Powerpoint: Zen, Jobs and Bullets

I’m giving a couple presentations in two weeks and am going to try to modify my PowerPoint slides to represent the simplicity of style explained in these posts that describe recent presentations made by Steve Jobs and Dick Hardt. The heart of the idea is to eliminate bullet points from the presentation and to make the visual information complementary rather than redundant with what you are saying during the presentation. This technique has apparently been used extensively by Larry Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, who has become known for PowerPoint slides that contain single words in a  typewriter font. Cliff Atkinson is a proponent of this approach and cites research that indicates a significant improvement in retention when using an approach described in his book. I think this makes sense, and fits in with the general movement supporting simplicity in design for optimal usability, as exercised by Apple and IDEO.

UHA in Nuremberg

Got back this past weekend from the main hearing aid and audiology conference in Europe called UHA (Union der Hörgeräteakustiker Kongress). Its location alternates between Frankfurt and Nuremberg, and luckily this year it was in the latter. The little that I saw of the city was charming. Much of it was leveled in WWII, but they’ve reconstructed many of their old landmarks so that the town center incorporates the partial appearance of a preserved medieval village, complete with the surrounding city wall and towers. Here are some photos:


Interestingly (or not), the meeting’s name has been changed to EUHA (E for European) to make the meeting seem that it is representative of all of Europe rather than just of Germany (in the past it has been known as the German Congress). Still, almost all of the meeting is still in German and the people that I talked to said that the meeting will never in the foreseeable future be held outside of Germany.

Yahoo! Research

Yahoo! opened a research lab one block from the SHRC. While we were created to do basic research and work with UC Berkeley, Yahoo!’s lab is a full-blown lab filled with Berkeley students and professors. I was invited to their open house but had to miss it because of the Cognitive conference in Indiana. Here’s a post, though, by someone who did go to the open house, with additional comments on the usefulness of the lab compared to Google:
O’Reilly Radar > Yahoo! Research Berkeley Launches.

Cognition and Speech

Went to an excellent conference in Indiana on cognition and speech communication. Discussion was on how our cognitive ability changes as we age and what the impact is on speech understanding. Some interesting non-scientific facts (and not necessarily new):

  • Standard measures of our cognitive function decline approximately 1% per year starting age 20.
  • Older people are generally poorer at understanding speech in noise than younger people even if their hearing ability as measured by the audiogram is the same as the younger group.
  • Multiple measures of cognition and the auditory system demonstrate age-related slowing of behavior and neural signaling.
  • Neural inhibition degenerates with age and this may affect our ability to inhibit or ignore unwanted sounds, such as that annoying person sitting at the table beside us while we are concentrating on the person speaking at our own table.
  • As we get older, our brain works harder to compensate for our aging ears and to understand speech in noisy situations, but those extra cognitive resources added take away from other abilities like remembering what we are hearing.

Many of the talks were right in line with either experiments or general guiding concepts at the Starkey hearing Research Center (SHRC), so I’m very glad that I went–see my recent interview on cognition and the SHRC.