Technology as an artificial memory

Thomas Dixon created ME.mory to deal with his memory loss.

Nicodemus Madehdou (left), Ololade Bello and Jose Hernandez of JumpButton Studio pose with Blackstone LaunchPad Program Director Julie Stapleton Carroll. | COURTESY Blackstone Launchpad Temple
Nicodemus Madehdou (left), Ololade Bello and Jose Hernandez of JumpButton Studio pose with Blackstone LaunchPad Program Director Julie Stapleton Carroll. | COURTESY Blackstone Launchpad Temple

From the end of 2010 to August 11, Thomas Dixon has mentioned the word “banana” 351 times, “apple” 133 times, “spaghetti” 173 times, “chicken” 654 times, “bagel” 134 times and “coffee” 1687 times. He drinks coffee twice a day.

Dixon, who holds a master’s degree in educational psychology from Temple, is able to recall these statistics from an app he thought up of, called ME.mory. With features like tracking how many times a word has been mentioned, GPS tagging and photo integration, ME.mory allows Dixon to answer basic questions about his daily life like where he’s eaten a certain food or when he met a friend.

He needs this kind of help because in November 2010, Dixon suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a car, which caused him to develop episodic memory loss. After the incident, Dixon had the idea of using tools like Twitter to keep track of his memories digitally, but he realized that there was no tool specifically designed for people like him—so he went about making his own.

“I think it’s silly that we haven’t created something like this already: a digital, searchable memory,” Dixon said.

Dixon didn’t really have much knowledge in developing an app, nor did he have the kind of money to pay a professional development team. That’s when he reached out to Temple’s Blackstone LaunchPad where the program director, Julie Stapleton Carroll, connected him with a local indie game development team, JumpButton Studio.

JumpButton Studio is a team of creators from all around the globe with one of the founders, high school student Nicodemus Madehdou, based in Philly. With games like Afro Smash and Puck Slide already under their belt, the team became an official venture of Temple’s Blackstone LaunchPad earlier this year.

For Dixon, who is also a venture with Temple’s Blackstone LaunchPad, JumpButton was a cost-efficient and reliable solution in getting MEmory built.

“I was willing to work with whomever could make ME.mory happen and it really ended up being the best case scenario in that [JumpButton Studio] are hungry for an idea like this,” he said.

And for JumpButton, having the chance to work with Dixon through Blackstone LaunchPad has given the team valuable experience beyond just indie game development.

“We’re definitely branching out thanks to [Blackstone],” said Jose Hernandez, a local high school student who is in charge of research and development for JumpButton.

Hernandez has plans to attend Temple once he graduates. He and Ololade Bello, who does marketing and public relations for JumpButton, have also been involved with Temple’s Urban Apps & Maps program, which is designed to teach local high school students about coding, engineering, geography and urban studies and more.

Carroll has been responsible for connecting various Temple ventures with each other, like Happy Hippy food truck with food delivery app Habitat. With more and more undergraduate students wanting to start their own business, it’s been important for her to foster entrepreneurship within the entire university.

“Temple has a real commitment to supporting [entrepreneurship] and we’re interested in doing that across the university, so not just the business school but Tyler or computer science or engineering,” Carroll said.

Dixon originally wanted to become a child psychiatrist, but after the accident, he knew he wouldn’t be able to treat patients with his memory condition. With the help from technology and digital tools like ME.mory, Dixon finds it amazing that he was able to graduate with a master’s degree after the accident.

“I don’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday but I earned my master’s degree,” Dixon said. “So with the technology now, it’s superhuman—the abilities that we have if we key into them.”

The current plan for ME.mory is to have it beta-tested by at least 100 people before it rolls out and Dixon said he’s excited to see how people respond to adopting an artificial memory.

Dixon plans to continue getting the word out about ME.mory and being the “spokesperson” for a digital memory. His story has already garnered attention from all over the world, including Spanish and Italian media outlets.

This attention has also prompted Dixon to write a book about all his experiences up to this point, called “I’m Sorry, That’s Awesome”—it’s something he hears constantly from people who learn about his accident but then hear how he’s remedying his situation with technology.

“It’s just such a fun reaction and I’m so used to getting it from people,” Dixon said. “I think that would be a great title for my book.”

Albert Hong can be reached at, 215.204.7416 or on Twitter @AtotheHONG.

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