Tag Archives: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

The decade that was (2010-19) and the decade to come (2020-29): Science culture in Canada (2 of 5)

As noted in part 1, I’ve taken a very broad approach to this survey of science culture in Canada over the last 10 years. It isn’t exhaustive but part 1 covers science communication, science media (mainstream and others such as blogging) and arts as exemplified by music and dance. Now it’s time for part 2 and the visual arts, festivals, science slams, and more..

Art/Sci or Art/Science or SciArt—take your pick

In 2005 my heart was broken. I had to give up on an event I’d conceived and tried to organize for five years, ‘Twisted: an art/science entrée’. Inspired by an art/science organization in New York, it just wasn’t the right timing for Vancouver or, it seems, for Canada, if the failure of an art/science funding collaboration between the Canada Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) during roughly during that time period could be considered as another indicator.

The situation has changed considerably during this last decade (or so it seems). There are more performing and visual artists using scientific ideas and principles as inspiration for their work or they’re collaborating outright with scientists, or scientists are expressing themselves through artistic endeavours. Of course, of consequences of all this activity is a naming issue. (Isn’t there always?) I’m not taking sides all i want is clarity.

Part 1 featured more of the ‘inspirational’ art/science efforts. Here you’ll find the more ‘science’ inflected efforts.

ArtSci Salon located at the University of Toronto was founded in 2010 according to its About webpage,

This website documents the activity of the ArtSci Salon, a group of artists, scientists and art-sci-tech enthusiasts meeting once a month to engage in critical discussions on topics at the intersection between the arts and science.

Started in 2010 as a spin-off of the Subtle Technologies Festival, ArtSciSalon responds to the recent expansion in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] of a community of scientists and artists increasingly seeking collaborations across disciplines to successfully accomplish their research projects and inquiries.

Based on the demographic, the requisites, and the interests of our members, the goal of ArtSci Salon is:

  • To provide outreach opportunities for local and international innovative research projects in the Sciences and in the Arts;
  • To foster critical dialogue on topics and concerns shared by the sciences and the arts;
  • To facilitate new forms of collaboration across fields.

Our guests deliver short presentations, demonstrations or performances on a series of shared topic of interest to artists and scientists.

Many, many ArtSci Salon events have been listed here. I mention it because the ArtSci Salon website doesn’t have a complete listing for its previous events. While I can’t guarantee completeness, you can perform an ‘ArtSci Salon’ search on the blog search engine and it should get you enough to satisfy your curiosity.

Curiosity Collider‘s first event seems to have been in April 2015 (as noted in my July 7, 2015 posting). i wonder what they’ll do to celebrate their fifth anniversary? Anyway, they describe themselves this way (from the Mandate webpage),

Curiosity Collider Art-Science Foundation is a Vancouver based non-profit organization that is committed to providing opportunities for artists whose work expresses scientific concepts and scientists who collaborate with artists. We challenge the perception and experience of science in our culture, break down the walls between art and science, and engage our growing community to bringing life to the concepts that describe our world.

You can find Curiosity Collider here. I see they don’t have anything scheduled yet for 2020 but they had a very active Fall 2019 season and I expect they needed a breather and now there’s ‘flattening the COVID-19 curve’.

Once Curiosity Collider gets started again, you’ll find they put on different kinds of events, usually evening get togethers featuring various artists and scientists in a relaxed environment or joint events with other groups such Nerd Nite, Science Slam, and others. In 2019, Curiosity Collider hosted its first festival. You’ll find more about that in the Festivals subsection further down in this posting.

ArtSci at Cape Breton University (Nova Scotia) seems to have existed from March 2017 to November 2018. At. least, that’s the period its Twitter feed was active.

Art the Science is according to its homepage, “A Canadian Science-Art non-profit organization.” According to their About webpage,

… Art the Science facilitates cross-disciplinary relationships between artists and scientists with a goal of fostering Canadian science-art culture. In doing so, we aim to advance scientific knowledge communication to benefit the public, while providing opportunities for artists to exhibit their work in unconventional and technologically innovative ways. By nurturing the expression of creativity, be it in a test-tube or with the stroke of a brush, Art the Science has become one of the most beloved and popular online SciArt (science + art) communities in the world. Since 2015, it has developed numerous digital SciArt exhibitions, and has highlighted the work of both pioneering and upcoming SciArt artists internationally. The organization also promotes the role of SciArt by conducting various outreach initiatives, including delivering lectures and keynote presentations designed to foster public engagement and a deeper appreciation of science and art.

