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Crowdsourcing nutrition in a snapCrowdsourcing nutrition in a snap

first_imgAmericans spend upwards of $40 billion a year on dieting advice and self-help books, but the first step in any healthy eating strategy is basic awareness — what’s on the plate.If keeping a food diary seems like too much effort, despair not: Computer scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have devised a tool that lets you snap a photo of your meal and let the crowd do the rest.PlateMate’s calorie estimates have proved, in tests, to be just as accurate as those of trained nutritionists, and more accurate than the user’s own logs. The research was presented at the 24th ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, a leading conference on human-computer interaction.“We can take things that used to require experts and do them with crowds,” says Jon Noronha ’11, who co-developed PlateMate as an undergraduate at Harvard and now works at Microsoft. “Estimating the nutritional value of a meal is a fairly complex task, from a computational standpoint, but with a structured workflow and some cultural awareness, we’ve expanded what crowdsourcing can achieve.”When Noronha and his classmate Eric Hysen ’11 were looking for a real-world challenge to explore, healthy eating was an obvious choice.“Nutrition is such a pervasive issue in our society, from counting calories at the dinner table to burning them on the treadmill,” says Hysen, who now works at Google. “People worry about whether they’re doing the right thing. It seemed like a really good opportunity for crowdsourcing to make a difference.”Often, individuals who claim they are trying to lose weight will underestimate their caloric intake, so PlateMate’s advantage is that it allows the user to quickly consult impartial observers, without having to pay for the advice and supervision of an expert nutritionist.Reproducing the accuracy of an expert in a crowd of untrained strangers, however, was not straightforward.“Computer scientists normally focus on the computational aspects of a problem, but the HR [human resources] issues of working with crowds can be just as challenging,” says Krzysztof Gajos, assistant professor of computer science at SEAS and the students’ adviser.PlateMate works in coordination with Amazon Mechanical Turk, a system originally intended to help improve product listings on Amazon.com. Turkers, as the crowd workers call themselves, receive a few cents for each puzzlelike task they complete.PlateMate divides nutrition analysis into several iterative tasks, asking groups of Turkers to distinguish between foods in the photo, identify what they are, and estimate quantities. The nutrition totals for the meal are then automatically calculated.The researchers did encounter some commonsense problems with sending photographs to strangers without any context. A latte made with whole milk looks no different than one made with skim milk, a fast-food burger might pack in more calories than one cooked at home, and a close-up photo of a bag of chips could indicate either a sample-sized snack or a late-night binge on a bag designed for 12.Early tests also identified some cultural limitations. Overseas Turkers routinely identified a burger bun with ketchup as a muffin with jam.Even after restricting the tests to American workers, Noronha and Hysen discovered that portions of chicken were being characterized as “chicken feet,” again and again. The puzzling result drew their attention to another significant and common problem in crowdsourcing: worker laziness. “Chicken feet” was simply the first option in a list of chicken-related foods, so lazy Turkers were just clicking it and moving on to a new task.Noronha and Hysen solved these problems by designing simple, clearly defined tasks, and algorithms that compare several answers, selecting the best one. They provided warnings about common errors, and vetted their Turkers to weed out those with a history of poor work.The resulting tool is easier and more accurate than keeping a food diary and cheaper than consulting a nutritionist.“Just taking pictures won’t make you healthier,” warns Gajos. “You have to actually reflect on this information. You have to be motivated to change. But if you have this motivation, then PlateMate will make it easier for you to follow through.”In the future, he suggests, some of the contextual problems could be avoided by pairing the photos with location data.Intended primarily as a foray into the capabilities of human-computer systems, PlateMate may not solve, once and for all, the challenge of eating well. It is, however, one of the first attempts to use multiple human-computational approaches to solve a very complex, real-world problem.“A lot of prior crowdsourcing research has been about making crowds do things that we wish computers could do, like shorten an 800-word essay to 500 words and have it still make sense,” explains Noronha. “That’s something computers can almost do, but it’s just beyond their reach.“What makes the nutrition application so interesting as a problem in crowdsourcing is that computers are so very far away from doing it on their own—because food is such a human thing.”Computations and algorithms cannot yet evaluate a meal, but it turns out that they can build an effective workforce. The PlateMate project proves that a well-managed crowd can play the role of an expert, and that opens the door to a wealth of new opportunities.“Any problem that can be broken down into logical steps is a great candidate for crowdsourcing,” says Haoqi Zhang ’07, a doctoral candidate at SEAS who brought crowdsourcing expertise to the PlateMate project. “The only question is, what would you like the crowd to do for you?”“Take, for example, comparing travel packages or making slides for a presentation — most people spend a lot of time on that kind of thing, but if you can effectively organize a crowd to help, it’s like having an expert as a trusty assistant, ready to help at all times.”last_img read more

