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Now gamers help diagnose disease

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Over a billion people in the world entertain themselves with video games. Miguel Luengo Oroz has taken his gaming to the next level by using the intelligence of players from around the world to help diagnose diseases.

More than one billion people in the world entertain themselves with apps and video games. Only a hobby? For Miguel Luengo Oroz, the answer is no. Miguel and his team from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) have resolved to use the collective intelligence of players from around the world to help diagnose diseases that kill thousands of people every day.

Parasites rather than spaceships

The idea originated in 2012. “While I was working for the United Nations in global health challenges, it caught my attention how tough and manual the process of diagnosing malaria was,” explains Miguel. “It can take up to 30 minutes to identify and count the parasites in a blood sample that cause the disease. There are not enough specialists in the world to diagnose all the cases!”

Miguel, a great fan of videogames had an idea: “Why not create a videogame in which rather than shooting spaceships we search for parasites?” And MalariaSpot was born, a game available for computer and mobiles in which the “malaria hunter” has one minute to detect the parasites in a real, digitalized blood sample.

Since its launch, more than 100.000 people in 100 countries have “hunted” one and a half million parasites, and the results are promising. The number of clicks made by many players in the same image sample combined by artificial intelligence shows a count as precise as the one of an expert, but quicker.

“We published a study that probed that the collective diagnosis by the use of a videogame is not a crazy thing, but now it needs to be assessed from a medical point of view,” explains Miguel. His team cooperates with a clinic in Mozambique and has done some tests in real time and has achieved the first collaborative remote diagnosis of Malaria from Africa.

The technology platform to host the game was the key. “We needed a flexible infrastructure that worked from anywhere in the world. We usually have traffic spikes when we appear in media or when we do campaigns in social networks, and we saw that Amazon Web Services (AWS) offered a good solution for auto scaling based on demand,” Miguel said.

Miguel and his team use the AWS Research Grants program that allows students, teachers, and researchers to transfer their activities to the cloud and innovate rapidly at a low cost. “We can now test different services without having to worry about the bill,” explains Miguel.

From the White House to neighborhood schools

The MalariaSpot project has attracted the recognition of entities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who has named Miguel one of the ten youngest Spaniards under 35 with potential to change the world through technology, the Singularity University of the NASA, and the Office of Science and Technology of the White House.

But one of the greatest awards for Miguel and his team comes much closer to home. They enjoy visiting schools all over Spain and helping awake the most unsuspected scientific vocations. “Today’s kids are digital natives. They are used to seeing and analyzing complex images on a screen,” says Miguel. This shows the educational value and awareness of videogames. During the last World Malaria Day on 25th April thousands of Spanish students participated in “Olympic Malaria Videogames” playing the new game MalariaSpot Bubbles. During this day school teams competed to become the best virtual hunters of malaria parasites.

“With MalariaSpot we have even be able to reach kids who were not very good at biology, in a workshop that we run in a school last year the kid who won was the most troublemaker out of his whole class,” explains Miguel (with a smile).

And the future of medical diagnosis is not only defined in laboratories. “We are in a turning point where technology allows ubiquitous connectivity. And us, and the rest of our generation, are responsible to direct all the possibilities that technology offers us to initiatives that make a real impact on the lives of people. And what better than health.”

With MalariaSpot and her “younger sister,” TuberSpot, Miguel and his young team of researchers are contributing so that in five years 5% of videogames are used to analyze medical images. Their objective? “Achieve a low cost diagnosis of global diseases, accessible to any person anywhere around the planet.”

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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