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Category: Talks

May 2, 2007

CHI Wednesday notes

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May 1, 2007

CHI Tuesday notes

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April 30, 2007

CHI Monday notes

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December 3, 2006

Tufte talk at Stanford

I don't have too much to say about this talk, as it was mostly Tufte recounting his life as an academic all the way from his undergraduate education at Stanford to posts at both Yale and Princeton, followed by a slideshow of his more recent sculpture work. There was one very fun moment for us GG followers:

Edward Tufte, master of the display of statistical information, has put up a slide with sparklines and Galileo's description of Saturn. Suddenly, he gasps -- the projection screen is too far away! How will he ever properly point to Galileo's illustration of Saturn's rings?!?!?

Never fear, GadgetGuy is here -- sitting in the third row, actually, taking notes on his MacBook. GadgetGuy quickly reaches into his pocket and produces his trusty green laser pointer. The talk is saved!

February 6, 2006

Talk: Douglas Hofstadter: Analogy as the Core of Cognition

Hofstadter at StanfordDouglas Hofstadter sponsored by Stanford Humanities Center

Most of my few run-ins with Douglas Hofstadter haved corresponded well with whatever I'm reading at the time. I read Godel, Escher, Bach during college, which connected the dots between all the different computer science classes I was taking, a feat that my professors were not interested in accomplishing. Shortly thereafter, I saw Hofstadter speak about translating Russian literature. This did not do as good of a job unifying my education.

Tonight's talk, Analogy as the Core of Cognition, was also outside the computer science domain, but my pop-sci interest in brain books has given me more dots to connect. Less than an hour after Hofstadter's talk, I read this passage in Birth of the Mind (p. 138) that struck me as almost being planted by Hofstadter for me to read:

Another critical factor may be the almost magical ability of humans to combine simple elements into more complex ones that can in turn serve as elements in futher combinations, as idea sometimes referred to as "recursion." If you can think about a ball, you can think about a big ball, and if you can think about big ball, you can think about a big ball with stripes, a big ball with stripes that lies on the beach, and so forth.

Although penned by a different author, this passage in many ways is the central idea to Hofstader's talk, which you can read more about in the extended entry. Hofstadter came out old-school with the overhead transparencies and in some spots in the notes I've used photos of his slides instead of textual transcriptions.

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December 14, 2005

Talk: Beyond Menus and Toolbars in Microsoft Office

Beyond Menus and Toolbars in Microsoft Office
Jensen Harris, MS Office UE Team

Office 12 is an upgrade I wouldn't mind paying for, that is, assuming that work didn't let us get free copies. Those are big words for me, considering my "I Hate Microsoft" series of blog entries. I can imagine making documents faster with Office 12, or at least I can imagine making better looking documents in the same amount of time. Excel, which has been less functional for me than the spreadsheet program I used on my Apple IIe, looks like it will be come a useful tool for data analysis.

I felt that Harris made a convincing case as to why they are doing the UI revamp, that it's more than a marketing trick. The conventional wisdom out there is "Everything I need was in office [95, 97, 2000]." (For me it was Word 95). They collected a ton of data (including over a billion Office sessions) that told a different story. On a list of the top ten most requested features for Office: four of them were already in Office. Their conclusion was that "Office is good enough in that people have made peace with it." Another observation from the data was that the average user spends more time with Office (2.6 hrs/day) than they do with their spouse (2.4 hrs/day). When you take 400 million users * 2.6 hrs/day, it seems worth improving that experience. Harris rhetorically asked, "Have we reached the pinnacle of software that people use to get their job done everyday?"

It was also clear from the evolution of the Office design that a revamp was in order. The number of toolbars and taskpanes was getting out of control: they were create user interfaces to manage their user interface. There simply wasn't a good menu+toolbar paradigm for managing programs with 1500+ commands.

My notes are in the extended. I transcribed a lot of the new Office 12 elements, but text doesn't do a very good job of describing user interface. Overall, it's a more visually oriented interface: large gallery icons show what a command does and hovering over the icon gives you a preview of the result, e.g. if you hover over a font, your select is shown with that font. The UI is also much more contextualized. What you think of being on your right-click menu is now the focus of your toolbar menu. One of the most important design constraints introduced is that the UI is confined to a fix region of the screen and doesn't do any of the silly auto-hiding or auto-rearranging of Office past.

