With almost every memory technique, visualization is the key, but it's usually discusses as visualization in your head. We live in an age of powerful computer graphics, so why not take advantage of this to bring your visualizations out of your head and onto the screen?
There's an amazing array of software and websites out there to help you do this, most of which hasn't even been considered for use in memory training! Let's take a look at a creative new use for some programs with which you may already be familiar.
The one advantage of software specifically designed for memory training is that it knows how to get out of your way. So, when using other software to help, there are two basic rules-of-thumb I've found helpful.
- Keep everything as a simple as possible. That way, it's easier to keep your focus on memorization as your target.
- Use computer- or device-based software, as opposed to cloud-based apps. Software residing on your computer generally has a better idea of your computer's capabilities than a similar cloud-based program, so it can offer more options. This isn't a hard and fast rule, however.
If you're familiar with using Photoshop, or its free alternative GIMP, you can find loads of links to good (and free!) .PSD-format clip art sites here, here, and here.
A good place to start is by cartooning your mnemonics. Even if you can't draw, software such as plasq's inexpensive Comic Life software can help you get started cartooning your mnemonic ideas. Mashable has links to 6 alternative sites for creating your own comics. Check out this video, detailing the impressive capabilities of Pixton:
Comics are a great way to more your mnemonics more tangible, because the kind of exaggeration and imagination used in good mnemonics are already a large part of the medium. They do lack one vital element that greatly helps when locking in mnemonics - movement and animation.
For motion, we turn to YouTube, but not in the way you might expect. YouTube's Create section features many tools that allow you to create videos without requiring you to ever pick up a video camera! The closest to actually doing animated comics would be Xtranormal and GoAnimate. Check them all out, so you can find the best one for your needs.
A completely different tool that you might find handy is Prezi.com. Think of this as a sort of concept map animator, with the important points in larger type, with sub-points grouped in smaller type around it, all animated in a simply, yet entertaining way. It's so unique that it's tough to describe, and the only thing that even comes close to it are those typography animation videos. This video is a great introduction to the concept, as well as being a Prezi itelf:
Speaking of presentations, modern presentation software can also be an excellent tool for bringing your mnemonics to life! The two big boys in presentation software are, of course, PowerPoint and Keynote. This is a matter of getting to know your presentation software first. Make sure you understand how to create PowerPoint animations and Keynote animations in order to use these programs more effectively.
Probably the best thing about using presentation software this way is that you get to use all those silly animations and effects that professional presenters would never consider. Remember, a mnemonic animation is for your reference, and will only be seen by others if you choose to show them. Be silly, have fun, and think outside the box!
If you don't already have one of the presentation programs, there are alternative out there such as OpenOffice Impress, among others. When using presentation software to bring your mnemonic images to life, I generally avoid online presentation software, such as those in Google Docs and Zoho, since the animation capabilities are limited.
With the release of the book, Moonwalking With Einstein, the Journey System has become more popular. As described in this brief video, that involves linking mnemonics to physical places, and then mentally walking through the physical space to recall everything. You can learn more about this amazing technique with these videos.
There are actually a couple of different ways in which modern computer software can help you with this, and you don't even need any special camera equipment to take advantage of them!
First, if you just need to get the feel of walking around in a physical space, you've now got the whole world at your fingertips with access to Google Maps' Street View. That's great for exterior walks, but if you'd prefer walking around an interior space, you might want to check out 360cities.net, a sort of YouTube for virtual reality videos (it's especially eerie when using a touchscreen device!). Choose your journey spaces carefully, as ones like Tribute to Escher may not be the best choice for this technique.
Since mnemonic imagery is largely about imagination, why not use a place that doesn't even exist? You can use Google Sketchup for this. Yes, there are many 3D programs out there, but Google Sketchup has a simple, yet responsive interface that lets you experiment and throw away what doesn't work. As an added bonus, it's free!
Just last month, in my post about the PAO system, I included the following video, created in Google Sketchup specifically for use as a memory journey:
If you'd like to try this for yourself, I've rounded up all the most helpful videos for this approach in a YouTube playlist, called Memory Technique 6: Memory Palaces in Google Sketchup. I tried to choose only those video which described useful techniques, were short, and yet included enough detail to be understandable.
Have you used other software to help improve your memory? I'd love to hear your tips and techniques in the comments!