Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My CHInd of conference

Terrible pun, I know, I know. But I had to do something since I failed to think of one earlier.

After saying farewell to my most wonderful host I checked into my hotel (awesomely just a 10 minute walk from Le Palais des Congrès, where the conference was being held), which was a gorgeous little boutique hotel and walked there.

I made it just in time for the keynote speaker. This year it was Paola Antonelli, senior curator for the Architecture & Design exhibits for MOMA in New York. At first I wasn't sure where her speech was going, but as it progressed, her examples more and more rapid fire and becoming more relevant, I saw her point: design has many faces but it never forgets functionality and a certain elegance.


It was actually a really good speech, though it took some warming up to. Great way to start off the conference though, and after picking up my conswag (Conference Stuff We All Get) I planned my schedule of attack and was off to a running start.

True to form the first two of three sessions I attended were about evaluation methods and what research and advancements people were doing in them. Heh, a little too devoted to my work it seems. Of course I was very curious to see what other discoveries and advancements were happening in the rest of the realms (flexible displays, health, social media, crowdsourcing, multitouch, gesture, gaze, and of course brain-related work) but I don't know...maybe it was my sudden interest in wanting to go back to grad school or something...but I wanted to know the WHY and HOW. So, this naturally goes to analysis, rather than the WHAT. In my mind the WHAT comes and goes and will always be constantly evolving as we advance technology and continue to move further, but the why and how...this is how we move.

Anyway, it was an interesting day with those two sessions. Inbetween breaks (which they very nicely planned into the lecture schedule, regularly and for long periods of time) I met up with two colleagues I knew would be attending and we scoped around the booths that were on display.

Unfortunately my company has taken many hits and was not well-represented at the conference, despite being one of the key sponsors this year, along with Facebook and Yahoo. But well, times are hard and I take this to mean we're just spending all of our resouces internally on fixing the problems.

So I scanned the other booths for what other companies were expending their efforts on. The answer: quite a bit. The most memorable booth was a company from (giggle) Helsinki called MultiTouch. They had developed a gorgeous interactive display called MultiTaction that combined a multitouch screen and music creation. By placing blocks with different symbols on the display, it would create different patterns of sound and rhythm. It was fascinating. Also manipulating the display for the purposes of displaying and editing images was beautiful. Something to really look at.

The other booth that garnered a lot of attention (this is for personal reasons) was naturally the Google booth. They had a competition going on for who could type the fastest on their newest flagship device, the Nexus4 (by LG). Given a time limit, how many of the words could you type, and if you were in the top typers, you would win a Nexus4. Winners would be announced a few days later.

The funny thing about this? I ended up being a winner! Whoo for me being obsessed with fast typing. What can I say? This is the second smartphone I've won. :) I have my issues with a few things on this device, but it sure is nice to get it for free. I'm not going to lie about that (call it a perk of the job but I really do love having my hands on the newest devices all the time).

Anyway, the last session of the day I attended a panel regarding women and diversity in the field of HCI (human-computer interaction). The gist of it was this: the numbers of "us" are dropping. Why? And what can we do about it? There were some inspiring women on the panel, no doubt, but in general I found this panel a little bit disappointing. There needs to be more "do" and more awareness. I plan to teach my children (be they boys or girls) the importance of education, just as my parents did for me. I plan to give them as many opportunities as possible. I know not everyone is as fortunate as me and will not be as fortunate as I plan to make my children, but I will do everything in my power to make sure that the future generations will have the opportunities to advance as high as they can. And are given the knowledge to know that they can and should. Knowledge really is power. Let's get it out there.

Hilariously I also reconnected with one of my professors from undergraduate. Turns out he was giving a lecture about a paper he'd been writing when I was still being taught by him. Great to see how things progress, and even more awesome to reconnect with people you haven't seen in awhile. Ah, how the world turns.

And thus ended my glorious time at CHI. This whole conference thing, I really dig it. Going to try to attend more. And when I get to grad school? Get into this circuit. I can see some real potential.

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