If you're really curious about the Office 12 UI I recommend visiting Harris' blog. You will find out that yes, they fixed the stupid start presentation button in Powerpoint. Also, new fonts!. Death to Times New Roman!

Summary tidbits: * "Is it worth taking this pixel away from the user?" * You must remove to simplify * Is there a classic mode? No. * They were trying to figure out what some of the commands in Excel did. Found out some options in Excel weren't hooked up into any code: "They didn't do anything!" * On Office 2000's 'auto' features: "The computer looks at the things you use the most and moves them around all the time." * On Office 2002 task panes: "New features aren't being invented, but I bet they will if we create a whole new rectangle"

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December 1, 2005

Talk: iRobot

scoutChris Jones from iRobot gave a talk at SRI. He focused mostly on iRobot's government/industrial robots (the ones with big treads that you can throw through a window) rather than the delicate Roomba and Scooba home appliance robots (FYI: the Scooba was designed to cleanup dried peanut butter from your kitchen floor in one pass).

The main line of iRobot's government/industrial robots is the packbot. I saw one of these at Robonexus awhile back -- they had it continuosly going up a staircase and dropping several feet to the ground. These things are tough (rated to 400Gs) and can handle all sorts of terrain with their tread and flipper design. The idea is that a soldier would throw this robot (e.g. through a window, around a corner, etc...) and then use a laptop to guide the robot around and get back video. You can outfit the packbot with an arm that can hold a camera or 'disruptor' for destroying explosive devices. They've even put a parachute and fan on a packbot to make it fly. A packbot is rugged enough that when it reaches the deployment zone it can just cut its parachute in order to land, or, in the case of one video he showed us, when the packbot gets piloted into a tree.


Some tidbits from the talk:

  • Your home is a dangerous place: the algorithm that the Roomba uses to figure out where to clean is adapted from a minefield coverage algorithm.
  • Leave no robot behind: On April 8, 2004, Packbot 129 became the first packbot to be 'killed in action.' US soldiers managed to retrieve all of its parts and it is now framed for display.
  • Lest they take over: The military doesn't like hearing about robot 'autonomy,' so iRobot markets their robots to the military as being like remote control cars. Now that the military has been using them in combat operations, they are now asking for more autonomous features like "come home so we can get the hell outta here."

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October 31, 2005

Talk: Winning the DARPA Grand Challenge

I went to go see Sebastian Thrun speak at Stanford about his team's winning effort in the DARPA Grand Challenge. Thrun described the contest as how to stay on the road for a very long time. It was not a general path-finding problem: DARPA gives you the route with a corridor you have to follow, as well as speed limits you have to observe for various parts of the course. Of course, DARPA didn't give perfect data. He showed a video generated from the data of Stanley driving through the most dangerous part of the course: the switchbacks of Beer Bottle Pass with a cliff on one side. DARPA's corridor was overlaid on top of Stanley's sensor data and it was easy to see that much of DARPA's corridor was actually over the cliff.

During training many traffic cones were "frequent victims of computer glitches," but Team Stanley was called "Team Boring" by the cleanup crew for their lack of incidents. The actual challenge was described as getting the data at 4AM, getting Stanley to the starting line at 6AM, and then sitting around drinking beer for several hours. The big moment came when Stanley passed CMU's Highlander as the CMU and Stanford teams listened to race radio. Thrun narrated the exciting finish for us: "[The head of DARPA] is waving his flag as if the car could see it."

Thrun said that they won mostly through luck given how close four of the teams finished. The speed limits set by DARPA for the various parts of the course were too conservative, so the cars were running below their full potential. DARPA also decided to make the course fairly easy. Asked if CMU would have won had they not had engine problems, Thrun answered, "In all likelihood, yes." Also, Team ENSCO had a faster average course time but flatted on "something really big CMU left behind" (the CMU part may have been a joke). Thrun felt that Stanford had better software than CMU and on a tougher course Stanford would have the advantage.

In the future, Thrun wants to try driving 65mph on 280, parking in a garage, convoy driving, and driving assist. Part of his motivation is to reduce traffic deaths, which a driving assist system could help prevent. He also feels that a fully automated system would change society by allowing you to use your commute time productively -- you could even drive to your destination, get out, and then send your car to go park in a parking garage farther away. These are still looking far ahead. In response to someone asking what it would take to drive at human-controlled speeds, Thrun related it to asking the Wright brothers, "If you want to fly over the Atlantic, what's missing?"