Mountain Mama: The Beauty in FadingMountain Mama: The Beauty in Fading

first_imgMy son asks a lot about dying these days. Maybe it’s a five-year-old thing, like learning basic addition and how to swim, or maybe it’s because a primal family member has been staring down death for the past year. “Mama bear, are you ever going to die?”Sometimes he tears ups. Sometimes it’s in the exact same tone that he asks me whether unicorns are real or if we can spend travel to the Jurassic period for the weekend.My birthday weekend I felt urgency to ensure his summer contains some good memories by the time he starts kindergarten, that it wasn’t all about working and visiting and saying good-byes.Despite the forecast for thunderstorms, I loaded up our tandem kayak with camping gear. I’d made the reservation for a boat-in campsite at Lake Jocassee for this coveted weekend months ago, carving it out as sacred fun time with my son. We paddled across Lake Jocassee with another mountain mama and her little girl during a break in the clouds, arriving at the campsite on the other side of the lake. As if to welcome us, the clouds opened, rain warm pelting us.We decided to wait until the storm passed to unpack our boats.My son wore rain pants and a persimmon red raincoat. He jumped off a rock and canon-balled into the now milky green lake, beckoning me to join him.I shook my head, telling him that I didn’t want to get my clothes wet“But mama, they already are,” he said.It was logic I couldn’t refute, so I jumped in after him. Laughing more than I had in the entire past month. It rained harder. We swam and dove, splashing each other and floating on our backs.It was the most fun I could remember having until we got cold. We were wearing the warmest layers we had. That’s when it set in that the rain wasn’t stopping. The campsites were flooded, and the gravel pads where we were supposed to set up our tents were one big puddle. Our tarp was useless against the day-long onslaught of rain.So later that night when other campers offered us a ride to the other side of the lake in their motorboat, we jumped on it. We left our kayak and canoe, still full of our camping gear, and sped across the lake at midnight just as the rain was letting up.The next day, refreshed after a night’s sleep at my house, we returned. Late that afternoon the rain returned and I second-guessed my decision. Then the sky cleared.My son and I sat near the lake, inhaling the clean scent the rain leaves behind, somehow metallic and earthy all at once. The fog lifted, revealing the sun that had been there all along, just out of sight behind the clouds.The lake was quiet, the kind of stillness required to take in the beauty of a whole life, and I thought about what I knew about my dad’s childhood. For a minute I stopped resisting the thought that lurked just outside my every thought. My dad was dying.I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could. I also wanted to provide my son with normalcy, and ground myself in a successful work life. To do all the things, and be all the versions of myself that were possible and felt guilty the times and ways I hadn’t showed up. It was an impossible desire of course.In that moment on the bank of the lake I stopped being anyone at all, I just sit and watch the setting sun.He piled crystals he found and then leaves and twigs. “Mama, for your birthday I’m giving you your favorite thing. Nature!” He beamed at me.It’s the only gift I received that weekend, because I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday. Part of me secretly hoped that if I didn’t recognize my birthday. I’d stay forty-two, my son would stay a five-years old, and my dad would stay dying, but at least not dead.“Mama, do you like your gift?” My little boy pressed a rock into my palm.I grabbed him into a hug. “It’s the perfect gift.”I wanted to take it home, to hold on to it, but leaves don’t travel well and the rocks belonged to the land. There was no holding on to any of it, my son’s pile of nature heaped at my feet, his five year old self, me being forty-two, or my dad’s mortality. There was only letting go.That night my son and I camped alone, and I woke up to my forty-third birthday in a dry tent on a sunny day. We I paddled to waterfalls, slid down rocks, and ate marshmallows smothered in peanut butter until our bellies ached.As we paddled back, I reflected on the weekend, how I’d always remember swimming in the rain fully clothed and getting a boat ride on a moonless night. I watched my paddle drip, creating patterns onto the lake’s surface and felt gratitude for last night’s sunset, for it’s lesson that there was beauty everything, even in fading and letting go.last_img read more

