Pensieve: The Human Memory Assistant

By JR Raphael
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Your own human memory could soon have a digital backup.

IBM is working on new software that collects pieces of information during your day, then uses them to help you remember things later. The project sounds like something that could have come straight from Dumbledore’s quarters — and not just because it’s named Pensieve, either.

The utility starts by picking up images, sounds, and text from your cell phone, GPS system, and other mobile devices. It then uses “associative recall,” IBM says, to understand the context and make connections between bits of related information.

“This is like having a personal assistant for your memory,” lead researcher Dr. Yaakov Navon explains. “Our daily routines are overflowing with situations where we gain new information through meetings, advertisements, conferences, events, surfing the web, or even window shopping. Instead of going home and using a general web search to find that information, Pensieve helps the brain recall those everyday things you might normally forget,” he says.

An example IBM gives, illustrated in the video below, is if you were to meet someone new at a conference. If you took a picture of him on your phone, then took a picture of his business card, Pensieve would tie the two together — and help you later recall the guy’s name, plus where and when you met him.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of technology could definitely save me from mountains of memory-related disasters. I know I’ve had plenty of forgetful faux pas — though I can’t, of course, seem to remember any of the specifics.

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