The Latest Buzz in Self Quantifying

This morning, KPBS reporter Angela Carone unveiled the latest device from UC San Diego’s Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute, invented by the director of the institute, Ramesh Rao.

This new self quantifying system of machines is called the Bliss Buzzer and is worn to measure heart rate in order to determine when the user is optimally relaxed, at which point it gives the wearer a small vibration, or buzz.

Just like a pedometer that measures one’s steps, the Bliss Buzzer is a training device, intended to make people more aware of the subtle functioning of their own body.

Rao created the device with the intention of showing people when they are really relaxed, hoping that with this knowledge they will strive to create more restful moments through out the day. Carone describes the buzz as an inaudible, enjoyable tingling, that could unknowingly trigger the user to want to have more buzzes and therefore, more restful moments.

“You can get hooked on the buzz without knowing that you’re doing it,” Rao tells KPBS. “And so to the extent that we are associating it with healthful states, that’s a good entrainment. It teaches you.”

But the absence of the buzz can also indicate something. Wearers could notice they haven’t buzzed in a while and realize they should take a moment to remove stress.

Rao said he was driven to create the Bliss Buzzer when he began self quantifying five years ago, a craze popularized by Calit2’s founding director, Larry Smarr. Like Smarr, Rao noticed his lifestyle heading in an unhealthy direction and he decided to track the changes as he altered his diet, began exercising and has become devoted to yoga.

In this video, catch a glimpse inside the Qualcomm Institute, as Rao and Smarr discuss the institute’s accomplishments on it’s tenth anniversary.

Or, get a look inside the Qualcomm Institute yourself at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, presented by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. Also hear from the self quantifying expert, Larry Smarr, at the conference, held on October 2 through 4 at the Qualcomm Institute and the Scripps Seaside Forum in La Jolla, California.

Please visit for registration and more information.


Gaming for Better Brains and a Better Future

larry-smarrWhen you think about what videos games teach their users, the first things that come to mind are violence and inactivity. But today there are games that can strengthen skills which can be applied to finding a cure for cancer or combating climate change.

Last year at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, Larry Smarr, founding director of Calit2 (now know as Qualcomm Institute), and Jane McGonigal,world-renowned designer of alternate reality games and author of the best-selling book “Reality is Broken,” discussed the beneficial side of video games.

Most parents are worried about the potential effects video games have on children but, McGonigal argues that games teach technical proficiency as well as social and collaboration skills.

Larry Smarr says he encouraged his children to play games because he knew it would be important for their future and brain development, as the rapid necessity of making decisions in video games drives neural development.

See what else you can learn from games in this video of Smarr and McGonigal’s discussion.

Be sure to catch Larry Smarr at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, presented by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. The conference will be held at Scripps Seaside Forum and the Qualcomm Institute in La Jolla, California on October 2 through 4.

For more information on registration and speakers, visit


Quantifying Oneself and Quantifying the Benefits

When Socrates gave the commandment “know thyself,” he could have never imagined how literally “self quantifiers” would take this notion of self understanding.

Self tracking has become trendier than ever. This year’s South by SouthWest had a panel dedicated to discussing the latest apps and devices used for anything from counting calories and steps to levels of amino acids in the body.

The popular Fitbit and Nike Fuelband only skim the surface of the self tracking movement.

Peter Zandan, chairman of Hill+ Knowlton Strategies, who headed the sxsw panel about “how self-tracking geeks are shaping our future,” gave NPR this list of some of the most popular and cutting edge products in the self tracking movement: 23andMe, for DNA analysis; Talking20, amino acid testing; Moodscope, a mood tracking app; Zeo, a sleep monitoring device; and Equanimity, an app that aids meditation practices.


Larry Smarr during last year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific

At last year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, Larry Smarr showcased some of his favorite self tracking devices, including his Zeo headband and Fitbit.

Smarr has become one of the most well known self trackers, after the Atlantic Magazine’s article about him, titled “The Measured Man” revealed the inside scoop and benefit of such obsessive self inquiry. Smarr took his self quantifying a bit further than most, collecting and testing stool samples. But, this led to a perfect example of how useful self quantifying can be and how it could drastically reshape healthcare.

larry-smarrTo hear Smarr explain how his data collection led to his early self diagnosis of a chronic illness, check out UC-TV’s coverage of his talk and all of last year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific.

This year, Smarr will once again speak at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, held at Scripps Seaside Forum and Calit2 in La Jolla, California. From October 2nd through 4th, UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine will host a series of speakers, like Smarr, to discuss the forefront of technology, energy, and health.

Check for more information on this year’s event.

Get More Miles Out of Your Body with Modern Technology

Our bodies are like cars – they need regular checkups and maintenance.  But, unfortunately, most of us bring our cars in for service (e.g., pinpointing leaks before they get serious & regular oil changes every 6,000 miles) more than we schedule regular check-ups for ourselves.  Computer science mastermind and former astrophysicist, Larry Smarr, Ph.D., aims to change this . . .

Dr. Smarr, the founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and Harry E. Gruber Professor in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School, is not only interested in math and supercomputers, he’s also interested in changing the face of healthcare by using technology to regularly map the human body to discover potential problems before they start.

Picture it – if data were regularly collected from our bodies, tested, mapped and interpreted, we would have the power to preemptively diagnose issues before they become a problem – we could then take preventive measures to stop the potential problems from occurring.  Doing this, with the help of modern technology, is what Dr. Smarr and others like Eric Topol envision is on the horizon of healthcare.

So, when Larry talks about the potential for computers to help us understand our bodies, he isn’t talking about their showing us more isolated details about an unfathomably complex system; he’s talking about knowing everything.”

Learn more from Dr. Smarr at the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference.

For more information about the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific (TAMTP) Conference (October 7-9, 2012), contact information and list of speakers, please visit the following link:

To register for the event, please visit: