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Monday, July 18, 2005

Still more AAAI-05 photos

Barney Pell has 70 pictures from AAAI-05 on his Flickr site.

The future is bright

Just a quick post to say thanks to everyone who helped make this conference an especially fascinating and enjoyable experience for me. I feel I have a broader outlook on the academic community in general, as well as a great deal of excitement about the future of both human and artificial intelligence. I think this blog was a great idea for the conference and I feel honoured to have been a participant. It was also great to see how there is an interest from a diverse range of people and organizations in the broad field of Artificial Intelligence. I believe Dr. Minsky (or someone else?) said that AI is solving problems that have not been solved yet, or making computers do things which only humans could do in the past. Either of these goals is worthwhile, but I think we have to just go about our work with a great deal of respect for the past, for institutions, for experts, and for leaders. The future is a bright one, and we just need to remember "respect". (Sounds like a football mantra or something, but it could also apply to AI researchers and theorists too.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

More pictures from AAAI

There are several nice sets of photos from AAAI-05 on Flickr: If you have photos you want to share, please submit them to our blog using the link on our page or send us a pointer to them.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Churches and Cathedrals

What a week! After the Demo on Tuesday my whole team was pretty tapped. We went to the Church Brew Works to recover... What better way than enjoying a beer at church : ) After the couple talks on Wednesday we met up with professor Yang Cai at his lab at CMU. One of his students showed us around the campus (very nice!). The buildings were extremely old and well kept, and the receptionist in the CS building was a roboceptionist, a good mix of old and new. We got to play with the lab's eye tracking system (see the picture in Flckr). If you look at a spot on the screen for 5 seconds or longer, that spot gets selected. We headed over to the Cathedral of Learning to find 42 stories of classrooms and lounges for students to study in etc. After spending some time taking pictures of the main entrance, we headed inside to find a gorgeous foyer that required more photo-taking time (thank God for digital). We finally headed up the network of elevators that you have to take to get to the top, each one only went up 10 floors or so. Once at the top we stumbled into a group of U Pitt students in what must have been a student lounge. I overheard them talking about their experiences interning at the hospital and noticed that one of the guys had his shirt off... "Very odd" I thought, "Where's the gym?" I didn't ask of course, but after checking out the view from the top of Pittsburgh, we headed down and met a nice woman in the elevator that explained the shirtless guy... he had climbed the 42 stories of stairs for exercise. Looking back at the week, I couldn't have asked for a better first AAAI. I met a whole community of people with similar interests and got to see a glimpse of a beautiful city and two universities. Thanks to everyone who helped make AAAI a success!

Comparing with last year's AAAI

I attended last year's AAAI conference (San Jose) as well, so let me try to compare the two. I saw some great research at both, although I think what I saw last year was slightly better overall (although that may just have been due to the sample that I got). Nevertheless, I felt that this conference was much more lively than the previous one. While the Westin at some points gave us perhaps a little too little space (it was hard to sit down anywhere when not attending a talk, and often the rooms were overcrowded), the convention center at San Jose was more reminiscent of an airport terminal and felt very impersonal. The many robots and other demonstrations this year also greatly improved the atmosphere. I'll leave comparing the locations to someone else because I'm based out of Pittsburgh so I didn't have the typical staying-at-a-conference experience...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

AAAI robot movies

For those of you who were not present at the conference and thus did not get to see some of the cool robots in action, here is your chance: robot1 & robot2

[Note: You may have to tilt your head slightly (where slightly = by 90 deg) to watch the second video]

Highlight: Doctoral Consortium + Poster session

I agree with Mykel, the doctoral consortium was also one of the highlights for me this year at AAAI! It provided a great forum of top researchers and current Ph.D. students to present, discuss and exchange research ideas! I was an unique opportunity, were the students were able to get feedback in a save environment. I learned a lot about how to give my talk for the next time and got valuable input. One nice side effect was that it increased a lot the number of people I knew at the conference and I made many new contacts through the new friends from the AAAI DC. I would like to thank Kiri and all the other people on the panel for their hard work and time. I was a great experience. I would have more contributed to the blog, but the connection at Duquesne University was not existing and the wireless of my laptop didn't work, so I could use it at the Westin. I also enjoyed the poster session a lot, since I had many great talks and discussion with other researchers which resulted in new ideas! Thanks again!

Doctoral Consortium

The highlight of AAAI this year was the Doctoral Consortium. I had a great time meeting other Ph.D. students and learning about their work. I gave my presentation on the first day, and I got some valuable feedback. Suggestions from Michael Littman, Marie desJardins, and Kiri Wagstaff were particularly helpful. During the Doctoral Consortium dinner, I was talking with Michael Littman how getting feedback in this kind of way is indeed a "once in a lifetime experience." I had a great time, and I would highly recommend Ph.D. students in their early stages of their research to apply next year!