Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UIST 2011 Student Innovation Contest

When it finally came time for the Student Innovation Contest, our poster and game board were ready to go and our demo was working!!  This was very exciting because we had come with expectations that everything would break and things would go wrong, but everything seemed to be going well.  I was nervous before beginning, but when it started I became really excited to share the project and I realized I knew what I was talking about!! (Thank you Consuelo for preparing us!!).

For our project, my team, Wendy & Michelle, and I made an interactive game board titled "Where's Bo Peep?".  We hid the Microsoft TouchMouse inside of a stuffed sheep that we made a finger puppet.  By performing normal sheep movements, such as looking left and right around objects or looking inside something, the user actually was performing gestures on the TouchMouse that we interpreted and reacted to with audio.  The overall goal of the game was to help the sheep find Bo Peep.  The user navigated around the game board by moving the sheep (mouse) and gesturing at "hotspots" around the board.  One scenario is the user could make the sheep look inside the cave by sticking its head inside, which would cause the user to gesture forward.  Following the gesture there would be an audio response reflecting whether or not Bo Peep was inside the cave.  When Bo Peep is at a location, she responds.  When Bo Peep is not at a location, the narrator responds and encourages the user to continue looking for her.  Having a narrator propagates the idea of the user creating their own story!

One of the main goals of our project was to be creative in the way we used the mouse and to inspire creativity and social interaction in children.  The target audience of "Where's Bo Peep?" is elementary school aged children.  The game encourages the kids to have social interaction with each other by responding with audio output, which allows them to have eye contact with each other and does not force them to continuously look at the game board because it does not visually change.

Overall, telling everyone who was interested about our project was a very exciting and exhausting experience.  We also met a lot of people and hopefully have made some lasting connections!

UIST 2011 Day 1

The day before UIST we registered and then mingled.  It was a successful night because a huge group of us bonded over walking around looking for an open restaurant.

Day 1
The talks were ver interesting.  Some of the wisdom I took away:

Crowd Control - I learned about this term and it seemed to be a really cool idea; poll the crowd and use the collective wisdom of the people.
"Simulate expertise in crowd of amateurs" -PlateMate group
"disguise crowd as singer worker" -Legion group
A really cool use of crowd control that was shown is transcribing.  Everyone is given a little segment of the test and together the whole handwritten document is typed.

Another really cool idea was the robotic boss idea..  At a company, a boss was in a different city from his workers, so they made a Skype robot that the boss could drive around the office.  This is a new idea to me, although the group was presenting a more complex idea about controlling the volume people use.  One of their ideas was to use a side tone, which was used by land line phones to let people know how loud they are speaking.

From the program, one of the presentations we were most looking forward to was the tongue-input device by Disney Research.  Today, the giant costume characters at Disney are mute and use their arms to be expressive and engage in a body language conversation.  The research team wanted the character actors to be able to control voice clips to make the characters more interactive with the children.  The idea is, while the actor is using his/her arms to be expressive, he/she could use his/her tongue to select the appropriate voice clips.  This would be combined with a tree so a conversation would have choices related to the choice that was previously chosen.

My favorite paper of the day is Collabode, which happens to be developed by our neighbors at MIT.  It is a program for writing programs, much like Google Docs is a program for writing documents.  It encourages collaboration and prevents errors that could be created when having users working on the same project at the same time by only sharing code once it automatically compiles.  This would be great!  We were thinking that CS111 (& CS230) could greatly benefit from this program, as there is much pair programming in these classes and this program would help prevent the "lopsided" control that occurs.

Later in the afternoon, there was a session on social learning.  This was mostly about connecting the queries that people use on the internet to the actual programming.  During one of the talks, the group showed users how to take tutorials for Adobe Photoshop and actually perform them in Gimp, a free photo-editor.  After that talk, one of the conference attendees who works at Adobe asked the group if they had thought of the legal implications of their piece of software.  The software was taking instructions for an expensive piece of software and showing how to accomplish the same task in an open source software.  This could be seen as taking money away from Adobe.  The room was completely silent after the guy made his remarks.  I was not quite sure what to think.  On one hand, Adobe is a software company and their goal is to make money off of their software.  On the other hand, conferences are supposed to promote research and shared learning.  I feel that tutorials for most tasks could be out on the internet in both Gimp and Adobe Photoshop instructions, and so this conversion would not be a huge leap.  One could also take the time to browse the help sections in Gimp to figure out the task they would like to perform.

The keynote, Breaking Barriers with Sound, was extremely interesting.  I love music and computers, so it's a mix of both worlds!  Ge Wang from Stanford was engaging and a great speaker.  He demoed his music coding language, Chuck, and he showed us apps that his company, Smule, has developed.  Last Christmas I discovered the Ocarina app and loved it, and today I found out he created it!!  Another awesome app he demoed was an auto-tuner that let you sing like a pro.  One project he had been working on was a laptop orchestra.  The idea of this sounds extremely out-of-this world to me.  It is a very creative concept and they pulled it off very well.  I especially liked that each member had their own speaker to better reflect a natural orchestra.  There were amazing videos on YouTube.