Sunday, January 29, 2012

Go Viral to Improve Health - Institute of Medicine


A contest to develop a health related mobile app, registration deadline February 10, app submission deadline March 28.

You need to involve a student in health, and use a certain data source.

Winner gets several thousand dollars.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Find: Lytro's light field camera technology could supercharge future iPhones

Lytro is a new camera that can refocus AFTER images are made. By itself it's already awesome, with iPhone it could be amazing. 

Ars Technica

According to Walter Issacson's authorized biography about former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, one of the things Jobs wanted to "revolutionize" was photography. Jobs believed the iPhone was a vehicle for doing so, but current imaging technologies limit the photographic abilities of smartphones. As detailed in a new book by Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, Inside Apple, Jobs may have found the solution he was looking for in a radical imaging technology from Lytro. To that end, Jobs apparently met with Lytro CEO Ren Ng in June 2011 to discuss how Apple might integrate Lytro's light field technology into its products.

One aspect of the iPhone that has received constant improvements over the years is its included camera. The original iPhone had a fixed focus lens and a 2MP sensor, while the iPhone 3G was upgraded with autofocus capabilities and 3MP. The iPhone 4 moved up to 5MP and added an LED flash and 720p video. The iPhone 4S went even further, moving up to 8MP, improving low-light capture, and moving to full 1080p HD.

Spotted: Efficient Image-Based Proximity Queries with Object-Space Precision

A new paper uses gpus to calculate collisions. 

CG Forum


We present an efficient algorithm for object-space proximity queries between multiple deformable triangular meshes. Our approach uses the rasterization capabilities of the GPU to produce an image-space representation of the vertices. Using this image-space representation, inter-object vertex-triangle distances and closest points lying under a user-defined threshold are computed in parallel by conservative rasterization of bounding primitives and sorted using atomic operations. We additionally introduce a similar technique to detect penetrating vertices. We show how mechanisms of modern GPUs such as mipmapping, Early-Z and Early-Stencil culling can optimize the performance of our method. Our algorithm is able to compute dense proximity information for complex scenes made of more than a hundred thousand triangles in real time, outperforming a CPU implementation based on bounding volume hierarchies by more than an order of magnitude.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Find: Stanford professor gives up tenure to start Udacity free online university

Hmm. Can students really get an interactive closed loop experience?  

The Verge - All Posts
Sebastian Thrun

Inspired by the number of people that the Khan Academy's free video lectures reached, Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun put his own artificial intelligence class online and enrolled 160,000 students. After scrambling to accommodate so many pupils, he came away from the experience with a new vision of education so different that he says he "can't teach at Stanford again." Instead, he's starting an online university called Udacity. Thrun hopes to teach about 200,000 students per class — including grading exams and quizzes — in contrast to the mere hundreds taught at a brick-and-mortar university. The first two classes, starting February 20th, will teach students around the world to build a search engine or program a robotic car, and...

Continue reading…

Competition: Data Journalism Awards now accepting submissions

A competition in news oriented visualization and apps. 

Last November, we announced our support for a new Data Journalism competition, organized by the Global Editors Network. The competition is now open to submissions and today we hosted an event at our offices in London to share details on how to compete and win a total of six prizes worth EUR 45,000. The European Journalism Centre is running the contest and Google is sponsoring.

Journalism is going through an exciting—if sometimes wrenching—transition from off to online. Google is keen to help. We see exciting possibilities of leveraging data to produce award-winning journalism. “Data journalism is a new, exciting part of the media industry, with at present only a small number of practitioners,” said Peter Barron, Google’s Director of External Relations. “We hope to see the number grow.”

In data journalism, reporters leverage numerical data and databases to gather, organize and produce news. Bertrand Pecquerie, the Global Editor Network’s CEO, believes the use of data will, in particular, revolutionize investigative reporting. “We are convinced that there is a bright future for journalism,” he said at the London event. “This is not just about developing new hardware like tablets. It is above all about producing exciting new content.”

