5 Ways Technology Can Actually Help You Spend More Time with Your Family During the Holidays

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I’ll be the first to admit that technology can be the worst thing for a family. Texting at the dinner table, scrolling through Instagram when my mom is trying to talk to me, and even worse, settling for Facebook chat with my boyfriend instead of meeting up with him in person. These are ways that technology has distanced us from experiencing raw, human connection.

Although we usually associate technology as being the very thing that takes us away from our families, I am here to play the devil’s advocate and show you how you can best optimize technology to actually increase engagement with your family this holiday season.

  1. Smartphone Games

Games are one of the best ways to engage with your family. They bring a sense of togetherness, friendly competition and connection. In this day and age, kids and teenagers are now more likely to engage in games on their phone than in person. Here are some online games you can play on your smartphone with your kids, siblings, or even friends from near or far:

  • Chess With Friends – perfect for creating healthy competition.
  • PirateFleet for Friends – like the online version of Battleship!
  • Four in a Row – perfect for kids 8 and under! Like checkers.
  • The Game of Life – if you’ve ever played the board game version, it’s the same but online.
  • Tic Tac Toe – everyone loves this one!
  • Fruit Ninja – multiplayer, but you must play this game with your loved ones in person.
  1. Long-Distance Chat Apps

Not all of us have the privilege of living close to our loved ones. Many of us have family members that are either off at college, or live in other states or countries. Lucky for us, we now live in the 21st century where we have the ability to stay connected to our families from a distance. If you have relatives such as grandparents or parents who are older than 60 years of age, recommend and teach them how to use the cloud-based applications listed below. Not only will they be amazed with the technology, but they will feel joy to be able to connect with their loved ones; especially during the holidays.

Take advantage of these apps to talk with and see your loved ones over the holidays:

  • WhatsApp – this app allows you to message friends and family from other countries without any additional fees.
  • Skype – use this app to video call your family and friends from a distance.
  • Facetime – only available to iPhone users, but this is the fastest and most convenient way to quickly see your loved one’s face.
  • Ustyme – this app allows you to not only video chat your loved ones, but play games with them at the same time!
  1. Cooking ‘Smartly’

Encourage your kids to put their iPhone or tablet to good use this year

  • in the kitchen! There are many cooking apps that you can now download which are more interactive and interesting than an old recipe book. Since the holidays are all about cooking up tasty treats, use these apps to get your kids and loved ones in the kitchen for a family cooking activity.
  • Tender
  • Food Network In The Kitchen
  • Appetites
  • Epicurious
  1. Volunteer Apps

The holidays are not called ‘the season of giving’ for no reason! Take the time this holiday season to volunteer in your local community and to motivate your family to get involved as well. There are many apps that can encourage getting actively involved. Download these apps and see what you and your family can do this holiday season to lend a helping hand.

  1. Reading Christmas Stories

In my family growing up, it was a tradition to read a story every night in the month of December. You could implement this tradition into your own family, and have an excuse to spend just ten minutes a day together as a family. Since you might not have access to Christmas stories, put your kindle or tablet to good use and take advantage of your online selection! You can find stories on the following apps:

This holiday season remember to use technology to your advantage. Although we associate technology as being something that can often disconnect us, embrace technology this holiday season as a tool to bring your family closer together!



Researchers Develop Device to Influence Direction of Your Dreams

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Sleep is strange; at the end of the day we fall unconscious, our bodies become paralyzed, and we hallucinate vividly, before quickly forgetting what was just experienced. But now researchers at MIT are engineering an interface to influence this bizarre state, believing it may hold the key to our creative genius.

There is a period between wakefulness and that deep, restorative slumber, known as hypnogogia. These fleeting moments have long been considered a place where creative brilliance can be accessed.

Innovators including Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Salvador Dali all intentionally tapped into this state for inspiration, attributing much of their inventions and masterpieces to it.

Holding a pair of steel balls as they fell asleep, they would drift into the hypnagogic state for a few seconds, before their muscles would relax, the balls would fall to the floor, and they would be jolted back awake. This brief entry into the dream state would allow them to remember the bizarre hallucinations and ingenious thoughts floating in the creative ether.

This was part and parcel to Dali’s famous paranoiac-critical method that produced his most trippy and iconic work. But instead of steel balls, Dali used a metal key and an upside-down plate for it to land on, producing a loud clang.

Dali found that not only did these micro-naps spark creativity, but they also provided a refreshed mental state, without the grogginess of a longer rest.

Taking note from these innovators, MIT researchers are developing a modernized version of the steel ball technique through a worn computer interface called Dormio. But instead of waking them, the interface influences sleepers in hypnagogia, attempting to control the direction of their semi-coherent state, and they’ve had some preliminary success.

 

dormio

Dormio interface via media.mit.edu

 

Using a glove fitted with a series of wires and biosensors, the interface tracks users’ slow descent into sleep, measuring the subtle muscle relaxations of the hand. From there, an app provides an audio cue that prevents users from going into a deeper sleep, suspending them in the hypnagogic state with a prompted word or concept to focus on.

Thus far, the words ‘fork’ and ‘rabbit’ have been used successfully as a theme for “dream content.” Users are then asked questions to capture ideas floating through their mind, without fully waking them, before they are then allowed to fall asleep.

We spend close to a third of our lives sleeping, where our minds exist in creative, fantastic hallucinatory states. Researchers on the team want to figure out how to tap into that world and potentially take advantage of it.

The unconscious mind has been the subject of study by scientists for centuries, yet we still know so little about it. It’s also been proven that we are all born creative geniuses, but through the constructs and demands of our society, our originality is constantly suppressed. Could that creativity be resurrected with hypnogogic enhancement?

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