Software That Improves...Wait, What Was it...Oh, Memory

Dennis Faas's picture

Finally, software tools for those that have difficulty remembering things. Both IBM and Microsoft are currently testing software designed to improve individual memory.

Let's face it, people today are overwhelmed with information and data -- so much so that they can't process it or retrieve it when needed. The new software will help with that by combining pictures, sounds, dates, times, locations, and text that is recorded through some type of everyday mobile electronic device (like a smart cell phone) and indexed for later retrieval. (Source:

The IBM version of the software has been labeled "Pensieve" after the magical object in Harry Potter's world that can store the physical form of memories. The Microsoft software project is under the name of MyLifeBits.

Pensieve uses a combination of a cell phone and a PC. The cell phone is used to collect the data and your PC organizes it all and integrates with your address book. Let's suppose you meet an important prospective customer at a trade show. You would take a business card, take a picture of it and the person by using your phone, then you record his name, some notes, and perhaps some "tags" for the information. If it's a GPS phone, it might correlate the global positioning data in with the contact as well. When you get back to your office the next day, you download everything into your PC. Pensieve would then correlate it all and file it away in your address book. (Source:

MyLifeBits uses a similar approach but has, perhaps, a more ambitious objective. According to the Microsoft Research website, MyLifeBits is a lifetime story of everything. As an experiment, Gordon Bell, the long-time industry computer scientist from Digital and now a principal researcher at Microsoft, is using MyLifeBits to record everything about his life -- all his research, articles, books, cards, CDs, personal papers, photos, home movies, lectures and phone calls (among other things) -- anything to do with his life.

As the population ages, or as the quantity of information we're bombarded with increases, there's little doubt that projects of this type could prove very useful. For this author, however, the goal isn't to remember his whole life, but simply to figure out where he left the spare garage door opener. Right now, his PC doesn't seem to know -- but that could certainly change in the near future.

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