2014 Visit to Prezi

Prezi is a new presentation tool developed in Hungary. One of the distinguishing features of the tool is the use of zooming animation to engage the viewer. Yesterday, I visited the company to discuss a  collaboration exploring how people consume Prezis. My hosts were Prezi’s Lead UX Researcher László Laufer and his colleague Eszter Józsa.

László gave me a tour of the Prezi facility, which is truly impressive. I really liked the bright, open area in the picture above, where much of the development work is done. See more of my pictures of Prezi on Flickr.

My collaboration with Prezi is made possible by my Fulbright scholarship in Hungary. I will post updates on our progress in the coming months.

2014 Visit to University of Szeged

The home of the Research Group on Artificial Intelligence

Yesterday I visited the University of Szeged. I was there at the invitation of fellow Fulbrighter Mark Jelasity. Mark is a member of the Research Group on Artificial Intelligence. He and I met at a recent event organized by Fulbright Hungary, where Hungarian Fulbright scholars reported on their experiences in the USA.

The primary purpose of my visit was to give a talk at the Institute of Informatics; thanks to Peter Szabó for including my talk in the Institute’s seminar series. I was really excited, as this was the first time in my career that I gave a talk in Hungarian. For fun, here are the Hungarian title and abstract:

Szemkövetők használata autóvezetéses szimulációs kisérletekben

Absztrakt: A University of New Hampshire kutatói több mint egy évtizede foglalkoznak a járműveken belüli ember-gép interfészekkel. Ez az előadás először egy rövid áttekintést nyújt a rendőr járművekre tervezett Project54 rendszer fejlesztéséről és telepítéséről. A rendszer különböző modalitású felhasználói felületeket biztosít, beleértve a beszéd modalitást. A továbbiakban az előadás beszámol közelmúltban végzett autóvezetés-szimulációs kísérletekről, amelyekben a szimulátor és egy szemkövető adatai alapján becsültük a vezető kognitív terhelését, vezetési teljesítményét, és vizuális figyelmét a külső világra.

As part of the visit I had a chance to talk to Mark about his research (see Mark’s Google Scholar profile). Mark’s interest is in distributed learning, which might have fascinating applications in the automotive domain.

Szeged fish soup

My visit was also exciting on a personal level, as I was born in Szeged, and my family often travelled there during my childhood. I walked around the town a bit to reminisce, and Mark treated me to an excellent lunch of fish soup.

See pictures from my trip on Flickr.

Eitan Globerson discusses piano and brain at BME

Yesterday I attended a talk by Eitan Globerson at BME. Professor Globerson is a conductor, pianist, and a brain scientist. His talk explored the brain mechanisms involved in playing the piano. A key mechanism is automaticity, which allows pianists to produce the complex musical sequences at very high tempo. I really enjoyed this talk, with its mix of performing music and discussing brain imaging.

Professon Globerson was hosted by BME professor Bertalan Forstner. Thanks Luca Szegletes for inviting me. See more pictures from the talk on Flickr.

Fulbright Hungary orientation – February 2014

Last week I attended the orientation for the 2014 spring group of American Fulbright grantees in Hungary. I am grateful to the Fulbright Hungary staff for making the American grantees’ transition into life and work in Hungary smooth. I especially want to thank Annamária Sas, who is the Program Officer in charge of the American grantees. Annamária knows what needs to be done, and she accomplishes everything with seeming ease and with enthusiasm. I also want to thank Csanád Nagypál for his work on our financial arrangments. Finally, I want to thank Dr. Huba Bückner, Director Emeritus, as well as Dr. Károly Jókay, Diretor of Fulbright Hungary, for their leadership of Fulbright Hungary. Their strong engagement is evident in the work of the organization.

The orientation covered three areas:

  • Life in Hungary: history, language, customs, art, and current affairs.
  • Work in Hungary: organization of higher education, suggestions for success in teaching and research, and engaging the citizens of Hungary.
  • Practical issues: working with Fulbright Hungary, and with the US Embassy in Budapest.

In retrospect, it’s amazing how much we learned about these areas in just four days. Below is a brief overview.

History. Hungarians feel a strong connection to their history. We were treated to a stellar history lesson (covering over 1,000 years of Hungarian history, starting in 896) by Prof. Dr. Tibor Frank. We also participated in a guided tour of the city, learning many tidbits from our guide. And in our visit to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences we saw, and sometimes even touched, items such as a 16th century Hungarian codex, and artifacts collected by the founder of tibetologySándor Csoma de Kőrös.

