Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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.

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