Volunteer Run: Since 2015, Art the Science has been operating with the hard work and dedication of volunteer hours from our board and supporters. We have been busy generating evidence to show the impact and reach of our initiatives. We believe this evidence will help us secure financial support as we move forward.

Their site features information about artist residencies in research laboratories, online exhibitions, and a blog focused on the artists and scientists who create.

National events, festivals, and conferences

These days it’s called Science Odyssey and takes place in May of each year. I first came across the then named National Science and Technology Week in 1993. The rebranding occurred in 2016 after the Liberals swept into victory in October 2015 federal election.

Science Odyssey

In 2020, Science Odyssey (as noted previously, prior to 2016 this was known as National Science and Technology Week and was held in October each year) it was slated to take place from May 2 to May 17. In most years, it functions as a kind of promotional hub for science events independently organized across the country. The focus is largely on children as you can see in the 2019 promotional video,

Cancelled for 2020, its events have ranged from an open house at a maker lab to lectures at universities to festivals such as Pint of Science and Science Rendezvous that occur during Science Odyssey. (I profiled Science Odyssey, Pint of Science, Science Rendezvous and more in my May 1, 2019 posting.)

Pint of Science

Beer and science is a winning combination as they know in the UK where Pint of Science was pioneered in 2012. Pint of Science Canada was started in 2016 and is scheduled for May 11 – 13, 2020,

Pint of Science Canada invites scientists to your favorite local bars to discuss their latest research and discoveries over a drink or two. This is the perfect opportunity to meet scientists and ask questions. You have no excuse not to come and share a drink with us!

Démystifier la recherche scientifique et la faire découvrir au grand public dans un cadre détendu, avec une bière à la main c’est possible. Parce que oui, la science peut être le fun!

There isn’t a cancellation notice on the website as of April 15, 2020 but I suspect that may change.

Science Rendezvous

Billing itself as a free national kick-off festival for Science Odyssey and the country’s largest celebration of science and engineering, it was founded in 2008 and was confined to Toronto in that first year. In 2019, they promoted over 300 events across the country.

This year, Science Rendezvous is scheduled for May 9, 2020. Please check as it is likely cancelled for 2020.

Science Literacy Week

This week first crossed my radar in 2015 and because I love this passage, here’s an excerpt from my Sept 18, 2015 posting where it’s first mentioned,

Just as Beakerhead ends, Canada’s 2015 Science Literacy Week opens Sept. 21 – 27, 2015. Here’s more about the week from a Sept. 18, 2015 article by Natalie Samson for University Affairs,

On Nov. 12 last year [2014], the European Space Agency landed a robot on a comet. It was a remarkable moment in the history of space exploration and scientific inquiry. The feat amounted to “trying to throw a dart and hit a fly 10 miles away,” said Jesse Hildebrand, a science educator and communicator. “The math and the physics behind that is mindboggling.”

Imagine Mr. Hildebrand’s disappointment then, as national news programs that night spent about half as much time reporting on the comet landing as they did covering Barack Obama’s gum-chewing faux pas in China. For Mr. Hildebrand, the incident perfectly illustrates why he founded Science Literacy Week, a Canada-wide public education campaign celebrating all things scientific.

From Sept. 21 to 27 [2015], several universities, libraries and museums will highlight the value of science in our contemporary world by hosting events and exhibits on topics ranging from the lifecycle of a honeybee to the science behind Hollywood films like Jurassic World and Contact.

Mr. Hildebrand began developing the campaign last year, shortly after graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. He approached the U of T Libraries for support and “it really snowballed from there,” the 23-year-old said.

In 2020, Science Literacy Week will run from September 21 – 27. (I hope they are able to go forward with this year’s event.) Here’s how the ‘Week’ has developed since 2015, from its About webpage,

The latest edition of Science Literacy Week came to include over 650 events put on by more than 300 partners in over 250 cities across Canada. From public talks to explosive chemistry demos, stargazing sessions to nature hikes, there was sure to be an interesting activity for science lovers of all ages. Science Literacy Week is powered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

According to Science Literacy Week founder Jesse Hildebrand’s LinkedIn profile, he doesn’t seem to be involved with the ‘Week’ (as of December 2019). However, he does remain involved with Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants, from the homepage,

Beaming Science, Exploration, Adventure and Conservation into Classrooms Across North America 

Guest Speakers and Virtual Field Trips with Leading Experts from Around the World 

Using Technology to Broadcast Live into Classrooms from the Most Remote Regions on the Planet Since

September 2015, We’ve Run Well over 1,000 Live Events Connecting Hundreds of Thousands of Students to Scientists and Explorers in over 70 Countries

Onto another standalone festival.