Gábor Tóth of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences showed us this codex.

Language and customs. Over the centuries Hungarians have worked successfully to maintain their language. The Fulbrighters who do not speak Hungarian were introduced to basic words and expressions by a passionate teacher, Mária Sánthané Gedeon. Mária also spent time exploring the differences in culture and customs between Hungary and the US. One of the differences: Americans are more likely to be assertive than Hungarians. Donald Morse, who has lived in Hungary for many years, also discussed customs, from what to bring to dinner parties (flowers, wine), to who pays for lunch (the person issuing the invitation). Professor Morse also recounted personal experiences of Hungary’s recent communist history.

Music. Hungary’s rich contribution to the world of music was discussed by Dr. Veronika Kusz, a musicologist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Veronika provided a brief overview of the works of the most influential Hungarian composers over the centuries. I was delighted to discover the 16th century lutenist, Bálint Bakfark. Following Veronika’s presentation we attended  a spectacular ballet performance of Onegin at the Hungarian State Opera.

Dr. Huba Bückner, Director Emeritus, introduces Dr. Veronika Kusz

Current affairs. We explored current affairs with two people who are shaping the future of Hungary: Katalin Ertsey, Member of the National Assembly, and TV host Dr. Levente Boros Bánk. The discussion was animated, especially since Hungarian parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 2014.

Work. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing work life, and how to leverage our time in Hungary to our benefit, and to the benefit of our hosts. Dr. Huba Bückner, Director Emeritus, as well as Dr. Károly Jókay, Diretor of Fulbright Hungary, urged us to be ourselves, so that our Hungarian students and colleagues can gain experience dealing with the US model of education and research.  Prof. Dr. Zoltán Abády-Nagy gave us an overview of the Hungarian higher education system, from organization, to historical perspectives, to faculty career paths. And current student grantee Jamie Hoversen warned us plan ahead, because there is so much to do and never enough time to do it all.

Engaging citizens of Hungary. Karyn Posner-Mullen and Dmitri Tarakhovsky, both with the US Embassy in Budapest, discussed ways in which we can engage the citizens of Hungary, from participating in the work of American Corners, to attending events organized by the embassy, to making our own professional and personal connections. Erika Sólyom, the director of the Budapest American Corner, discussed specific types of programs we should consider participating in.

Practical issues. Finally, we discussed a number of practical issues, from the ever important financial issues, to the reports required by Fulbright Hungary, to taking advantage of US Embassy resources. I was also glad to hear that there’s a Hungarian Fulbright Alumni Association, which is headed by Dr. Katalin Nagy.

Last, but not least, I’m very happy to have met the new American Fulbright grantees in Hungary: Stephen HartkeJanet Holmes, Amy Forss, Andrea Mitnick, Leslie Muray, Nicholas Rubashkin, and Peter Szende. I’m looking forward to following their efforts.

You can see more pictures from the orientation on Flickr.

With my wife Jennifer at the Hungarian State Opera presentation of Onegin.

Impressions from the USA: Hungarian Fulbrighters report

Dr. Károly Jókay, Executive Director of Fulbright Hungary, opens the meeting.

Yesterday I attended a meeting organized by the Hungarian Fulbright Commission, in which the 2012-2013 cohort of Hungarian Fulbright recipients reported on their experiences in the USA. Here are some of my impressions from this meeting:

Americans are kind, and America is a beautiful and exiting country.
All of the presentations I attended included words of praise for Americans as welcoming, supportive and open. Presenters also shared photographs of the US, from nature, to monuments, to street corners, to small town soccer teams. The Hungarian Fulbrighters took it all in and enjoyed the experience.

US data infrastructure is a game-changer.
Hungarians visiting the USA felt that our infrastructure, and primarily our ability to access and process large amounts of data, is a tremendous strength. This came across especially vividly in the presentation of András Pethő, editor at the origo.hu Hungarian news portal. 

Of personal interest: Hungarian-Americans retain cultural heritage.
Since their birth, I’ve been teaching my two kids to speak Hungarian, which is one of the two languages I grew up with. One of the presenters, history PhD student Tímea Oláh, explored Hungarian-Americans in New Brunswick, NJ. It was interesting to hear that the New Brunswick Hungarians have a viable community where the Hungarian language and customs are thriving.

