How Thomas Dixon is outsourcing his memory to the cloud
After sustaining a traumatic brain injury, Thomas Dixon decided to record his memories digitally. To turn this vision into a mobile app, Blackstone Launchpad introduced him to 18-year-old developer Nicodemus Madehdou.
Thomas Dixon is turning his personal tragedy into triumph with the help of Blackstone LaunchPad and Urban Maps and Apps Studios — two resource centers for Philly’s young tech entrepreneurs led by Blackstone and Temple University.
In November 2010, Dixon sustained a traumatic brain injury that caused him to develop episodic memory loss. Before the injury, Dixon had plans to become a child medical psychiatrist. With his memory compromised, Dixon decided it would be irresponsible of him to treat patients.
“I tested the waters first with my system for recording my memories digitally,” he said. “I travelled abroad for some time and then took classes at a community college. In the end, I got a master’s in Educational Psychology [from Temple]. I decided to study that because no one’s life would be at risk.”
Effectively outsourcing his memory to the cloud has helped Dixon accomplish many of the goals he had prior to his accident. But his digital system for externalizing his memory still has had its limitations.
With Twitter, Dixon can’t search through the memories he’s outsourced with his phone. Instead he must download his Tweets onto a computer and rifle through them. After years of using Twitter, emails and other digital communication tools, Dixon is now building a mobile app, MEmory, that can help anyone keep track of their memories.
“I’d wanted to make MEmory for years,” Dixon said. “I used [Blackstone Launchpad] as a connection hub to put me in contact with others — they were a conduit.”
With the app, users can dig deep into their memories — tracking where and when a memory took place, how it made them feel and anything else they’d like to record. Using MEmory’s analytics, users will also be to track how their feelings towards a place, person or other circumstance changed over time and monitor the smallest details, down to how many times a person was mentioned within a given time period.
Blackstone Launchpad is allowing Dixon to bring his vision for a better digital memory tool to life.
Before consulting with the organization, Dixon struggled for months to find a development team that would be reliable and cost effective. Julie Stapleton Carroll from Blackstone Launchpad at Temple University connected Dixon with Jumpbutton Studio, a team of young developers and graphic designers who participated in Urban Maps and Apps Studios.
That program helps high schoolers design and develop technology-based civic startups by providing training, mentoring and internship opportunities. Nicodemus Madehdou, 18, a cofounder of Jumpbutton Studio, had been working with Blackstone Launchpad to incorporate the business and gain market exposure. Madehdou is joined at Jumpbutton by Kevin Ngo and Matthew Auld, who are also working on MEmory.
Madehdou wanted to support MEmory because he felt, “It was an interesting concept and I was curious to see where it would lead in terms of people having a tool that is built to their advantage.”
Prior to working with Dixon, Jumpbutton had also developed apps and games for both mobile and web.
With the support of Blackstone Launchpad at Temple, Temple’s Urban Apps and Maps and Jumpbutton Studio, Thomas Dixon is turning his personal battle with memory loss into a unique mobile app.
There is a growing body of research that suggests heavy dependency on technology may be impairing and altering our working memory. MEmory may be ultimately as important for us as it is for Dixon.