Beakerhead

Calgary’s big art/science/engineering festival, Beakerhead got its start in 2013 as a five-day event as per my December 7, 2012 post. It’s gone through a few changes since then including what appears to be a downsizing. The 2019 event was on September 21, 2019 from 5 pm to 11 pm.

According to his profile on LinkedIn, Jeff Popiel is Beakerhead’s interim CEO and has been since 2018. Mary Anne Moser (one of Breakerhead’s co-founders; the other is Jay Ingram, formerly of the Daily Planet science television show) was welcomed as the new Executive Director for Calgary’s science centre, Telus Spark, in April 2019.

Beakerhead’sr Wikipedia entry, despite being updated in December 2019, lists as its most current iteration of the festival that one that place in 2018.

All organizations experience ups and downs; I certainly hope that this represents a temporary lull. On the plus side, the Beakerhead Twitter feed is being kept current. and there is a February 18, 2020 entry on the Beakerhead’s homepage.

Invasive Species (Curiosity Collider) & Special Projects (ArtSci Salon)

The first and possibly only Collisions Festival (from the Curiosity Collider folks), Invasive Species took place in November 2019. A three-day affair, it featured a number of local (Vancouver area) artist/scientist collaborations. For a volunteer-run organization, putting on a three-day festival is quite an accomplishment. So, brava and bravo!

The ArtSci Salon in Toronto hasn’t held any festivals as such but has hosted a number of ‘special projects’ which extend over days and/or weeks and/or months such as The Cabinet Project, which opened in April 2017 (not sure how long it ran) and featured a number of artists’ talks and tours; Emergent Form from April 1 -30, 2018; EDITED (gene editing) from October 25 – November 30, 2018; and, FACTT-Evolution from March 29 – May 15, 2019.

International conferences and the Canadian art/technology scene

I am sure there are others (I’d be happy to hear about them in the comments) but these two organizations seem particularly enthused about holding conferences in Canada. I would like to spend more time on art and technology in Canada but that’s a huge topic in itself so I’m touching on it lightly.

ISEA 2015 and 2020

Formerly the Inter-Society of Electronic Arts, the organization has rebranded itself as ISEA (pronounced as a word [acronym] with a long ‘s’ like ‘z’). The acronym is used both for the organization’s name, the International Society for Electronic Arts, and its annual International Symposium of Electronic Arts, known familiarly as ISEA (year).

ISEA 2015 took place in Vancouver and was held in August of that year (you can read more about in my April 24, 2015 posting where I announced my presentation of a paper and video “Steep (1): A digital poetry of gold nanoparticles.”).

The upcoming ISEA 2020 was to take place in Montréal from May 19 – 24 but has been rescheduled for October 13 – 18. The theme remains: Why Sentience? Here’s more from the 2020 symposium About page,

Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numérique) is proud to present ISEA2020 from October 13 to 18, 2020 in Montreal.

ISEA2020 will be the Creativity Pavilion of MTL connect; using digital intelligence as the overarching theme, this international event aims to look across the board at the main questions related to digital development, focusing on its economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts in various sectors of activity.

Montreal was awarded host of the next edition of ISEA in the closing ceremony of ISEA2019, held in Gwangju, South Korea. Soh Yeong Roh, Director of Art Center Nabi in Seoul, hand over the eternal light to Mehdi Benboubakeur, Executive Director of Montreal Digital Spring. As Benboubakeur stated: “ISEA returns to Montreal after 25 years. Back in 1995, ISEA positioned Montreal as a digital art center and brought emerging local artists into the international spotlight. In 2020, Montreal will once more welcome the international community of ISEA and will use this opportunity to build a strong momentum for the future.”

SEA 2020 turns towards the theme of “Why Sentience? Sentience describes the ability to feel or perceive. ISEA2020 will be fully dedicated to examining the resurgence of sentience—feeling-sensing-making sense—in recent art and design, media studies, science and technology studies, philosophy, anthropology, history of science and the natural scientific realm—notably biology, neuroscience and computing. We ask: why sentience? Why and how does sentience matter? Why have artists and scholars become interested in sensing and feeling beyond, with and around our strictly human bodies and selves? Why has this notion been brought to the fore in an array of disciplines in the 21st century?

