DNA Lounge update

DNA Lounge update, wherein archival footage is unearthed.
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You've dosed your monkey, haven't you?

Brain Implant Improves Thinking in Monkeys, First Such Demonstration in Primates

After two years of practice, the animals developed some mastery, getting about 75 percent of the easier matches correct and 40 percent of the harder ones, markedly better than chance guessing.

The monkeys were implanted with a tiny probe with two sensors; it was threaded through the forehead and into two neighboring layers of the cerebral cortex, the thin outer covering of the brain.

The two layers, called L-2/3 and L-5, are known to communicate with each other during decision making of the sort that the monkeys were doing when playing the matching game.

The device recorded the crackle of firing neurons during the animals' choices and transmitted it to a computer. Researchers at U.S.C., led by Theodore Berger, analyzed this neural signal, and determined its pattern when the monkeys made correct choices.

To test the device, the team relayed this "correct" signal into the monkeys' brains when they were in the middle of choosing a possible picture match, and it improved their performance by about 10 percent.

The researchers then impaired the monkeys' performance deliberately, by dosing them with cocaine. Their scores promptly fell by 20 percent.

"But when you turn on the stimulator, they don't make those errors; in fact, they do a little better than normal," said Robert E. Hampson of Wake Forest, a study author.

Previously, previously.

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Crowdsourcing the crowdsourcing

I'm thinking of doing a Kickstarter to pay for upgrades to the DNA Lounge webcast.

I'd like to make some improvements to the webcast, but I can't justify spending money on that because we don't make a dime from it. So that makes Kickstarter kind of a natural fit: the majority of people who benefit from the webcast are not in-person customers of DNA Lounge, so if we're to improve it, let's see if the people who will actually benefit from those improvements are willing to contribute...

The webcast has some nebulous PR benefit in terms of "brand recognition" or something, but like all advertising, it's impossible to attach a monetary value to that: I can't quantify how many people the webcast has transformed into paying customers. For every anecdote that goes, "I came to DNA because I heard of you through the webcast", I hear another anecdote that goes, "Yeah, I thought about going to that show but I just watched it from home instead."

So, I have two sets of questions for you, Dear Lazyweb,

The first and most obvious one is:

What kind of "rewards" would you be interested in? There are a bunch of obvious ones like tickets, sets of our merch, meet your favorite band when they play here, etc., but I'd like to hear other creative ideas. Serious and practical suggestions only, please. Let's just stipulate that the joke you were about to make would have been hilarious.

The second is more technical:

What kind of hardware should I be aiming for? I think it will be better recieved if I post a shopping list to show how expensive this really is, than if I just say "give me your monies and I'll spend them on cameras or something".

Specificity helps. Also, I want to be able to set the monetary target low, but say "if we exceed that by $N, then we'll do this better thing instead". That seems to be the winning approach with Kickstarters.

I don't have a very specific shopping list / wish list yet, and I could use your help with that. Here are my ideas of ways the webcast infrastructure could be improved. Help me attach prices to these, instead of the wild-assed guesses I have below.

  1. Webcast from the new room only when nothing's going on at DNA.

    That is, we'd still have a single video stream, but it would be either from DNA, or from the new room, depending.

    Buy another pancam (around $900) or 2 or 3 SD camcorders (around $150 each). Install a new coax video run to our existing video switcher. Do a new audio run to the webcast computer. Automate that machine's audio switching somehow ($200 and a bunch of time soldering, probably).

  2. Webcast both DNA and the new room, 24/7.

    That is, two separate video streams at all times.

    All of the above, plus: Need a second Mac Mini ($900), a second Hollywood DV Bridge ($150 or possibly unobtainium); a second coax video run from the switcher to the computer. This would also reduce our available outgoing bandwidth by quite a bit, but I think we could probably squeak by.

  3. That, plus get a second DSL line to increase bandwidth and resolution.

    Around $110/month ongoing.

  4. That, plus do (just) the new room in HD.

    A more complicated and expensive video run: Cat5 instead of coax, and the new cameras each need a pair of transceivers for running HDMI over Cat5 ($150 each?) The new cameras are more expensive cameras ($400 each?) Need a new computer-controllable video switcher for the new cameras (no idea how much). This would leave the new room HD and the old room SD. The webcast would still need to be lower-than-HD resolution (we don't have the bandwidth) but HD cameras would have much better low light performance.

  5. That, but upgrade the main room to HD too.

    Replace 12 existing camcorders and 2 existing pan-tilt-zoom cameras with fixed-position fixed-zoom HD cameras ($400 each?) Replace all existing coax with Cat5. Each camera needs a pair of HDMI-to-Cat5 converters ($150 each?) Find a computer-controllable (cron) 16x2 HDMI switcher with (no idea).

    (Note that this option probably puts us at over $10k in cameras and converters alone, discounting switchers and computers!)

  6. Alternately: get "ethernet webcams" instead of camcorders.

    I only put this on the list because I know someone is going to suggest it, although I believe it's just not practical. Or rather, it's far more expensive and difficult than just using HDMI camcorders. Challenges here include:

    • Find HD "webcams" that have light response better than 1 lux (good luck finding a webcam that even specifies what its light rating is) (note that "0 lux" is marketing code for "weird-looking black and white image if you use an infrared spotlight". No.)

    • Find a video switcher (hardware, or a Mac-based software package) that can read video streams from multiple IP webcams, switch among them under software control (cron), and upload a feed to Justin.TV (or, produce HDMI output that is fed to a second computer);

    • Oh, also upgrade the whole club to gigabit ethernet, since 16-20 HD video streams are not small. Possibly the video network should be segregated from the "real" network that we use for wifi and whatnot, but that would mean even more cabling.

So, what do you think?

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