Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Data Collection in the 21st Century - Crowd Sourcing

Max Little and science practice

So far I have talked about doing science instead of consuming facts. I advocate doing it in as many ways possible, and as often as possible. I do not however want to create a disconnect where, since this is my life, it is obvious how to connect yourself, your children, or your students, to doing scinece in many different ways. Today, a parctical, and I hope you will agree useful, example of how this is being done.

Max Little is a world-class Mathematician who has researched how to better detect Parkinson's disease. Instead of a costly test for the disease that requires access to a clinic, he has helped in the development of a system that uses a three minute phone call! In short (very short) the system detects the voice patterns of the caller and compares those patterns to healthy patients and to those who have Parkinson's disease. Since the disease affects muscles, and the vocal chords are indeed muscles, the vocal patterns of the caller are potential indicators of the disease. This method has been refined to be 99% accurate. If you want to know more about it, here is a link to his TED Talk which is appoximately 6 min in length.

The comparison that is done requires a database of both healthy and unhealthy vocal records. Simply put, this is data collection for the purposes of data analysis. Max has begun the "Parkinson's Voice Initiative", an effort to have people from all over the world call in and spend 3 min of their time, adding to the data that is needed to make these comparisons and contribute to this solution. This is science, mathematics and technology (STEM anyone??) at its finest. The result of the overall effort will be earlier detection because this is an inexpensive, easily accessible way to test for Parkinson's.

This is an effort, like many that are occuring today, that leverages the internet and social media to collect data and solve problems using the "crowd", that is, anyone who would like to contribute to the solution. These opportunities abound on the web - and I would love to hear of any and all that you may have taken advantage of! This is one, great way, of taking a nugget of the scientific process, and practicing science - with a side benefit of helping others. What could be better!?

No comments:

Post a Comment