You can see my pictures from the meeting on Flickr.

Fulbright 2014

I’m spending the spring 2014 semester at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. The university’s Hungarian name is Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem, or BME for short.

My stay at BME is funded by a Fulbright Scholarship. My hosts in Hungary are the Hungarian Fulbright Commission, and BME professor Bálint Kiss. Bálint and I are planning to explore the effects of different user interface characteristics, and different assistive control algorithms, on the cognitive load of users of an assistive technology. My educational efforts will include classroom teaching (focusing on the field of ubiquitous computing), advising student projects, and research talks.

Duncan Brumby visit to UNH

In December 2013 Duncan Brumby visited UNH ECE. Duncan is a senior lecturer (assistant professor) at University College London (UCL). His research includes the exploration of how people interact with mobile devices. As part of this work Duncan is interested in in-vehicle interactions, which are also of interest to me.

Duncan gave a talk to my ECE 900 class, in which he discussed a number of studies that explored “interactions on the move.” I really liked the fact that Duncan not only presented results, but also addressed nuts-and-bolts issues of interest to graduate students, from how to find a research topic, to how to handle reviewer comments.

See more photos from the visit on Flickr.

2013 Volpe visit

Today I visited Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA. My host was Mary Stearns, Chief of Surface Transportation Human Factors at Volpe.

During my visit I had a chance to experience two very interesting simulators. The first one was a train engine simulator, the second a Boeing 737 simulator – see pictures below.

As part of the visit I also gave a presentation about our work at UNH on Project54 and on exploring in-vehicle HMI.

See more pictures on Flickr.

 

2013 Liberty Mutual visit to UNH ECE

Yesterday I hosted four researchers from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety: Bill Horrey, Yulan Liang, Angela Garabet, and Luci Simmons. This visit follows my recent visit to Liberty Mutual this summer.

As part of the visit, Bill gave a talk to my ECE 900 class. He discussed the wide variety of research performed at his institute, with an emphasis on the vehicle-related work that he is involved in. As part of this work Bill and colleagues conduct studies on a test track with an instrumented vehicle, which they brought along:

After the talk Tom Miller and I had a chance to show our visitors our driving simulator lab and discuss a host of research issues. It was fun – thanks Bill, Yulan, Angela and Luci.

See pictures from the visit on Flickr.

 

Impressions from the 2013 FHWA workshop on utilizing various data sources for research

Last week I participated in the work of a workshop organized by the FHWA which explored utilizing various data sources for surface transportation human factors research. Here are some impressions from the workshop.

Bicycles are cool
Marco Dozza explores the use of bicycles and has a fleet of instrumented bikes. I really liked the elegance of his approach.

We can use technology to warn pedestrians (even when they have headphones)
Toru Hagiwara and Hidekatsu Hamaoka discussed research on protecting pedestrians in crosswalks. I can relate to this: ever since I started walking with kids, I’m sorely aware of the dangers of crosswalks.

We need a variety of data sources
Michael Manser, Sue Chrysler, John Lee and Linda Boyle gave presentations on a variety of data sources they’ve used: from laboratory studies to naturalistic driving data. They all agree that there’s a need to combine results from different data sources in order to find solutions to human factors problems. I was really impressed with John Lee’s discussion of the use of Twitter to understand traffic.

Panel discussions can be informative…
… when you have a skilled moderator (Don Fisher) and engaged participants (the presenters listed above). Don’s theme for the discussion (the 3 Cs): our data should be comprehensive and complementary, but it is sometimes also contradictory. The discussion brought up ideas such as:

  • there’s a need for standardization (see Paul Green‘s work on SAE J2944 [1]);
  • Linda Boyle points out that there’s a fourth C: confusion;
  • Sue Chrysler points out that discussions about data often focus on the “how?” (how can we collect, process, interpret data?). But we need to first resolve the “why?” and “what?” questions. I really appreciated this comment, as it is the central point I make in my ECE 900 course.

Thanks to FHWA’s David Yang for hosting the workshop – it was informative and fun. See my pictures from the workshop on Flickr.

References

[1] Paul Green, “Standard Definitions for Driving Measures and Statistics: Overview and Status of Recommended Practice J2944,” AutomotiveUI 2013

 

Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of New Hampshire