Our memories are seemingly random. Why do we retain certain facts and not others?
For centuries, neuroscientists and academics have struggled to pinpoint the “optimal moment of review,” the moment in which we’re most likely to memorize information. As it turns out, the best time to review a fact is the second or two before we’re bound to forget it.
The problem is that calculating this moment for a vast stream of information that we encounter at different times is impossible for the human brain. But a computer can do it.
Launching in beta to consumers today, Cerego is a memory management company that spun out of a privately-funded think tank. The cloud-based technology was developed over the course of a decade by a team of neuroscientists and tech entrepreneurs with a mission to improve the efficiency of the human learning process.
“Our system speaks to the semantic memory: how to store information and take it out,” said Andrew Smith Lewis, Cerego co-founder and executive chairman, in a phone interview. “We can figure out precisely what you know and don’t know.”
Lewis said the long-term goal is for the technology to be ubiquitously used in school and our professional lives, and it’s available to consumers for free. To that end, Cerego competes with Mindsnacks, a San Francisco-based company that makes popular mobile learning games.
The system works by constantly measuring your memory on factual items from French verbs to art history. It will predict your optimal review time with each item, and the system improves as you use it.
The company has received a total of $28 million in funding from private individuals. Advisors include Sun Microsystems founder Scott McNealy and Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab.
Cerego has been in business since 2000. With today’s beta launch, its founders are positioning it as an ed-tech company — it’s a business-to-consumer play. However, thus far, they have received the bulk of their revenues from businesses. In Japan, businesses have been using an earlier version of the technology for years to help employees learn English. Yahoo Japan is a partner, and Softbank is the largest client, with 20,000 employees on-boarded to the system.
Cerego makes money by charging corporate users for access to its tool, which is effective for the purposes of professional development. Lewis said the company is experimenting with new revenue models like a subscription-based system (users will be charged to access premium “power-content” on the site), and by inviting third party publishers to contribute to Cerego’s database for a small fee.
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Check out the video on how it works here.
Brain image via VLADGRIN // Shutterstock