The European Journalism Centre, a non-profit based in Maastricht, has been running data training workshops for several years. It is producing the Data Journalism Awards website and administering the prize. “This new initiative should help convince editors around the world that data journalism is not a crazy idea, but a viable part of the industry,” says Wilfried Ruetten, Director of the center.

Projects should be submitted to The deadline is April 10, 2012. Entries should have been published or aired between April 11, 2011 and April 10, 2012. Media companies, non-profit organisations, freelancers and individuals are eligible.

Submissions are welcomed in three categories: data-driven investigative journalism, data-driven applications and data visualisation and storytelling. National and international projects will be judged separately from local and regional ones. “We wanted to encourage not only the New York Times’s of the world to participate, but media outlets of all sizes,” says Pecquerie. “Journalism students are also invited to enter, provided their work has been published.”

An all-star jury has been assembled of journalists from prestigious international media companies including the New York Times, the Guardian and Les Echos. Paul Steiger, the former editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal and founder of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica, will serve as president.

Winners will be announced at the Global News Network’s World Summit in Paris on May 31, 2011.

Posted by William Echikson, External Relations

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Spotted: Strategies for Crowdsourcing Social Data Analysis ((tags: spots,

Looks like a paper on making mechanical Turk analysis of visuals work better. 

Agrawala papers

Wesley Willett, Jeffrey Heer, Maneesh Agrawala


Web-based social data analysis tools that rely on public discussion to produce hypotheses or explanations of the patterns and trends in data, rarely yield high-quality results in practice. Crowdsourcing offers an alternative approach in which an analyst pays workers to generate such explanations. Yet, asking workers with varying skills, backgrounds and motivations to simply "Explain why a chart is interesting" can result in irrelevant, unclear or speculative explanations of variable quality. To address these problems, we contribute seven strategies for improving the quality and diversity of worker-generated explanations. Our experiments show that using (S1) feature-oriented prompts, providing (S2) good examples, and including (S3) reference gathering, (S4) chart reading, and (S5) annotation subtasks increases the quality of responses by 28% for US workers and 196% for non-US workers. Feature-oriented prompts improve explanation quality by 69% to 236% depending on the prompt. We also show that (S6) pre-annotating charts can focus workers' attention on relevant details, and demonstrate that (S7) generating explanations iteratively increases explanation diversity without increasing worker attrition. We used our techniques to generate 910 explanations for 16 datasets, and found that 63% were of high quality. These results demonstrate that paid crowd workers can reliably generate diverse, high-quality explanations that support the analysis of specific datasets.

In our analysis workflow an analyst first selects charts, then uses crowd workers to carry out analysis microtasks and rating microtasks to generate and rate possible explanations of outliers, trends and other features in the data. Our approach makes it possible to quickly generate large numbers of good candidate explanations for outliers and trends in data.

Research Paper

PDF (2.0M)


MOV (31.8M) | YouTube

Strategies for Crowdsourcing Social Data Analysis
ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2012

Spotted: Proton: Multitouch Gestures as Regular Expressions

An interesting looking paper on a systematic tool for gesture recognition. 

Agrawala papers

Kenrick Kin, Björn Hartmann, Tony DeRose, Maneesh Agrawala


Current multitouch frameworks require application developers to write recognition code for custom gestures; this code is split across multiple event-handling callbacks. As the number of custom gestures grows it becomes increasingly difficult to 1) know if new gestures will conflict with existing gestures, and 2) know how to extend existing code to reliably recognize the complete gesture set. Proton is a novel framework that addresses both of these problems. Using Proton, the application developer declaratively specifies each gesture as a regular expression over a stream of touch events. Proton statically analyzes the set of gestures to report conflicts, and it automatically creates gesture recognizers for the entire set. To simplify the creation of complex multitouch gestures, Proton introduces gesture tablature, a graphical notation that concisely describes the sequencing of multiple interleaved touch actions over time. Proton contributes a graphical editor for authoring tablatures and automatically compiles tablatures into regular expressions. We present the architecture and implementation of Proton, along with three proof-of-concept applications. These applications demonstrate the expressiveness of the framework and show how Proton simplifies gesture definition and conflict resolution.