I notice Philippe Pasquier of Simon Fraser University (Surrey campus, Vancouver area) is a member of the organizing committee. If memory serves, he was also on the organizing committee for ISEA 2015. He was most recently mentioned here in a November 29, 2019 where I featured his Metacreation Lab and when I mentioned the ISEA 2020 call for submissions.

The call for submissions has since been closed and the statistics announced, from the ‘Thank You for all your submissions’ webpage,

… We received a total of 987 submissions from 58 countries. Thank you to those who took the time to create and submit proposals for ISEA2020 under the theme of sentience. We look forward to seeing you in Montreal from May 19 to 24, 2020 during MTL connect/ISEA2020!

Statistics by categories:

  1. Artworks: 536
  2. Artist talks: 121
  3. Full papers: 108
  4. Short papers: 96
  5. Workshops / Tutorials: 53
  6. Panels / Roundtables: 24
  7. Institutional presentations: 22
  8. Posters / Demos: 18

Good luck to everyone who made a submission. I hope you get a chance to present your work at ISEA 2020. I wonder if I can attend. I’ll have to make up my mind soon as they stop selling early bird tickets on and around March 16, 2020.

SIGGRAPH

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), founded in 1947, has a special interest group (SIG) dedicated to computer GRAPHics. Hence, there is SIGGRAPH, which holds an annual conference each in North America and in Asia.

Vancouver hosted SIGGRAPH in 2011, 2014, and 2018 and will host it again in 2022. It is the only Canadian city to have hosted a SIGGRAPH conference since the conference’s inception in 1974. It is a huge meeting. In 2018, Vancouver hosted 16,637 attendees.

If you have a chance, do check out the next SIGGRAPH that you are able to attend. As inspiration you can check out the profile I wrote up for the most recent conference in Vancouver (my August 9, 2018 posting). They’re not as open to the public as I’d like but there are a few free events.

Coffee, tea, or beer with your science?

There are many ways to enjoy your science.Here are various groups (volunteer for the most part) that host regular (more or less) science nights at cafés and/or pubs and/or bars. Although I mentioned Café Scientifique Vancouver in part 1, it doesn’t really fit into either part 1 or part 2 of this review of the last decade but it’s being included (in a minor way) because the parent organization, Café Scientifique, is in a sense the progenitor for all the other ‘Café’ type efforts (listed in this subsection) throughout Canada. In addition, Café Scientifique is a truly global affair, which means if you’re traveling, it’s worth checking out the website to see if there’s any event in the city you’re visiting.

Science Slam Canada

I’m so glad to see that we have a Science Slam community in Canada (the international phenomenon was featured here in a July 17, 2013 posting). Here’s more about the phenomenon from the Science Slam Canada homepage,

Science slams have been popular in Europe for more than a decade but have only recently gained traction in North America. Science Slam Canada was founded in 2016 and now runs regular science slams in Vancouver. Given wide interest and support, Science Slam Canada is continuing to grow, with upcoming events in Edmonton and Ottawa.

Based on the format of a poetry slam, a science slam is a competition that allows knowledge holders, including researchers, students, educators, professionals, and artists to share their science with a general audience. Competitors have five minutes to present on any science topic and are judged based on communication skills, audience engagement, and scientific accuracy. Use of a projector or slideshow is not allowed, but props and creative presentation styles are encouraged.

The slam format provides an informal medium for the public and the scientific community to connect with and learn from each other. Science slams generally take place in bars, cafes, or theaters, which remove scientists from their traditional lecture environments. The lack of projector also takes away a common presentation ‘crutch’ and forces competitors to engage with their audience more directly.

Competitors and judges are chosen through a selection process designed to support diversity and maximize the benefit to speakers and the audience. Past speakers have ranged from students and researchers to educators and actors. Judges have included professors, media personalities, comedians and improvisers. And since the event is as much about the audience as about the speakers, spectators are asked to vote for their favourite speaker.

Our dream is to create a national network of local science slams, with top competitors meeting at a national SUPER Slam to face off for the title of Canadian Science Slam Champion. This past year, we ran a regional slam in Vancouver, bringing together speakers from across BC’s Lower Mainland. Next year, we hope to extend our invitation even further.

Their last Vancouver Slam was in November 2019. I don’t see anything scheduled for 2020 either on the website or on their Twitter feed. Of course, they don’t keep a regular schedule so my suggestion is to keep checking. And, there’s their Facebook site.

Alan Shapiro who founded Science Slam Canada maintains an active Twitter feed where his focus appears to be water but he includes much more. If you’re interested in Vancouver’s science scene, check him out. By the way, his day job is at STEMCELL Technologies, which you may remember, if you read part 1, funds the Science in the City website mentioned under the Science blogging in Canada subhead (scroll down about 50% of the way).

