Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jan 2008 Oracle/SFI Grant success and review

Professor Paddy Nixon holds a €2.5m SFI award in Secure and Predictable Pervasive Systems. This core grant has allowed us over the past 3 years to develop the systems research group (SRG) in UCD into a international leading group in massive scale distributed systems, software engineering, visualisation and sensor based systems.

This grant, along with many others has allowed us to grow the SRG into a team of 5 Faculty, 6 PostDocs, 29 PhD students, and 3 research programmers (43 staff).

Recently, I was a co-investigator on an SFI Industry Research supplement award to Paddy's main grant with Oracle. I'm bringing my Pervasive Computing and Info Vis experience to this project. Over the past few month Dr. Benoit Gaudin has done an outstanding job on the first phase of this research project.

The impact of this industry academic collaboration was felt today in an Oracle review of the early stage of the project. We presented our research results and plans to two Oracle Vice Presidents and an Executive Technical Advisor along with a larger Oracle team. The presentation, research methodology and direction (and of course results) were all very well received.

We hope this collaboration grows over time with Dr. Gaudin leading the delivery over the coming 18 months.

If you are interested in a PhD working on real industry problems related to Oracle please contact me as we will soon have an advert for 2 PhD posts in UCD.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jan 2008 TRIL Centre IDA Review

Tril logo

Along with my co-Principal Investigators in the TRIL Centre (Technology Research for Independent Living) we presented to an external review panel on our work to date and plans for 2008 across the 5 strands within TRIL. I presented on the TRIL Technology Platform (TTP) which is headed up by Michael McGrath (Intel), Paddy Nixon (UCD) and myself Aaron Quigley (UCD).

I've only recently joined this team but I was very proud to present the outcomes of the TTP work to date. Across the strands the team have made great strides in clinical research, IT research, ethnographic research and developments targeted at key areas in ageing. Ageing is both a social and a biological process where I like to focus on the challenges, opportunities and excitement which it presents rather than the typical view of disconnection and decline.

The TRIL Centre is a coordinated collection of research projects addressing the physical, cognitive and social consequences of ageing, all informed by ethnographic research and supported by a shared pool of knowledge and
engineering resources.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jan 2008 Co-Chair PPD'08 (public/private multi-touch displays)

Along with some colleagues I had a workshop proposal for AVI 2008 the International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces accepted recently.

PPD logo

PPD'08 Call for Papers
Workshop on designing multi-touch interaction techniques for coupled
public and private displays

(AVI 2008 the International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces)

Workshop Paper submission deadline: March 25, 2008, 11:59 pm PST

Workshop: May 31, 2008 Napoli, Italy

Shahram Izadi - Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK
Aaron Quigley - University College Dublin, Ireland
Sriram Subramanian - University of Bristol, UK


The PPD 08 workshop on designing multi-touch interaction techniques for coupled
public and private displays focuses on the research challenges and opportunities
afforded by the combination of touch sensitive small private input displays
coupled with large touch sensitive public displays. Different touch-enabled
devices rely on different types of touches (passive stylus, active stylus,
fingers and tangible objects), the motivating question for this workshop is
how do users switch between these devices and how to facilitate fluid transition
from a collection of multiple displays to a single integrated multi-display

Recent developments have seen the wide spread proliferation of both large shared
displays and small display technologies. In parallel we have seen the emergence
of new classes of device which support both touch or multi touch interaction.
Examples of small touch driven devices include PDAs, Tablets and iPhones and
examples of large interactive surfaces (mutli-touch driven displays) include
the Diamondtouch and Surface Computing. Interactive surfaces offer great
potential for face-to-face work and social interaction and provide natural
ways to directly manipulate virtual objects whereas small devices afford the
individual a personal workspace or "scratch space" to formulate ideas before
bringing them to a wider audience. Advanced visual interfaces can be built
around a combination of both private and public touch driven displays. Such
computer mediated multi-device interaction between local touch-driven displays
and shared public ones presents a number of novel and challenging research

This workshop will specifically focus on the research challenges in designing
touch interaction techniques for the combination of small touch driven private
input displays such as iPhones coupled with large touch driven public displays
such as the Diamondtouch or Microsoft Surface.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to

* Understanding the design space and identifying factors that influence
user interactions in this space
* The impact of social conventions on the design of suitable interaction
techniques for shared and private displays
* Exploring interaction techniques that facilitate multi-display interfaces
* Personal displays as physical ob jects for the development of interaction
techniques with shared multi-touch displays
* Novel interaction techniques for both private and public multi-touch
devices as part of multi-display environments
* Techniques for supporting input re-direction and distributing information
between displays
* Developing evaluation strategies to cope with the complex nature of
multi-display environments
* Ethnography and user studies on the use of coupled public and private
display environments

We invite contributions from researchers and practioners working in the area of
multi-display environments and horizontal interactive surfaces coupled with
private displays. Interested attendees should submit a short position paper of
less than 4 pages. Based on a peer review of the position papers about 10 to 15
participants will be invited to attend the workshop.

Please visit our website (http://ppd08.ucd.ie/) for further details and
submission procedures.

Jan 2008 Multimedia, Graphics and Visualization - Next Steps

aquigley UMS2 image 2UMS Logo UCDaquigley UMS2 image 1

Since 2005 I have been teaching a Multimedia, Graphics and Visualization (COMP40340) course in UCD as part of our Higher Diploma/M.Sc. in Ubiquitous and Multimedia Systems. I inherited this course from a colleague and while I have made some in-roads in the attention to algorithmic details and practical issues in the realisation of Multimedia, Graphics and Visualization it has remained relatively unchanged. This is now changing from 2008 onwards.