Proton represents a gesture as a regular expression describing a sequence of touch events. Using Proton’s gesture tablature, developers can design a multitouch gesture graphically by arranging touch sequences on horizontal tracks. Proton converts the tablature into a regular expression. When Proton matches the expression with the touch event stream, it invokes callbacks associated with the expression.

Research Paper

PDF (2.6M)


MP4 (20.5M)

Proton: Multitouch Gestures as Regular Expressions
ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2012.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Find: The rise and fall of personal computing

Good sense of perspective. The ground is shifting. 


Thanks to Jeremy Reimer I was able to create the following view into the history of computer platforms.

I  added data from the smartphone industry, Apple and updated the PC industry figures with those from Gartner. Note the log scale.

The same information is available as an animation in the following video (Music by Nora Tagle):

This data combines several “categories” of products and is not complete in that not all mobile phone platforms are represented. However, the zooming out  offers several possible observations into the state of the “personal computing” world as of today.

  1. We cannot consider the iPad as a “niche”. The absolute volume of units sold after less than two years is enough to place it within an order of magnitude of all PCs sold. We can also observe that it has a higher trajectory than the iPhone which became a disruptive force in itself. Compare these challengers to NeXT in 1991.
  2. The “entrants” into personal computing, the iPad, iPhone and Android, have a combined volume that is higher than the PCs sold in the same period (358 million estimated iOS+Android vs. 336 million PCs excluding Macs in 2011.) The growth rate and the scale itself combine to make the entrants impossible to ignore.
  3. There is a distinct grouping of platform options into three phases or eras. The first lasting from 1975 to 1991 was an era of rapid growth but also of multiple standards and experiments. It was typical of an industry in emergence. The personalization of computing brought about a new set of entrants. The second phase lasted between 1991 and 2007 and was characterized by a near monopoly of Microsoft, but, crucially one alternative platform did survive. The third phase can be seen as starting five years ago with the emergence of the iPhone and its derivatives. It has similarities to the first phase.

We can also look at the data through a slightly different view: market share. Share is a bit more subjective because we need to combine products in ways that are considered comparable (or competing).

First, this is a “traditionalist” view of the PC market as defined by Gartner and IDC, and excluding tablets and smartphones.

This view would imply that the PC market is not changing in any substantial way. Although the Mac platform is gaining share, there is no significant erosion in the power of the incumbent.

Second, is a view where the iPad is added to the traditionalist view.

This view is more alarming. Given the first chart, in order for the iPad to be significant, it would need to be “visible” for a market that already ships over 350 million units. And there it is. If counted, the iPad begins to show the first disruption in the status quo since 1991.

The third view is with the addition of iPhone and Android.

This last view corresponds to the data in the first graph (line chart). If iOS and Android are added as potential substitutions for personal computing, the share of PCs suddenly collapses to less than 50%. It also suggests much more collapse to come.

I will concede that this last view is extremist. It does not reflect a competition that exists in real life. However, I put this data together to show a historic pattern. Sometimes extremism is a better point of view than conservatism. Ignoring this view is very harmful as these not-good-enough computers will surely get better. A competitor that has no strategy to deal with this shift is likely to suffer the fate of those companies in the left side of the chart. Treating the first share chart as reality is surely much more dangerous than contemplating the third.

I’ve used anecdotes in the past to tell the story of the disruptive shift in the fortunes of computing incumbents and entrants. I’ve also shown how the entry of smart devices has disrupted the telecom world and caused a transfer of wealth away from the old guard.

The data shown here frames these anecdotes. The data is not the whole story but it solidifies what should be an intuition.

I’ve also prepared a video showing the platforms

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Find: Apple Releases iBooks 2, iTunes U, and iBooks Author for Interactive Textbooks

Here comes change. 


