I had a great past weekend at the Quantified Self Europe 2013 conference in Amsterdam (program), where I gave a talk on my reintroduction of carbohydrates from very low carb Paleo to a LeanGains carb and calorie cycled diet. There were tons of talented and interesting people to meet, and plenty of new activities and devices in the QS world. In this post, I’ll share some of the findings that I think are most pertinent to biohacking.
Some potentially useful QS tools for biohacking
The Check Device for Overtraining Diagnosis
Check (my level) This upcoming measurement system scores how ready to exercise you are. It can tell you whether or not you are overtrained, helping guide and optimize your training frequency and intensity. It’s a combined finger and wrist measurement that uses low-level TENS to stimulate muscle contractions and measure response characteristics. It will work with iPhone and Android.
Arterial stiffness -Arterial stiffness is an under-appreciated and under-measured independent risk factor for heart disease. If your arteries become stiff then they lose some of their ability to dilate. When the heart contracts, blood will flow more rapidly through them, which can damage the endothelial lining over time. This is particularly problematic for the coronary arteries, as it can contribute to heart attack risk.
I think about half the conference had their arterial stiffness measured by one of several devices on demo from a company whose name escapes me. The cheaper finger-devices are affordable (â‚¬600, $800) for true health die-hards, but the measurements have huge error bars (my “arterial age” was between 19-31). The “gold standard” SpyhgmoCor runs about â‚¬10k or $13k, and is much more accurate. It might be a test that you want to start asking your doctor for at your regular visits. According to the MD on hand, arterial stiffness might be reduced by omega-3 fats, vitamins K2 and D3, and Mg. Smoking and belly fat may be stiffening.
– An iPhone app that works in conjunction with urinalysis test strips to help you accurately extract health info.
– Another urinalysis assistant for the iPhone.
– An upcoming stand-alone device to help detect anemia.
– A device for the iPhone that measures heart rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygenation, and respiratory rate, when you touch and hold your thumb to it.
– An on-the-bed sleep tracking device that purports to be so sensitive that it can capture individual heartbeats through the vibrations on your mattress, and separate these out from your breaths. Maybe this will be the near-term replacement for the sadly defunct Zeo? I only have 2 more electrode-bands left!
– A clinically accurate ECG monitor for use with an iPhone.
(by Scanadu) – A sensor that when held up to the forehead will measure temperature and apparently some other vitals also.
The Human Memome Project
– I met one of the founders, Stuart Calimport, at the conference. The idea is to get volunteers to record the memes that influence their lives through either a self-tracking service or voluntary upload. They will also provide health information, so that then the meme-health correlations can be data mined to try to discover which memes correlate (and are thus candidates for causing) better health and longevity. It’s going well beyond the idea that biomarkers are the only relevant prognosticators of health, and as I mentioned in my post on the Hasselt anti-aging conference
, this is supported by existing data.
Netra smartphone eye test
– Diagnose the most common refractive eye disorders with your smart phone: myopia (nearsightedness), hypermetropia (farsightedness), astigmatism, and presbyopia (age-related visual impairment).
– This is the first consumer EEG that I will try. You can order now, but shipments won’t occur until the end of the year.
– This startup enables you to get paid monetary rewards for hitting health tracking targets. This is a great idea, as it is one piece of the puzzle for a potential solution to the dual problems of spiraling (down) health and (up) costs worldwide. Since healthy behaviors translate into health savings on future medical care, it makes complete sense that individuals should be incentivized monetarily to adopt those behaviors.
Many of the above technologies were highlighted in Eri Gentry’s talk. Eri
is one of the founder’s of Bio Curious
, a DIY biology organization.
Issues facing QS
The conference had a few themes, one of which was lifelogging
, and the privacy issues raised by it. Another theme was data openness
/ownership. A third was how to move towards common data and communication standards so that the data from different self-tracking devices can be easily merged and analyzed together. These are all tough and important issues with divergent opinions and no easy solutions. But many conferences attendees are already working towards addressing them.
There was a lot going on at the conference geared towards better quantifying and understanding the effects of meditation on the mind. This is a major interest of mine, and I’ll be getting involved with a few of these projects going forward. Most of these are in their formational stages, so there is not so much by way of results to report just yet. But if you are interested in following/participating in them also, then here’s the info:
The Mind App – by Gustaf Kranck
– A suite of developing sensor technologies and applications to help track and learn about the state of the mind. Gustaf is also interested in trying to get to the bottom of whether or ambient EMF fields affect the brain, and if so then in what ways? He’s also curious how meditation, specifically vipassana meditation
, might alter any such effects.
Meditation and brain function – Peter Lewis – Peter presented the results of a 6-person crowdsourced trial that he ran testing the effects of mindfulness meditation by evaluating mental performance with a mental arithmetic app. He’s interested in refining and expanding these types of trials in the future.
Open Source Brain Metrics for Performance Tracking – Richard Ryan, Martin Sona
– They are examining various commercial and DIY EEG hardware for suitability in citizen-science experimentation for evaluating the effects of mental treatments, such as meditation, on cognition. I believe that they will keep us up-to-date on the QS facebook group
– I didn’t see any session dedicated specifically to this at the conference, but its an important and useful online tool for evaluating mental performance. It’s been used in several crowd-sourced experiments so far.
The video of my talk is here
, and I also volunteered for an interview
in which I was asked about the role of QS in biohacking and about the future of QS.
A nice roundup of blog posts and interviews are collected here
. The recorded talks can be found on Ken Synder’s Vimeo page
(great props to Ken for doing a TON of work filming everything!).
If you would like to learn more about Quantified Self, the available technologies, and how people are using them, then the following links are great places to get started:
Soylent promoters were up in the house.