Students wishing to take my COMP40610 Computer Science: Information Visualisation course should attend this course where they will be given assignments and research reading distinct from the COMP40340 cohort. However, the core course material will remain the same. Classes are from 3-5pm each Wed.

UMS Student Image
Algorithm animation of a 3D force directed layout of DWA512 (Matrix Market) built as an interactive VRML animation.

I intend this new course to focus on Information Visualisation as the driver for the exploration of issues in Multimedia, Graphics and Visualization. I aim to equip the students with a solid grounding in mathematical and algorithmic details while ensuring they can rapidly deliver applied visual tools for exploring voluminous data sets (using the Processing framework which I will cover).

The old course drew on the following texts. Computer Graphics, Principles and Practice by Foley, van Dam, Feiner, Hughes. Principles of Three-Dimensional Computer Animation by Michael O'Rourke the VRML 2.0 Sourcebook by Andrea L. Amea, David R. Nadeau and John Moreland. Graph Drawing: Algorithms for the Visualization of Graphs by Giuseppe Di Battista, Peter Eades, Roberto Tamassia, Ioannis G. Tollis, Information Visualization : Perception for Design by Colin Ware and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information; Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative; Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte.

UMS Student Image
3D rectangular tree-map of a hard disc. Hierarchy reresented by inclusion, each rectangular box is a directory, size represents voume of data and height represents distance from the root of the file system.

UMS Student Image
Circular 3D tree-map of a hard disc.

This update to the course takes an innovative approach to the teaching of Information Visualisation in terms of Multimedia, Graphics and Visualization principles. In the teaching and applied learning in this course we will adopt a version of the SECI model(Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995) for knowledge creation. While we will not labour under the SECI model it does provide a framework for identifying a series of check points and guides to the delivery, discussion, active learning and knowledge formation required by students in this course.

In practice we will weekly engage in a seven times through a two week cycle consisting or a series of activities in learning about core concepts in Information Visualisation.

Information Visualisation is typically driven by the need to identify questions. We will achieve this through an open-forum with questions and answers, brainstorming, peer work or team work (Socialisation). This forms the tacit to tacit SECI step. Next the course lecturer will engage in a period of tacit to explicit knowledge transfer, helping to convert the tacit ideas discussed earlier into explicit ideas and concepts (including code, mathematical and algorithmic details, infovis methods etc.). This forms the Externalisation step in the SECI model. The next two steps require active student learning and require more time for reflection on the work in the Socialisation and Externalisation steps. A dedicated time for the Combination of the knowledge presented with a specific end-user task is needed. Weekly practical sessions guided by a domain expert or other will aid the students in combining knowledge. Finally, by combining knowledge in this way with a clear task in mind students will start the process of Internalisation whereby explicit knoweldge becomes tacit.

UMS Student Image
A visual timeline of Winston Churchill’s life, divided into years, months, weeks and days presented on "Lifeline", a fifteen metre-long interactive table in the Churchill Museum London.

UMS Student Image
Population movement visualisation from "From Migrations to Population Concentration", Gaudin B., Bennett M., Sheehan B. & Quigley A., Best Poster IBM Dublin CASCON 2006

Be attempting to complete this SECI process a number of times (spiral) during this module we aim to move the students up through a series of levels whereby evermore advanced information visualisation concepts are conveyed and realised through practical work.

The students will explore the problem inherent in trying to visually display and explore voluminous data sets from sources including web navigation, books, papers/citations, game scores, scientific data, biological data, shopping data, social networks, stock/finance data and news sources. Along with considering the pipeline model of information visualisation we will explore more iterative models dealing with data capture, modeling, filtering, management, processing, refinement, representation and interaction. Students will learn from both research papers and in-class lecture material covering multi-dimensional data, geographical data, biological data, time series data, relational data and methods such as scatter plots, graph drawings and tree layouts.

Reference books for this course include:
Visualizing Data Visualizing Data by Ben Fry

CardReadings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think Written and edited by Stuart K. Card, Jock D. Mackinlay, and Ben Shneiderman

ProcessingProcessing A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists by Casey Reas and Ben Fry

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jan 2008 CLARITY SFI site-visit

I've been involved with the Adaptive Information Cluster in UCD and DCU for a number of years. Primarily through ODCSSS, our undergraduate research internship program which they helped support with funds for the first couple of years. More recently this group of the Principal Investigators along with their associate PIs and affiliated collaborators (of which I am just 1) and their numerous industrial partners presented their bid for a CSET entitled CLARITY to an independent site visit panel. This review is part of the SFI process in the high quality peer review to decide on a CSET.

Side note.....

I've only been back in Ireland a few years and I've been through a few of these CSET visits and reviews. They are always an interesting experience. Last year I was on Computer Engineering grant review panel myself for the Foundation for Science and the Technology Portugal (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) so it's always a challenging prospect for everyone involved to ensure the best quality research gets funded be it locally, nationally or internationally. By remote review to Canada and the UK and personally in Australia I got to see the full force of their NSERC/EPSRC/CRC processes which are all entirely different dynamics.
From my experience a few key aspects of successful grant review include:

  • Quality research should be the first and last metric for evaluation
  • An international panel for small countries or for larger grants
  • Zero interference from the funding body to the reviewers/panel
  • A clear understanding of the national/international funding context by the panellists
  • Both breath and depth in the review panels in terms of topics and governance.

From what I've seen, the SFI is one of the leaders in getting grant reviews right. They are improving the local ecosystem for research not just because they follow good practice but because they help define it.