PhD student Steven Landry discusses motion sonification and the display wall at the tri-M lab
(Academic) speed dating at the workshop
The workshop brought together researchers interested in driving research: Bruce Walker (Georgia Tech) provided an overview of the tools different groups might use in driving research, and he also elaborated on his work with audio interactions. Andreas Riener (Johannes Kepler University Linz) spoke about topics related to autonomous vehicles. Collin Castle (Michigan DOT) discussed the use of connected vehicle technologies in Michigan DOT. I introduced some of our work with eye tracking in the UNH driving simulator. I also participated in my first speed dating session – the academic kind 😉
The NSF’s FY 2015 Budget Summary Brochure is out, and it shows that the agency’s request for the next fiscal year is $7.3 billion. I’m disappointed that the number is this small. Consider the following:
NSF FY 2015 budget request
2013 NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL player salaries
2013 Fedex sales: US overnight mail
2014 Facebook purchase of WhatsApp
In other words, we as a nation spend the same on NSF’s crucial research , as on professional player salaries [2, 3, 4, 5, 6], as well as on overnight mail (actually this is Fedex only, not all overnight mail) . At the same time, a corporate giant spends more than twice as much on a single product, than the entire annual budget of the NSF. I have no problem with player salaries (who else can entertain us like they can?), on overnight package costs (I’m looking forward to delivery by drones too), or with corporate decision-making (no expertise on that one). I’m only mentioning these numbers to put into perspective how little we as a nation, with a $16 trillion economy , spend on NSF’s research programs.
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.
The institute is truly impressive. First, as Marvin explained to me, this is an organization devoted to independent research. The institute is funded by Liberty Mutual, but sets its own agenda. The only “constraint” on this agenda is that the research has to be related to Liberty Mutual’s business. Given that this business covers areas from driving, to homes, to health care, this is hardly a constraint. Furthermore, the institute is committed to publishing its work in peer-reviewed publications. In fact, publications are the institute’s central measure of success. The institute has a hallway with three (!) whiteboards, where staff keep track of their publications for the year. Each year the goal is to fill all three boards by December.
The institute has a number of very interesting labs. Of course for me the most interesting one was the driving simulator lab (the instrumented vehicle is a very close second!). The simulator is made by Real Time Technologies and the lab also has a head-mounted eye tracker.
So thanks to Bill and colleagues for hosting me. I really enjoyed talking to them about some research problems (including their recent work on drowsy drivers ), as well as the technical details of running a simulator lab. You can see a few more pictures about my visit on Flickr.
This week I attended the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, an annual event held at MSR Redmond. The 2013 event gathered over 400 faculty from around the world. I was honored to receive an invitation, as these invitations are competitive: MSR researchers recommend faculty to invite, and a committee at MSR selects a subset who receive invitations.
Below are some of my impressions from the event. But, before I go on, I first wanted to thank MSR researchers John Krumm, Ivan Tashev and Shamsi Iqbal for spending time with me at the summit. Thanks also to MSR’s Tim Paek, who has played a key role in a number of our studies at UNH.
Bill Gates inspires
Bill Gates was the opening keynote speaker. He discussed his work with the Gates Foundation and answered audience questions. One of the interesting things from the Q&A session was Bill’s proposed analogy that MOOCs are similar to recorded music: in the past there was much more live music, while today we primarily listen to recorded music. In the future live lectures might also become much less common and we might instead primarily listen to recorded lectures by the best lecturers. While this might sound scary to faculty, Bill points out that lectures are just one part of a faculty member’s education-related efforts. Others include work in labs, study sessions, and discussions.
MSR is a uniquely open industry lab
While MSR is only about 1% of Microsoft, it spends as much on computing research as the NSF. And most importantly, as Peter Lee, Corporate VP MSR, pointed out, MSR researchers publish, and in general conduct their work in an open fashion. MSR also sets its own course independently, even of Microsoft proper.
Microsoft supports women in computing
The Faculty Summit featured a session on best practices in promoting computing disciplines to women. One suggestion that stuck with me is that organizations (e.g. academic departments) should track their efforts and outcomes. Once you start tracking, and is creating a paper trail, things will start to change.
Moore’s law is almost dead (and will be by 2025) Doug Burger, Director of Client and Cloud Applications in Microsoft Research’s Extreme Computing Group, pointed out that we cannot keep increasing computational power by reducing transistor size, as our transistors are becoming atom-thin. There’s a need for new approaches. One possible direction is to customize hardware: e.g. if we only need 20 bits for a particular operation, why implement the logic with 32?
The Lab of Things is a great tool for ubicomp research
Are you planning a field experiment in which you expect to collect data from electronic devices in the home? Check out the Lab of Things (LoT), it’s really promising. It allows you to quickly deploy your system, monitor system activity from the cloud, and log data in the cloud. Here’s a video introducing the LoT:
Seattle and the surrounding area is beautiful
I really like Seattle, with the Space Needle, the lakes, the UW campus, Mount Rainier and all of the summer sunshine.