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May 9, 2005

Talk: MAPGEN and Mars Exploration Rover (MER) planning

K Rajan, NASA

Talk at SRI about the introduction of AI technologies into NASA technologies, and, more specifically, the used of the MAPGEN planner for the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Although the talk was not about work practice, it was amusing for me to hear Rajan speak as one of the converted. Despite being AI technologists, they had to learn importance of human factors/understanding how people will use their technology. If I understood him correctly, it sounds like this was his first experience with social scientists on a mission (and a succesful experience at that).

The extended notes focus on the planning technology and their challenges in getting it into the MER mission. They weren't seen as a critical technology, and it wasn't until they did a 'bakeoff' competition between their technology and the current practice that they finally made it in for good.

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April 12, 2005

Talk: Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information

Peter Norvig, Google; Ken Norton, Yahoo!; Mark Fletcher, Bloglines/Ask Jeeves; Udi Manber, A9; Jakob Nielsen, NN Group

I went with bp and Neil to a BayCHI talk on "Recent Innovations in Search." I agree with bp's sentiment -- there were some interesting moments, but the talk was short on revelations or insights. I guess that is to be expected as the title of the talk is past focused ("Recent Innovations") rather than future focused ("Future Innovations"); it's hard to believe that the panelists would give away yet unrevealed technologies they were working on. I'm going to try and save as much effort as possible, given that bp posted his notes. In fact, as I am going to crib from his notes, or just omit what he already has, you should just go read them instead.

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March 17, 2005

Talk: Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando, Aomori Contemporary Art Centerd and I managed to sneak into an Ando talk at Berkeley, tiptoeing in through the sidedoor and sitting on the floor when the lights went out because all seats were gone over an hour before the talk started. I am thankful for the location of the Men's Room at Dwinelle Hall; I might not have noticed the unguarded entrance otherwise (easy to spot, given that ten-or-so people were already waiting there to sneak in).

photo: Ando's Aomori Contemporary Art Center. Photo by kwc

I really enjoy Tadao Ando's work. I'm not a fan of his most noted signature element -- concrete -- but I love the simplicity of his forms and the ways in which his buildings play with light. This talk gave a fuller survey of some of his works over the past decades, and also gave a lot of insight into his amusingly persistent mentality that guides his projects.

My notes are in the extended entry. There are a lot of large photos of his works that I've culled of the Internet to go with some of the talk notes, so the notes may load very slowly. It took a little longer than normal to put these notes together, but it was worth it, as I now have my own mini-Ando book to browse through and reflect upon.

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December 14, 2004

Talk: Tivo

Revolutionizing Consumer Electronics: Welcome to the TiVolution´┐Ż! Paul Newby, Director of Consumer Design Margret Schmidt, Director of User Experience (UE), TiVo

I went to the TiVo talk at BayCHI/PARC. The best part of the night, perhaps, was that I have a bunch of great TiVo schwag: a TiVo doll and two new TiVo remotes -- one to replace honeyfield's remote, which has been mistaken for bunny food, and one to solve the problem we had last week of, when you lose the TiVo remote, there's no way for you to watch TV. The second best part of the night is that I learned a new TiVo feature that didn't exist on the Series 1 remote: if you press advance (the ->| button) in a list, it will jump to the end (very useful for Home Media Option).

I have detailed notes, but it's hard for me to put the effort into transcribing all of them, mainly because I've heard most of what she's said having worked at PARC for two years (big human-computer interaction focus) and having owned a TiVo for two years. As metamanda put it when I asked her if I should read Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things, she said it was good, but I've already heard everything in it multiple times. Seeing as Norman's book is somewhat of a bible for the TiVo User Experience team, I think the same applies here.

It's also hard for me to transcribe my notes because much of what was said has already been said in this interview Schmidt did for PVRBlog

There was an interesting semi-anecdote on TiVo's "overshoot correction" feature (where it jumps back a little after a fast forward). Many people think that TiVo is actually "learning" this (even across multiple users), i.e. when they fast forward and it doesn't jump to the spot that they wanted, they assume it was because they must have deviated from their normal reaction time (it's actually a hardcoded number based on the fast forward speed, derived from research).

