emotional stability. One study “suggests that Amygdalar enlargement in the normal population might be related to creative mental activity”. Another found positive correlations with both the size (the number of contacts a person has) and the complexity (the number of different groups to which a person belongs) of social networks.

What was left unsaid was how to increase the size of your Amygdala without the use of antidepressants, or maintain the size after terminating use.

One can infer that for those experiencing anxiety or overcome by fear or other emotions, the size of the Amygdala is small. That smaller size leads one to destructive behaviors, flight-or-flight responses, and limited growth.

The recommendations by nearly every study may provide an insight into how one can increase the size of there Amygdala. The reoccurring suggestion was practice, or regular repetition that allows the neurons in the brain to form new pathways and then strengthen those until they form the dominant behavior.

A method I often practice, although I recommend doing it with a trusted friend or therapist involved. Remember, improvement can always be had and nothing about you is set in stone.

Sources

Wikipedia, Scholarpedia, Science DailyMemory Loss Online (photo)

 

Amy's Amygdala: the emotional brain that controls fight-or-flight

The brain evolved from the bottom up and one of its first structures was the Amygdala. An almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

It plays a key role in the processing of emotions and is linked to both fear responses and pleasure. For this reason it is often known as the “emotional brain”.

While a lot of research concentrates on the rational brain in the frontal cortex, not much is said about the Amygdala even though it plays a central role in so many current problems, including alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Here is an in-depth look at the Amygdala.

Emotional learning

The Amygdalae perform the primary roles in the brain of the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. The most important of which are the memories that elicit fear behavior.

For dangerous situations this behavior can save our life but in today’s modern world it often acts in a role of paralysis, where the central nuclei is the genesis of many fear responses, including freezing (immobility), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased respiration, and stress-hormone release.

Memory modulation

The Amygdala is also involved in the modulation of memory consolidation. Following any learning event, the long-term memory for the event is not formed instantaneously. Rather, information regarding the event is slowly assimilated into long-term (potentially life-long) storage over time, possibly forming permanent neural pathways.

Continue reading Amy's Amygdala: the emotional brain that controls fight-or-flight