Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Introducing Membricks

Membricks - A spaced repetition game.

Spaced repetition is a key to effective learning. To learn thousands of facts in limited time you have to be efficient. You have to minimise time spent on repetitions. The idea is simple: a program calculates optimal repetition interval for every question and answer pair based on how difficult that pair is for you and how many repetitions you already had. The optimal interval is the longest one in which you still remember the answer. If you still can recall the answer, the next interval will be longer. If you can't, the next interval will be shorter and it will take you a while to get back on track.

I became a believer in spaced repetition about 15 years ago when Supermemo, a precursor of Anki, Mnemosyne, and other spaced repetition programs, as if by magic, made me remember hundreds of difficult Russian words for my Russian course at university. Since then, I tried to use spaced repetition programs to learn new things, but I was always abandoning my attempts quickly. Without an immediate need, it was difficult to keep the regime of daily sessions. Spaced repetition programs are quite boring and until a few years ago you usually ran them on a desktop or laptop computer. That meant that often when you had some spare time you couldn't learn, and when you could learn you didn't want to.

Membricks is my attempt at making a spaced repetition program more attractive and easily accessible. How? By making it an iOS game. My iPhone is with me all the time, so I will be able to use any spare minute to play, ahem... I mean learn. Membricks will be a competitive game. I will try to keep my score high against other players. My score will be going down every day I don't play. Scores will be kept on for everyone to see, just like in the old-fashioned video games.

I started developing Membricks in July this year inspired by an old book by Len Walsh for learning Japanese. That great little book describes the meaning of 300 most common Kanji characters by showing how they evolved from a drawing of a thing or concept to the current character. My thought was: this can be animated, and it can be made into a game. I have two little helpers: one is creating animations of these Kanji characters, and the other is working on sets of questions and answers for the first 3 decks: Kanji/English, English/Polish, and French/English. I am working on the code.

To be continued...


  1. So, any progress? I'm in a similar situation. I usually use Mnemododo to study on my mobile, but sometimes I end up playing some casual game, because reviewing flashcards is really boring and sometimes even makes me sleepy. Then I thought about creating a casual game to memorize words which used spaced repetition. I even thought about naming it "Membricks", that's how I found this post. Any chance of an Android version? Then I wouldn't have to create one myself :)

  2. The iPhone prototype written in ObjectiveC is working - see my later post. I am thinking of converting it to an offline Html5 app.