Nerd Nite

Sometime around 2003, Chris Balakrishnan founded Nerd Nite. Today, he’s a professor with his own lab (Balakrishnan Laboratory of Evolution, Behavior and Other Fine Sciences) at East Carolina University; he also maintains an active interest in Nerd Nite.

I’m not sure when it made its way to Canada but there are several cities which host Nerd Nites (try ‘nerd nite canada’ in one of the search engines). In addition to Nerd Nite Vancouver (which got its start in 2013, if it’s existence on Twitter can be used as evidence), I found ones in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Edmonton, Calgary, and, I believe there is also one in North Vancouver.

Their events are monthly (more or less) and the last one was on February 26, 2020. You can read more about it here. They maintain an active Twitter feed listing their own events and, on occasion, other local science events.

Story Collider

This US organization (Story Collider; true personal stories about science) was founded in 2010 and was first featured here in a February 15, 2012 posting. Since then, it has expanded to many cities including Vancouver. Here’s more about the organization and its worldwide reach (from the Story Collider About Us webpage), Note: Links have been removed,

The Story Collider is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to true, personal stories about science. Since 2010, we have been working with storytellers from both inside and outside science to develop these stories, and we share them through our weekly podcast and our live shows around the world.

We bring together dedicated staff and volunteers from both science and art backgrounds to produce these shows — starting with our executive director, Liz Neeley, who has a background in marine biology and science communication, and our artistic director, Erin Barker, a writer and experienced storyteller — because we believe both have value in this space. Currently, The Story Collider has a home in fourteen cities — New York, Boston, DC, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Milwaukee, Toronto, Vancouver, Cambridge, UK, and Wellington, New Zealand — where events organized by local producers are held on a monthly or quarterly basis. We’ve also been delighted to work with various partners — including publishers such as Springer Nature and Scientific American; conferences for organizations such as the American Geophysical Union and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative; and universities such as Yale University, North Carolina State University, Colorado University, and more — to produce shows in other locations. Every year, we produce between 50 and 60 live events featuring more than 250 stories in total, and we share over a hundred of these stories on our podcast.

Vancouver’s first Story Collider of 2020, ‘Misfits’ was scheduled for February 1 at The Fox Cabaret at 2321 Main Street . You can see more about the event (which in all likelihood took place) and the speakers here.

As for when Story Collider set down a few roots in Vancouver, that’s likely to be some time after February 2012. The two Vancouver Story Collider organizers, Kayla Glynn and Josh Silberg each have active Twitter feeds. Glynn is focuses mainly on local events; Silberg provides a more eclectic experience.

Brain Talks

This is a series of neuroscience’ talks held monthly (more or less) held at Vancouver General Hospital. They served wine out of a box and cheese and crackers at the one talk (it was about robots) I attended. Here’s more about the inspiration for this series from the University of British Columbia Brain Talks Vision page

BrainTalks is a forum for academics and members of the general public to create a dialogue about the rapidly expanding information in neuroscience. The BrainTalks series, was inspired in part by the popularity of the TED Talks series. Founded by Dr. Maia Love in October 2010, the goal is for neuroscientists, neurologists, neuroradiologists, psychiatrists, and people from affiliated fields to meet and dialogue monthly, in the hopes of promoting excellence in research, facilitating research and clinician connections and discussion, and disseminating knowledge to the general public. Additionally, the hope to reduce stigma associated with mental illness, and promote compassion for those suffering with brain illnesses, be they called neurologic or psychiatric, was part of the reason to create the series.

The structure is a casual environment with brief presentations by local experts that challenge and inspire dialogue. Discussions focus on current knowledge about the mind and our understanding of how the mind works. Presentations are followed by a panel discussion, catered snacks, and networking.

BrainTalks is now part of the programming for the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry. The Department of Education, and the Department of Continuing Professional Development include BrainTalks at UBC as part of their goal to enhance public knowledge of psychiatry, enhance clinician knowledge in areas that may affect psychiatric practice, and disseminate recent research in brain science to the public.

