Mapping Ideas with Open Source Handwriting-to-Text Software

hey there world

Ideas are curious things. You’re going along and suddenly… Boom! An idea. But it wasn’t really out of the blue, was it? Sure, something immediate may have sparked it. The spark came from somewhere. Where is that? How.. What is an idea? Configurations of neurons grow and represent realization..such vague explanation is saying Earth is a space rock. It is this. It’s immensely more.

Through language and emotion we navigate the world. We choose how to spend time, with whom to spend it. We choose which ideas are most interesting and seek out more. We read, browse, share. Videos, politics, religion, business, creativity.. our modern world is full of inspiration for those who explore. The idea I’ve been most interested in exploring is categorical: pondering how it is that ideas come about in the first place. Along this intellectual journey, I encounter a great breath of people, perspectives, and experiences. Playfully I explore the world of minds in order to create a perspective that is uniquely this self, this Amy.

In an effort to explore a bit of how I became myself, I’ve developed a side project over the past few years: mapping ideas. This post and accompanying a lecture at Stanford summarize the why.

Let this focus on the next step: sharing.

I write frequently. Between 2008 and June, 2016, I have filled up over 40 Moleskine Notebooks. Words, musings, aphorisms, speech outlines, sketches.. these notebooks are not mere writing, if there is such a thing. They are the evolution of the ideas I hold dear. The ideas I think have played the lead roles in my becoming who I am today.

Analyzing language for things like sentiment and keywords has for many years been possible thanks to platforms like AlchemyAPI from IBM. There is still a missing puzzle piece: a tool that automatically transcribes images of notebook pages into text files. Several tools exist but none so far have worked for me. I realize that Evernote makes writing searchable. It does not allow you to export text files.

Anyone out there interested in computer vision tools that turn writing to .txt? I would love to team up with you. Not just to make the next step in mapping ideas but to create an open source tool that anyone who writes can use to transform handwriting into a digital database.

I’m @amyleesterling on GitHub and Twitter. I’m still of course ever-searching for deeper understanding of who I am and perpetually welcome conversations with those of you on similar journeys. Ping me if this is up your curiosity alley. These are my personal notes and currently I’m brave enough to share them with people who ask but not publicly on the web just yet 🙂

A few sample images of notes below illustrate content diversity and wackiness.

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BrainVR: One Step Closer to Visualizing the Brain in Virtual Reality


The three pound organ sitting behind your eyes is nothing short of extraordinary.  Symphonic activity among billions of neurons gives rise to thoughts, feelings, and ultimately the perspective and personality that makes you, you. Your brain makes a remarkable journey over the course of a lifetime — from an infant unable to speak to a capable adult able to philosophize and implement great dreams.

Our brains have evolved a special affinity for storytelling. Through narrative we share experiences. Elegant linguistic and visual combinations teach lessons from the past and facilitate fantastically imagined futures. Stories connect us with friends and loved ones.  In much the same way that technological revolutions like virtual and augmented reality are transfiguring how we tell stories, innovations in an entirely different field – neuroscience – are beginning to reveal how stories make their way into that most amazing source of self: the human brain.

Eyewire Neurons by Alex Norton, eyewire, neurons, brainvr

Thanks to cutting edge artificial intelligence, nanoscale resolution imaging, seriously powerful computers, high resolution portable displays and unprecedented international collaboration, we teamed up with MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group to create a never-before-possible interactive immersive neuroscience visualization that debuted at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival’s Games and Media Summit.

amy sterling at tribeca, Amy Sterling, Amy Robinson Sterling, eyewire, Tribeca Film Festival, amyleesterling, brainVRIn Virtual Reality, visitors teleport into a foreign yet familiar world, exploring a new pathway of narrative: the electrophysical connections among neurons. This is BrainVR.

Venture into a freshly discovered circuit of cells responsible in part for the brain’s ability to perceive motion – the very ebb and flow of story itself – using HTC Vive. Participants are invited to play with virtual objects and are challenged to trigger specific neural circuits which send movement information to the brain. Explore a stunningly beautiful, cutting-edge ideascape while you enjoy wonder and awe for the intricate complexity and nearly immeasurable wonder of the brain.

In 2014, we created Neurons in Space, a virtual reality experience that debuted at the TED Conference. This first VR ever shown at TED was a huge hit and catalyzed an ongoing side project at Eyewire: visualizing the brain in ever more immersive experiences. BrainVR is the latest iteration in an ongoing quest to immerse participants in the brain:

 

The combined efforts of hundreds of thousands of gamers have resulted in nanoscale resolution 3D models of neurons and their associated circuitry. These models serve as the basis for BrainVR. Learn more at Eyewire.org.

I had a fantastic time creating and sharing this experience at Tribeca. Tremendously excited to continue taking it forward. Ping me if you’re interested in collaborating! Huge shoutout to the team: Alex Norton, Daniel Citron, Scott Greenwald, Max Rose, and Julian Samal who created the sound.

amy, amy sterling, amy robinson, amy robinson sterling, Tribeca Film Festival, Eyewire, brainVR, Brain, neuroscience, presentation, Amy Eyewire, MIT Media Lab, Fluid Interfaces,

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