My last thought before this switches into notes is that I wonder if TiVo is going to put an Apple-style clickwheel on the remote to replace the direction pad. The problem with navigating long lists was mentioned multiple times by them, and Margret did even mention a scrollwheel as a possibility, and it seems to me that the newest clickwheel comes the closest to carrying the TiVo direction pad concept forward.

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November 19, 2004

Notes: Episodic memory

Most of the talk isn't relevant here, so I'm only including the brief background notes, mainly because I had not heard of utile memory before.

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October 28, 2004

Talk: Cities in the Information Age

Manuel Castells Talk at Berkeley

My notes on this talk are fairly poor. Much of what he talked about echoed what I am currently reading in his works, so skipped transcribing a lot of that.

Update: I'm enhancing my notes with those taken by peterme (he did a better job of transcribing Castell's actual phrasing). I've gotta run, but hopefully I'll get a final set of notes before my brain crashes.

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July 29, 2004

Talk: Application of Artificial Intelligence to Web Search

Peter Norvig, Google

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July 28, 2004

AAAI Summary

I don't expect anyone other than myself to actually go through all the talk notes I've been posting, but I will point to three in particular that I enjoyed and thought were useful. The first was a tutorial on Automating the Design of Visualizations, which was a great blend of cognitive science, computer science, and user studies to help try and foster better computer-generated visual designs (target audience: people with Tufte on their shelves).

Two of the invited talks, AI and the New Exploration Vision (NASA) and If Not Turing's Test, Then What? are high-level enough to be approachable. The NASA talked a lot about the technologies they are using/will use/want to use in their Mars and future lunar missions. The Turing talk discusses some of the grand challenges for AI and was also a meta talk about the properties of grand challenges.

I find myself drinking from the fire hose here -- many of the talks were topics that I knew little or nothing about, nor had any mathematical background for. If you don't understand my notes, rest assured that I may not understand them little, though being at the conference is rather like learning a foreign language in a foreign country, with the immersion making for quick study.

Update: Added to photo entries
- Mars Personal Rover
- Maze of Carnage

Talk: Affective Recruitment of Distributed Heterogeneous Agents

Multi-robot task allocation

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Talk: If not Turing's test, then what?

Paul Cohen, USC ISI

This was a nice review of the pros/cons of the Turing Test as well as current grand challenges in AI, with lots of Daniel Dennett quotes.

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Talk: Eliciting Bid Taker Non-price Preferences in (Combinatorial) Auctions

Craig Boutilier, University of Toronto Tuomas Sandholm, CMU Rob Shields, CombineNet, Inc.

I like combinatorial auctions as they blend two fields I'm interested in. You get a Computer Science optimization problem (Knapsack problem) combined with Economic auctions.

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Talk: High-level Goal Recognition in a Wireless LAN

Jie Yin

A lot of stuff about Dynamic Bayesian Networks that I don't really have a background in yet, so my notes are sparse.

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Talk: Learning Social Preferences in Games

Ya'akov Gal, Avid Pfeffer, Barbara Grosz'

A mix of social agents and game theory (social vs. analytic strategies)

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July 27, 2004

Talk: Useful Roles of Emotions in Artificial Agents

A Case Study from Artificial Life Matthias Scheutz, Notre Dame

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Talk: Identifying Terrorist Activity with AI Plan Recognition Technology

Peter Jarvis, Teresa Lunt, Karen Myers, NASA/PARC/SRI

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Talk: A Multi-Resolution Pyramid for Outdoor Robot Terrain Perception

Michael Montemerlo and Sebastian Thrun, Stanford

Elegant solution for managing short-range and long-range mapping data for robot navigation.

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Talk: AI Characters and Directors for Interactive Computer Games

Brian Magerko, John E. Laird, Mazin Assanie, Alex Kerfoot, Devvan Stokes

Information on a storytelling environment built in Unreal Tournament.

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Talk: Real Robots for the Real World

Sebastian Thrun, Stanford

This talk was mostly over my head in terms of the math, but the work is interesting.

