8 Startups That Make You Smarter
by Michael McLaughlin, 01st June 2015
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Everything wants to be smart these days. I recently I saw a kettle that aspired to a more intelligent existence, the AppKettle. With all these robots upping their game, us non plugged in beings need to start getting our brains in gear, or they’ll be our bosses before we know it. Ray Kurzweil predicts that Robots in 2029 will outsmart us all.

To have any chance we should take a look at some of these apps that will sharpen the prefrontal cortex, otherwise prepare for C-3PO to be barking orders at you. There are scientific studies to suggest using brain training apps will improve your cognitive abilities and in 2012 a study confirmed the benefits: Here are a few to get you started:


1. Eidetic (Learn and Remember Everything):

                               Image credit: EideticApp.com

Eidetic uses a technique called spaced repetition to give you elephant like memory by testing you at increasing intervals. I don’t know how many times I’ve been at the ATM and drawn a complete blank, the pin code just vanishing from my memory. I’m horrific at people’s names too so I could do with this app. You can set the end goal for upcoming exams or events and it will work out the  appropriate intervals. So you’ve got no excuse not to remember the date of your anniversary. If Eidetic reminds you once a week of the date, I reckon you’ll probably remember to book your favourite restaurant; banking a quarterly reserve of browny points for the manoeuvre. 


2. Duolingo (The Best Way to Learn a Language):

Founder: Luis von Ahn (CEO)


I’ve been using this one for a while, it’s great to have one or two lines of a few different languages as an ice breaker. People are always impressed if you can rattle off a few lines even if when they ask you one in return the line goes dead. In the competitive job marketplace if you have some level of proficiency in another European language, it can make you a stronger candidate. Duo Lingo is definitely one of the more user friendly language apps and it’s got all the main European languages. It breaks it up nicely between aural, grammar and useful vocab. Each session is relatively short and manageable. It’s also free, take that Rosetta Stone.


3. Music Tutor Sight Read (Teaches You How to Read Music):

Image credit: Music Tutor Sight Read

This app teaches you to sight read music which is a hallmark of any true boffin. There are a few  different games you can play:Read Staff where the game draws a staff and you answer with a keyboard and Write Staff where the programme shows a note name in the question panel, the user must draw a staff and drag to the correct height. It gives you little rewards for learning, to keep you motivated and it’s pretty entertaining. Music Tutor Sight Read has an accessible user interface in comparison to some of its competitors.


4. ATLAS by Collins:

 Image credit: Atlas by Collins 

This gives you unrivaled knowledge about the world around you through ten different globes; political,economic and development to name a few. This is a great app if you are thinking about starting a business overseas and need to do some groundwork, for instance the communication map will tell you mobile coverage and internet usage anywhere in the world. The population maps will give you demographic breakdowns so you can work out whether you have a market opportunity there or not. Atlas is a great tool to enhance your global geopolitical wisdom.


5. Dictionary.com (Dictionary and Thesaurus):

Having a dictionary on hand at the click of a button is very handy. Sometime a word is on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t get it, this will help you out. They have a nice little word of the day to help expand your vocabulary. 

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one's vocabulary and the greater one's awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one's thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing”-  Henry Hazlitt.


6. Lumosity (Brain Training):

Founders: Kunal Sarkar (CEO) | Mike Scanlon (Chief Scientist)


These are the kingpins of the brain training world. Founded by a former neuroscience student with a team of PhD scientists working in the lab; their games use cutting edge science. They have a team dedicated to research alone so they are constantly upgrading and enhancing their training. 40 different universities collaborate with them to advance their product offering. 80 million members across 180 counties are members of Lumosity.

When you first install this app it gives you a quick once over so they know what they are working with. I tried the memory one, where it highlights a few boxes and you have to click the same ones moments later. It starts off handy with 2 or 3 tiles but by 6 and 7 I was seriously struggling, put it down to a misspent youth. At the end it diplomatically suggested I had a better score than 10% of the population. While my memory is barely functional, my math is decent enough to know 90% of the 30 year old users outdid me there.


7. Personal Zen (Stress Reducer):

Founder: Hadley Harris


Image credit: Personal Zen

This one is brought to us by a team of white jacketed neuroscientists, so the science behind the app is clinically effective. Dr Dennis of Hunter College suggests using the app 10 minutes per day or before a stressful event. Find a quiet safe haven cubicle in your office before your next presentation and give this app a blast. It trains your mind to see the positives in gloomy situations or in psychological speak; positive reframing. That’s kind of what experience is all about, you choose how your mind interprets a situation, you control how good or bad it is, the reality of the situation is less important. The more you positive reframe the better you will become at it, eventually even grim events will be water off a ducks back for you. 


8. Fooducate (Healthy Eating App):

Founder: Hemi Weingarten

As the old saying goes you are what you eat but trying to find healthy food in the supermarket is actually really difficult. You need to meander through the quagmire of hidden sugar troves masquerading as healthy options and the tricky promises of low fat. This app allows you to scan items and it will grade them for you. My favourite snack of hummus gets a grade A so I’m safe enough for now but I’m not sure how the chipper would fair. It also has a tracking function for your exercise and calories to make sure you are at least breaking even.


Specializing in web copywriting with experience in the following areas: long direct response sales letters, landing pages, corporate web sites, press releases, seo articles and email marketing. If you are in need of web content, you can rest assured that my provocative copy will communicate powerfully with your target audience. Don't forget to connect with Michael on LinkedIn or ping him on Twitter.

Author: Michael McLaughlin

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