Apple Releases iBooks 2, iTunes U, and iBooks Author for Interactive TextbooksIn an education focused event in New York today, Apple showed of its new version of iBooks and its new creation tool, iBooks Author.

iBooks 2 has a strong focus on textbook design, layout, and easy glossary searching. The books will focus on visuals in landscape mode and straight text in portrait mode. Like any good textbook, the Apple versions will have Q&A sections, critical thinking questions, and are packed full of images. Also included is a streamlined highlighting system that automatically converts your highlights into study cards. High school textbooks are priced at $14.99 or less. iBooks 2 is available for free as an update to iBooks in the iTunes App Store right now.

To accompany the new bookstore, Apple has a new textbook creation app called iBooks Author. The app tries to make book creation as simple as possible with drag and drop functionality, templates, widgets, and organization tools. It's available as a free download in the Mac App Store right now. In order to preview the books you create you need to update to a new version of iTunes, which is also available now.

Finally, iTunes U is getting an overhaul and an app today. It will allow students to access lectures, notes, and streams directly from an iPad in the same way they would an online class. Once exclusive to universities, it's now available to K-12 schools as well. If universities support it, the app will fully integrate with textbooks in iBooks. iTunes U is available as a free download in the iTunes App Store right now.

Design Your Schedule So Your Creative Duties Fall When You're Tired [Creativity]

Fatigue is good for creativity. This kind at least. The key I suppose is remembering to write it down before you fall asleep....


Design Your Schedule So Your Creative Duties Fall When You're TiredEver wonder why that brilliant idea always comes right before you fall asleep or when you're standing half awake in the shower? According to a recent study in the journal Thinking & Reasoning it's because you're more creative when you're feeling groggy.

In the study, researchers had students complete problem-solving tasks at various points in the day. The student's biggest insights came during their least optimal time of functioning. As a recommendation, the researchers suggest students design their schedules so their creative classes are during these non-optimal points in the day. For many, this is first thing in the morning or during that post-lunch brain slump. For non-students, the same advice makes sense and you can plan your brainstorming time when you're the most tired.

If those creative bursts come at strange times when you don't have a pen and paper handy, consider solutions like, a waterproof notepad for the shower, an IKEA table that's actually a giant notepad, or a memory trick to remember your creative thoughts before falling asleep. Photo by Nate Steiner.

You're most creative when you're at your groggiest | BPS Research Digest

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

‘Open Science’ Challenges Journal Tradition With Web Collaboration


The future of science, in the long run, will be something like this.

Find: The Best of CES 2012

Quadhd & very high res tabs (~2500). 


CES is all wrapped up and everyone is back home, and one of the questions I’ve been asked repeatedly by friends and family is, “What was the coolest thing you saw at CES this year?” Now, keep in mind that I am only one person and I didn’t even see a fraction of the show floor, as there were plenty of meetings set up around Vegas, so this is just my perspective on the coolest technology trends at the show. You’ll also notice that there’s a common thread in what really impressed me, but this is a highly subjective topic so take it for what it’s worth: one man’s opinion. What three things impressed me most at CES this year? Read on to find out.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Find: Lytro's quirky camera is equal bits awkward, fun

Details from the stanford startup in light field photography. 

Ars Technica

Imaging start-up Lytro, which hopes to revolutionize photography with its innovative light field capture technique, was giving demonstrations of its upcoming digital pocket camera at CES. We got a few short minutes to play with a working prototype, which we were told isn't 100 percent final. While the unusual shape and button arrangement do take a little getting used to, we had fun trying our hand at capturing images and changing the focus after the fact.

The Lytro is a smallish but chunky aluminum tube which houses an 8x optical zoom lens. The camera is well weighted, but it's a bit larger than we expected. The rear section is covered in a grippy rubber material, with a shutter button on top and a power button on the bottom. a small flap on the bottom also reveals a micro-USB port, and along the top is a small textured strip that actually works as a capacitive touch zoom slider.