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Mindful : February 2014
Can’t find a mindfulness teacher nearby? Coach Chris may be able to help. Okay, so he doesn’t have a mind. But he’s not mindless. Coach Chris is a virtual interactive character designed to help new meditators follow a web-based mindfulness course. He was developed by Eva Hudlicka, a com- puter scientist who specializes in affec- tive computing, a field where psychology, computer science, and cognitive science intersect. The National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine provided funding for Phase 1 of the project. Now Hudlicka, president of Psychometrix Associates in Blacksburg, Virginia, has applied for Phase 2 funding to develop Coach Chris fur ther and make the program available to the public. The graphic inter face is basic but uses accessible language to answer questions and offer suppor t to new practitioners. A meditator herself, Hudlicka wanted to develop technology to improve access to mindfulness training and encourage people’s ongoing practice. And it works. Her team has found that students who learned to meditate through Coach Chris practiced more often, and for longer peri- ods, than those who studied materials and then embarked on meditation solo. “We all want to connect,” Hudlicka says. “If we see something that looks semi- human, even though it’s ver y simple and it seems to have some kind of interactional capability, it triggers the sense of connec- tion that we desire.” ● Point, Click, Sit OVERHEARD “In a world of screens, texts, cell phones, information all over you, spending 20 minutes purposefully not thinking of anything is a wonderful thing. It’s a pause which refreshes. In some ways, in the financial world it is a must.” — Philipp Hildebrand, BlackRock vice chairman February 2014 mindful 13 February 2014 mindful 13 Illustration by Gavin Potenza