Last November Zeljko Medenica defended his dissertation . Zeljko explored new performance measures that can be used to characterize interactions with in-vehicle devices. The impetus for this work came from our work with personal navigation devices. Specifically, in work published in 2009  we found fairly large differences in the time drivers spend looking at the road ahead (more for voice-only turn-by-turn directions, less when there’s also a map displayed). However, the commonly used driving performance measures (average variance of lane position and steering wheel angle) did not indicate differences between these conditions. We thought that driving might still be affected, and Zeljko’s work confirms this hypothesis.
Zeljko is now with Nuance, working with Garrett Weinberg. Garrett and Zeljko collaborated during Zeljko’s internships at MERL (where Garrett worked prior to joining Nuance) in 2009 and 2010.
The theme issue includes our editorial , and three papers. The first is by Tuomo Kujala, who explores scrolling on touch screens while driving . The second is by Florian Schaub, Markus Hipp, Frank Kargl, and Michael Weber, who address the issue of credibility in the context of automotive navigation systems . The third paper is co-authored by me, my former PhD student Alex Shyrokov, and Peter Heeman. We explore multi-threaded spoken dialogues between a driver and a remote conversant . The three papers were selected in a rigorous review process from 17 submissions, by approximately 50 reviewers.
This summer I’ll be teaching ECE 900 Electrical and Computer Engineering Seminar. The seminar introduces graduate students to the general tools of research. Students gain practical experience with framing research questions, setting goals, and proposing hypotheses. We also discuss ideas on how to read, write and review research publications, and on how to give oral presentations about such documents to different types of audiences. Finally, we explore best practices for success in graduate school.
A key outcome of the seminar is a research proposal. Proposals address the steps required to complete the research requirement of students’ graduate degrees (MS or PhD).
Interested? Please take a look at the facts below and/or send me email with questions and suggestions.
Who is this course for? While ECE 900 is a requirement for UNH ECE graduate students, the course is open to graduate students from all UNH departments. I certainly hope non-ECE students will join us this summer.
Will the course be online? Yes. Students resident at UNH can participate in person, remote students can participate online (no in-class meetings required).
How many credits? During the academic year ECE 900 is offered both in the fall and spring. Material covered in the spring builds on that covered in the fall. Similarly, the summer course will run in two consecutive sections, each four weeks long. Section 1 will cover material covered in ECE 900 in the fall, while section 2 will cover the spring material. Students will earn 2 credits for completing each section, for a total of 4 credits for the summer.
During the 2009-2010 academic year I taught a new version of the UNH ECE Graduate Seminar (ECE 900), a course I first introduced in the fall of 2002. The primary aim of the previous version of the course was to expose our graduate students to research and development conducted at other institutions. Thus, the course consisted of eight invited talks per semester, given by engineers, scientist and other professionals, and covering a range of topics of interest to ECE students.
Starting with the 2009-2010 academic year the primary aim of the course has become to introduce graduate students to the general tools of scientific research. I championed this new aim for the course and I’m grateful that my faculty colleagues gave me an opportunity to share my excitement about scientific research with our graduate students.
The course had three main aspects:
Lectures on performing scientific research. My lectures introduced students to the steps of scientific research, from formulating problems, to proposing hypotheses and conducting experiments.
Research talks. Each student attended at least 15 talks. Most of these were held at UNH and the speakers were exceptional. At the same time, I encouraged the students to recommend talks that we can attend at other institutions. The result: trips to MIT, BU and WPI.
Research proposal. At the end of the two semester sequence each student submitted a short research proposal and gave a presentation on the same. The proposals were developed over the two semesters, with students working individually and in groups. I provided feedback throughout the year on different segments of the proposal.
In an informal survey at the end of the academic year most students indicated that they liked the new version of the ECE Graduate Seminar and that they thought it was useful. All of the students thought that learning about the tools of science is useful and the majority also indicated that their technical writing skills improved due to this course. These responses are certainly encouraging.
I will be teaching ECE 900 again during the 2010-2011 academic year. Based on my experiences reported here, as well as those with my Fundamentals of Ubicomp course, I plan to implement two changes:
Accelerate proposal development. I will move up the due date for the final research proposal to sometime early in the second semester. The accelerated schedule should help build excitement for learning about science. It will also give us time at the end of the year to discuss how other researchers approach scientific work. Finally, it will help with student participation in the course, which is the subject of the second change I intend to implement.
Increase student participation. While I encouraged student participation throughout the semester, the results were not always stellar. By accelerating the proposal development process I hope to provide students with discussion topics that they feel comfortable talking about. I also intend to ask students to hold multiple formal presentations in class. One assignment that students can expect next semester: create a 15 minute presentation about a research topic of your choice, based on a research video posted online.
Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of New Hampshire