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Talk: AI and the New Exploration Vision

Dan Clancy, NASA

I enjoyed this talk -- it was a survey of NASA's current AI-based missions, including current and future Mars missions (Sojourner/Spirit/Opportunity). metamanda would have liked at least one point the talk made, which was that NASA is working on a personal rover robot to create/inspire kids, and in particular, girls. They have found in their exhibits that robots are more engaging to girls than boys, who enjoy the embodied interaction, so they see in it an opportunity to bridge a gender gap as well as inspire a future generation in NASA's vision. It was interesting how the Personal Exploration Rover pictures really did look like baby versions of the Spirit/Opportunity rovers, i.e. there was a certain amount of anthropomorphism to the vehicle, and it appeared child-like that could help engender a care-taker relationship between a kid and the robot.

Read on for notes.

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July 26, 2004

Notes: Automating the Design of Visualizations

Maneesh Agrawala, Julie Heiser, and Barbara Tversky Tutorial session at AAAI

Two implemented systems explored for automated design of visualizations: map routes and assembly instructions. Map routes system (LineDrive) used by MapBlast (now

Three parts to talk: cog sci/CS background, map routes, assembly instructions.

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Notes: Stochastic Local Searches

Tutorial session at AAAI


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May 6, 2004

Talk: Clearing the building

Clear the building: Pursuit-evasion with limited field of view
Brian Gerkey
Stanford Robotics Laboratory
(with Sebastian Thrun)

Note: most of the notes are copied from the bullets on the presentation slides as the presentation was going very quickly.

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April 30, 2004

Talk: Towards an Interoperability Framework for Collaborative Tools

Eugene Kim
Blue Oxen Associates

Kim popularized Engelbart's notion of purple numbers; purple numbers are a scheme for granular addressing of information. Purple-numbered versions of Cory Doctorow's and Lessig's newest books are online; the numbers allow you to create a link to any paragraph in the book.

The talk was much broader that just a discussion of purple numbering. It was a discussion of the broader notion of making software more interoperable with regards to linking and the inclusion of information from various sources. Kim also briefly touched upon trying to work on a shared modelling language for data that would facilitate this linking, as well as provide benefits in being able to make more intelligent uses of data.

My notes in the extended entry are fairly poor, as I wasn't too copious and the actual presentation was brief. I haven't read Kim's A Manifesto for Collaborative Tools yet, but that would probably be a better followup.

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March 3, 2004

Talk: Research cultures

I was part of a four person panel that gave a talk on research cultures at non-PARC research center. bp posted his notes, where it should be obvious that I had very little to say. The questions focused a lot more on high-level/process questions (e.g. "when do you decide to terminate a project," "what about outsourcing research development to India"). I've only been at SRI for five months working on a single project, which probably didn't make me a very good panel member to answer questions about the research project lifecycle. I was hoping for more "culture" questions so I wouldn't sound so mute. At the very least I had a good time seeing everyone again.

December 11, 2003

Talk: Tufte

Photo of Edward TufteI was really excited to go see Tufte today for his day long course. His writings and teachings are excellent, and I find them useful whenever I am displaying visual information, even if I cannot live up to the standards that they profess. Sometimes I wish Tufte would sell software with his design principles built-in, rather than the pie-chart glory of Excel. In fact, I learned during the talk from Peter Norvig (slightly more on this later) that the Autocomplete Wizard in Powerpoint started off as a joke by the engineering people to the marketing people, along the lines of "oh yeah, and we can just have the application fill in all the content for you." Clearly, engineers don't understand marketing.

So, on to the talk, which I discuss my rants and raves in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Talk: Tufte" »

November 18, 2003

Talk: ILM

metamanda's friend Vijay gave a talk at PARC yesterday about some of his work at ILM. He worked on the movie The Hulk and is currently working on The Day After Tomorrow. I had been trying the schedule this talk while I was still with PARC, but of course he waits until I switch jobs before he comes and speaks :).

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July 30, 2003


Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing and Down and Out... fame) will be speaking at BayCHI at PARC, so I thought I'd post a talk pointer:
- Tuesday, August 12, 2003: Monthly Program (BayCHI)

July 25, 2003

Forum: Internet Search Past, Present, Future

I didn't like this talk enough to actually transcribe the notes. Luckily, heerforce has already transcribed his notes/outline, and they're probably better than I would have done anyway.

In short, I expected a lot more from the chief scientist at Altavista. His talk was so vague compared to Eric Schmidt's Google Forum - most of the stuff Pedersen put up was general knowledge. Also, if you notice from heer's notes, his "Future" section of his talk was very vague (though he was rushed).

