A language-learning application that’s already big in Japan is coming to the U.S. in the form of a new iPhone app — and Tokyo-based Smart.fm says that the adaptive-learning algorithms behind its software can help users memorize all kinds of information, reports the MIT Technology Review. Smart.fm is one of several companies selling software designed to help users remember. The company’s algorithms were inspired by research that shows people remember information more effectively if they try to memorize it at key times, says founder and chairman Andrew Smith Lewis. Those algorithms determine how often to present a piece of information to the user and in what context. For example, a completely new word and its translation are shown frequently, and a user is asked relatively easy questions about them, designed to jog the memory. But once the user has demonstrated the ability to recall that word and its meaning, this information will appear less often. To use Smart.fm, a person selects an existing list of material–a dictionary of foreign words, for instance–or starts building a new list. The list could be text-only, but the system also supports images and audio. A user might match the names of birds to the sounds they make, or view images of different parts of the human brain to learn how to identify them. Someone who snaps pictures of the people she meets at a conference might use the software to commit those people’s names to memory…

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