Singapore/Mixed Reality Lab

I’m writing from Heathrow airport, which gives you always plenty of time to work with the computer ;).

Last week Friday I had the opportunity to visit the Mixed Reality Lab, at the National University of Singapore. Unfortunately, Adrian Cheok was not available this day, but he made sure that the visit went fine. I got to meet Dr. Newton Fernando, who showed me around the lab, and introduced me to the students and collaborators of the lab, among which Roshan Peiris, James Teh Keng Soon, and Eng Tat. You might know of these students from the famous Poultry Internet and Age Invaders projects (check their website above if you are wondering what Poultry internet might mean).

Thanks to all that made this visit possible!

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NICTA in Sydney

This has been a crazy week, and only today I get to write about what happened in Sydney.

After my Emirates flight (nothing spectacular, really) I arrived to Sydney, where I got to stay with Carl, my supervisor.
It was fantastic to enjoy Manly beach, but I wasn’t there for the beaches or for the views. Wednesday was time to present at NICTA (National Information and Communication Technology research centre of excellence of Australia). There, Kenton O’Hara
who shares his time between NICTA and CSIRO , together with Markus Rittenbruch, showed us what they are up to with the BRACETTO project, which is highly relevant for my work on Multi-display environments. It was also great to meet Gregor McEwan (former Calgary student), and Christian Müller-Tomfelde, with whom we discussed a number of interesting issues related to multi-display environments and tabletops (he is currently editing a book on the subject).

All in all, a very interesting visit (it does also help that the weather was wonderful). I´d like to thank everyone at NICTA for the useful remarks about my work and for hosting us.

University of Canterbury (Christchurch, NZ)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to update the blog. Well, after Stanford I spent a fantastic half a day walking around San Francisco, and then I got into the almost eternal flight to New Zeeland. There I was received by Carl Gutwin, my supervisor, and by Andy Cockburn, who leads the HCI and Multimedia Lab. (Note: Andy is probably the best host ever).

My last day in NZ I got to visit the lab, and meet and get to know the work of Andy’s students and David Ahlstrom, a visiting researcher. David is an expert in menu selection. Jason Alexander is just finishing his Ph.D., but he is already well known for his work on document navigation. Finally, the other student I got to spend considerable time with is Suzanne Tak, who is bulding some fancy prototypes for application switching (let’s hope that she releases the first version to the public soon!).

After that I got to briefly visit the HIT lab, meet Mark Billinghurst, and see a demo by Andy’s ex-student Julian Looser.

Christchurch has definitely been one of the highlights of the trip so far. I would like to thank everyone for their hospitality (special thanks to Andy), and for their insightful questions at the talk.

Stanford University

I’m blogging from Stanford. Bjoern Hartmann organized my visit to the HCI group (I knew Bjoern because we shared an office at Microsoft Research last summer).

After a brief tour of the facilities, I got to talk to some students (and post-docs) and their research. David Akers will be presenting work at CHI on using UNDO (as in what you see under the edit menu of your favorite programs) as a marker for the analysis and detection of usability problems. Steven Dow (post-doc at Stanford, PhD at Georgia Tech) got to tell me a bit about his studies in how prototype helps design.

Then I got to give my talk where I got a lot of interesting questions from faculty and students, but especially from faculty (Scott Klemmer, Terry Winograd, Stu Card). It was kind of imposing to talk to this audience, but I think it went well, and there was interest in my work and in some of the NECTAR students’ projects. After the talk, Andreas Paepcke had the time to show me his new Kindle, and discuss a bit about pen-based interfaces.

After the talk I could meet with some other students that I had met at UIST: Ranjitha Kumar, who is working on making web creation easier for novices and Joel Brandt who analyzes and designs for programmers information retrieval needs.

I enjoyed my visit to Stanford: people were really welcoming, the campus feels like being in southern Spain, and the weather was wonderful. Thanks Bjoern for organizing the visit!

Tomorrow I’ll get to see a bit of San Francisco.

Seattle (UW)

The plan for Monday was tight: lunch at Microsoft Research and then University of Washington.
At MSR I got to see Andy Wilson, Hrvoje Benko, Patrick Baudisch, Merrie Morris and Daniel Wigdor (another ex-Nectarine).

After that it was time to head to the University of Washington and talk to Jake Wobbrock, who did not know about NECTAR (issue corrected), and he told me about his latest research, which is focused on interaction techniques and devices for people with a disability.

Although the timing for Seattle was also awful (no possibility for a talk, no students in town), all in all
it was a very interesting visit. Also, it is always nice to go back to the awesome Emerald City…

Now I’m blogging from San Francisco, where the weather is awful :(.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions that I get:

1. How many locations in how many days? Are you nuts?
32 days, 15 locations. Yes, I’m a bit crazy.

2. How did you land such a sweet deal?
It was Carl’s idea (my supervisor), and then I had to prepare an itinerary that was later approved by the NECTAR management. It took me a while to prepare the trip too. I just hope to do a really good job as a "NECTAR AMBASSADOR".

3. How did you get convinced to do such an awful and tiring trip?
I didn’t need convincing… I love traveling. I just miss Kate.

4. You’re gonna get some air miles, eh! ;P
Well, to keep the budget low, I had to choose the cheapest flights for each leg of the trip. This means that I’m going to collect a marginal amount in five different programs (i.e. no real benefit). Besides, I hate air miles programs. I would rather just have them charge less.

5. When you travel, do you also have a life?
Yes! But not as much as I would like… In Toronto I got to see Susana, but missed Ragu, in Calgary I got to see Mike, but missed Amanda, in Vancouver I got to see Susan, but missed Janet.

6. Can I put comments in your blog?
Yes! You can access my blog from miguelissimo.spaces.live.com and do a lot more things than from nacenta.com (e.g. comment). (OK, I don’t really get this question that often, but I had to put it somewhere…) 😉

University of British Columbia

On Friday it was time for the last of my NECTAR visits: UBC in Vancouver. Of the two UBC NECTAR profs, only Kelly Booth is currently in Vancouver, but I got to meet Joanna McGrenere‘s students even though she was away.

It was great to see Joel Lanir wrapping up his PhD work on Multi-display for public presentations. Karyn Moffatt and Leah Findlater’s have been busy making menu selection faster by applying perception research. Garth Shoemaker is taking further (way further) his idea of using shadows for interaction with large displays. Finally, Russ MacKenzie and Evgeni Maksakov showed me their research on 3D, one for architects, the other one in large displays. I didn’t get to see Kirstie Hawkey‘s last work, but she actually took care of setting up the schedule. Thanks Kirstie!

After the great visit (thank you all), I finally got to spend some time with Susan, who saved me from missing my plane today (I’m now in Seattle) – Thanks again for everything!

(uff… it feels good to be up to date again)