June 9, 2003

Talk: BitTorrent

Bram Cohen, the creator and maintainer of BitTorrent gave a talk to our lab today. The most interesting (and surprising) aspect of his talk, IMHO, was that he based BitTorrent on the Prisoner's Dilemma. Cohen's approach was to assume that each client would act greedily instead of cooperatively, and designed the system along those principles. Although there are some slight areas in which gaming the system is possible, overall Cohen's tit-for-tat system seems to do very well and enforcing good behavior. It's nice to see game theory applied in places other than economics and politics.

I'm suprised that more commercial companies aren't using BitTorrent, especially given how expensive it can be to maintain a large Internet pipe, though some have claimed that a commercial company could not ask it's customers to use a protocol that steals their upstream bandwidth (i.e. customer's expect the companies to foot the bandwidth bill, not them). I could still imagine companies being at least supportive of BitTorrent, however, by posting clearly marked "BitTorrent" links. I could have used it yesterday when I was trying to fetch Gollum's MTV acceptance speech off the Net.

June 5, 2003

Talk: Context-Aware Photography

Notes on the last of the three talks giving by the Future Applications Lab folks. The last talk was on Context-Aware Photography, which seems like an interesting idea. I, too, have been bothered by the fact that digital cameras for the most part do and work exactly like their analog counterparts. Unlike them, however, they actually have some ideas of some neat things to do. They are still in a very preliminary stage.

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June 4, 2003

Talk: InfoArt

The second talk given by the Future Applications Lab people was on Informative art .

Basically, they wanted to see if they could make abstract art serve as an informational display. There were several prototypes:
- Andy Warhol-inspired soup can countdown clock: a grid of soup cans change from one type to another indicating a countdown towards a deadline (pdf)
- Bridget Riley-inspired motion painting: vertical bars in different colors represent motion sensor input (pdf)
- Richard Long-inspired earthquake map: rocks were laid on on green grass indicating locations of earthquakes with no real reference point (pdf).
- Piet Mondrian-inspired weather forecast: color blocks are placed spatially according to an invisiable world map, the color of the block indicates the current weather (e.g. blue=rain, yellow=sun) (pdf)

Talk: Pin n' Play

I heard three short talks by visitors from the Future Applications Lab at the Viktoria Institute in Sweden.

The first talk they gave was on Pin n' Play, which is a ubicomp project focused on putting a small amount of computation into push-pin-like devices for interaction purposes.

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May 29, 2003

Forum: Beer

We just had a forum on beer-making with a beer tasting afterwards, now how cool is that?

Beer: From Grain Brain To Glass
Presented by: Peter Bouckaert
New Belgium Brewing, Co.

Marketing types in the world of brewing like to say their beers are "steeped in tradition," but does this not ignore hundreds of years of experience and innovation?

In an entertainment industry where 10 minutes of pleasure is our product, working artfully towards a new creation is key. Starting from the glass and going over everything from grain to brain, some challenges of the new ingredients (i.e., experience, knowledge and creativity) will be fermented. A beer seminar addressing E = mc2, child development and Jackson Pollock awaits you!

More below...

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May 22, 2003

Talk: Bob Metcalfe

Bob Metcalfe gave a short talk as part of the Ethernet celebration. It was a hurried, spirited talk off of notecards. My chaotic notes (along with some statements by Liddle) are below.

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May 12, 2003

Talk: Xpdf and Selling Open Source Software

Xpdf and Selling Open Source Software
Derek Noonberg


I've been working on Xpdf since 1995. I'll start with an overview of
Xpdf's architecture and a brief history of the project. The PDF format
has some interesting characteristics, and working with it has raised
some interesting issues. Finally, I'll talk about open source business
models in general, and Glyph & Cog's model more specifically.


Derek is the author of xpdf and runs a company that sells GPL license
exceptions to that software. Xpdf is a PDF1.4 compliant viewer/decoder
and is therefore JBIG2 capable. Derek's homepage is

May 8, 2003

Forum: Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (RCFL)

PARC Forum
Silicon Valley Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (RCFL)
Special Agent Chris Beeson
FBI San Francisco
Computer Analysis Response Team

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Talk: Chaum, Secret Ballot Voting

Secret-Ballot Receipts & Transparent Integrity
David Chaum
- inventor of digital cash

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April 23, 2003

Talk: iROS at Stanford

Portability, Extensibility, and Robustness Lessons From iROS
Armando Fox
Interactive Workspaces Project, Stanford

March 7, 2003

Forum: UCB Digital Library Project

PARC Forum

Professor and Principal Investigator, The Digital Library Project, UC Berkeley


Our practice of disseminating, accessing and using information, especially scholarly information, is still significantly impeded by the legacy of pre-electronic media. While overcoming these impediments will require many elements, there are opportunities for technological innovation to support new and better practices. For example, journals exist in their traditional forms at least partly because of the value of the peer review process, which thus far has not yielded to decentralized, distributed and timely mechanisms of the Web. Similarly, information access is still largely a text-based affair, with other data types relegated to second class citizenship.