PCSO turns over P58.1 million to CHEDPCSO turns over P58.1 million to CHED

first_imgWith a bet ofP10 or P24, one does not only get a shot at becoming a millionaire, he alsodoes charity work through the programs and services of PCSO, she added. ILOILO City –The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) turned over to the Commissionon Higher Education (CHED) here checks totalling P58.1 million as mandatorycontribution to the government agency tasked to promoterelevant and quality higher education and ensure access to quality highereducation. PCSO’s monetarycontribution to CHED was pursuant to Section 10 of Republic Act 7722 whichmandated PCSO to allocate one percent of gross sales of its lotto operationnationwide. But yesterdaywas the first time PCSO held a formal turnover ceremony. The amount would go to CHED’s Higher Education Development Fund. The P58.1million was one percent of PCSO’s three-month gross sales, added Garma. “So as wecontinuously work with compassion and dedication, in improving the lives of ourcountrymen, we encourage you to give to PCSO, by supporting and patronizing ourproducts,” Garma stressed. PCSO alsocontributes to PhilHealth, Philippine National Police, Philippine DrugEnforcement Agency, local government units, orphanages, and hospitals, amongothers.center_img No less than PCSO general manager Royina Garma turned over thecheck to CHEDRegion 6 director Dr. Maura Consolacion Cristobal representing CHED chairmanProposero De Vera III on Nov. 14. “Gagamitin po nila ito sa health programs ng CHED and other programs that wouldimprove the education quality of higher education institutions,” said Garmaduring the turnover held at a hotel in Mandurriaodistrict. Garma, however,said PCSO can only sustain its financial commitments to these institutions ifit continues to generate revenues. “When I assumedas PCSO general manager, I learned nabinibigay lang ‘yung tseke sa CHED, paranginternal process lang and peopledon’t even know about this. So sabi koit is time to announce to the public how much we are actually giving togovernment agencies. Dapat alam ng taong-bayan and right din poninyo na malaman na ‘yung binigay ninyo through our lotto doon po napupunta ang pera,” said Garma. PCSO had beenreleasing funds to the CHED since 1995, said Garma, reaching some P2.4 billionto date. Meanwhile, inhis prepared speech read by Cristobal, CHED chairman De Vera said Region 6 wasselected as venue of the first formal fund turnover outside Luzon because ithas the highest number of state universities and colleges./PNlast_img read more

The Final Word: Beat writer discusses Syracuse’s 82-52 win over Arkansas StateThe Final Word: Beat writer discusses Syracuse’s 82-52 win over Arkansas State

first_img Published on December 22, 2018 at 6:27 pm Syracuse (8-4) avoided dropping its third-straight nonconference game by defeating Arkansas State (5-7), 82-52. The Orange went into halftime only up a bucket, but they blew the game open in the second half behind 17-point performances from Tyus Battle and Elijah Hughes and 13 rebounds from Paschal Chukwu.See what our beat writer had to say after the game. Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Commentslast_img