The UC Berkeley Digital Library project is developing technologies aimed at addressing these impediments, and hence allowing the development of new, more efficient mechanisms of information dissemiation and use. In particular, we are developing new models of documents, in the form of the Multivalent browser, which we hope will convince you to throw away your current, limited web browser, for collaborative quality filtering", which provides the value of peer
review without deference to prior established authorities, such as journals, and for "collection management services", which bring to individual information users services previously available to libraries. Taken together, such mechanisms may provide the benefits of modern communications without sacraficing traditional academic values.

In addition, we have been developing techniques for image retrieval based on image content. Recent progress on learning the semantics of image databases using text and pictures suggests that new forms of image-lated web services may be possible, including automatic image captioning and automatic illustration, among others.

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March 6, 2003

Forum: Google

Eric Schmidt of Google gave a very interesting talk at PARC. The first half of his talk was about information movements and the second half was anecdotes/information about Google. Schmidt started off with a comparison to electricity: it started off as a big boom, then it became a utility. Similarly, it started off with thousands of companies, and then became very few. Schmidt argues that all big bubbles have followed the model of thousands then few: railroads, auto, dot com. To me at least, this seemed hand-wavy: the auto industry, for example, has a huge parts and support industry around it, and railroad/electricity are inhibited by infrastructure - a company doesn't have to own Internet backbone to produce a product or service.

The funniest anecdote he gave was about the "bias" of Google News. He was giving a talk and someone in the audience asked him what Google's slant was when it displayed articles. Schmidt tried to explain that a computer selected the articles, and thus there was no slant, but the audience member insisted that every news source has a slant. As Schmidt tells the story, he went to the researchers/engineers that were responsible for Google News and asked them if it were possible that Google News had a slant. As it turns out, the researcher that created the program is Indian and put in two biases: (1) International news is favored, and (2) cricket. I had actually noticed (2), because it seemed improbable to me that there would be a cricket sports link everyday on the front page.

Another funny anecdote he had was when he was making a point that cost drives everything. When Google was still at Stanford, they needed to build server casings. What did they use: legos or duplos? Duplos, because they are cheaper.

More stuff below and in the extended comments.

Eric Schmidt, Google Talk
- "Scarcity to Abundance Drives Everthing Tech"

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February 2, 2003

Talk: Mitch Kapor/Chandler

Mitch Kapor gave a talk at Dealer today on Chandler. Interestingly it's based on python and will run on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Overall, it seems that they're currently overly ambitious about what they'll be able to acheive (given what they have right now), so it seemed very handwavy. Also, they really haven't figured out how they're going to do security with this thing.

January 23, 2003

Forum: 20,000 Bytes Under the Sea

20,000 Bytes Under The Sea
Poster & Abstract
Emory Kristof
National Geographic Society

This was a really nice talk IMHO. The guy's been with National Geographic forever and throughout his career has had to build leading-edge photography rigs to expand National Geographic's photographic reach beneath the sea. Some of his work also helped inspire Titanic the movie. His more recent work has been with high-definition capture, and the pictures he showed were amazing (especially compared to non-high definition versions of the same stuff).

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January 16, 2003

Forum: Speech Level Singing

The Speech Level Singing Method: Tools And Tricks For Artistic Vocal Development
Dave Stroud
Technical Voice Instructor
Dave Stroud Vocal Studio (

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August 22, 2002

Forum: Star Wars

PARC Forum
Digital Environments And Costumes In Star Wars: Episode II
Ari Rapkin
CG (computer graphics) Software Engineer
Industrial Light + Magic

Star Wars Forum Poster

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what is this?

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to kwc blog in the Talks category.

Shows/concerts is the previous category.

trips is the next category.

Current entries can be found on the main page.