SoapBox Science

Thanks to Alan Shapiro (founder of Science Slam Canada) and his Twitter feed for information about a new science event that may be coming to Vancouver, SoapBox Science founded in the UK in 2011 puts on events that can be found worldwide (from the homepage),

Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do. Our events transform public areas into an arena for public learning and scientific debate; they follow the format of London Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner, which is historically an arena for public debate. With Soapbox Science, we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, learn from, heckle, question, probe, interact with and be inspired by some of our leading scientists. No middle man, no PowerPoint slide, no amphitheatre – just remarkable women in science who are there to amaze you with their latest discoveries, and to answer the science questions you have been burning to ask. Look out for bat simulators, fake breasts or giant pictures of volcanoes. Or simply hear them talk about what fascinates them, and why they think they have the most fantastic job in the world!

2020 is an exciting year for us. We are running 56 events around the world, making this the biggest year yet! Since 2011 we have featured over 1500 scientists and reached 150,000 members of the public! Soapbox Science was commended by the Prime Minister in 2015, and was awarded a Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in June 2016. Both Soapbox Science co-founders were also invited to provide oral evidence at a 2016 Parliamentary inquiry on science communication.

I believe 2020 is/was to have been the first year for a SoapBox Science event in Vancouver. There aren’t any notices of cancellation for the Vancouver event that I’ve been able to find. I expect there will although with a planned June 2020 date there’s still hope, In any case, you might find it interesting to view their ‘Apply to speak’ webpage, (Note: I have rearranged the order of some of these paragraphs),

Are you a woman* who works in science and who is passionate about your research? Are you eager to talk to the general public about your work in a fun, informal setting?  If so, then Soapbox Science needs YOU! We are looking for scientists in all areas of STEMM, from PhD students to Professors, and from entry-level researchers to entrepreneurs, to take part in this grassroots science outreach project.

*Soapbox Science uses an inclusive definition of ‘woman’ and welcomes applications from Non-binary and Genderqueer speakers.

The deadline for applications has now passed but you’ll find on their ‘Apply to speak’ webpage, a list of cities hosting 2020 SoapBox Science events,

Argentina:
Tucumán- 12th September

Australia:
Armidale- August
Sydney- 15th August
Queensland- August

Belgium:
Brussels- 27th June

Brazil:
Maceio- 22nd November
Rio de Janeiro- 18th July
Salvador- 5th June

Canada:
Calgary- 2nd May
Halifax- July
Hamilton- Date TBC
Ottawa- 19th September
Québec- June
Toronto- 27th September
St John’s- 5th September
Vancouver- June
Waterloo- 13th June
Winnipeg- May

Germany:
Berlin- June
Bonn- May
Düsseldorf- 25th July
Munich- 27th June

Ireland:
Dublin- Date TBC
Cork- July
Galway- July

Nigeria:
Lagos- August
Lagos- 7th November

Malaysia:
Kuala Lumpur- April

Portugal:
Lisbon- 19th Sept

South Africa:
Cape Town- September

Sweden:
Uppsala- 16th May
Gothenburg- 24th April- Closing date 31st January

Tanzania:
Arusha- 8th August

UK:
Aberdeen- 30th May
Birmingham- Date TBC
Brighton- 30th May
Bristol- 4th July
Cardiff- Date TBC
Edinburgh- Date TBC
Exeter- June
Keswick- 26th May
Leicester- 6th June
Leeds- July
London- 23rd May
Milton Keynes- 27th June
Newcastle- 13th June
Nottingham- Date TBC
Plymouth- 30th May
Stoke-on-Trent, Date TBC
Swansea- Date TBC
York- 13th June

USA:
Boulder- 26th April
Denver- Date TBC
Detroit- September
Philadelphia- 18th April

SoapBox Science maintains an active Twitter feed.

If you’re interested in the SoapBox Science Vancouver event,there’s more on this webpage on the University of British Columbia website and/or this brochure for the Vancouver event.

Now, onto part 3 with its comedy, do-it-yourself (DIY) biology, chief science advisor, science policy, mathematicians, and more.

For anyone who missed it, part 1 covers science communication, science media (mainstream and others such as blogging) and arts as exemplified by music and dance: ‘The decade that was (2010-19) and the decade to come (2020-29): Science culture in Canada (1 of 5)‘.

Media registration for United Nations 3rd AI (artificial intelligence) for Good Global Summit

This is strictly for folks who have media accreditation. First, the news about the summit and then some detail about how you might accreditation should you be interested in going to Switzerland. Warning: The International Telecommunications Union which is holding this summit is a United Nations agency and you will note almost an entire paragraph of ‘alphabet soup’ when all the ‘sister’ agencies involved are listed.

From the March 21, 2019 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) media advisory (Note: There have been some changes to the formatting),

Geneva, 21 March 2019
​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Artificial Intelligence (AI) h​as taken giant leaps forward in recent years, inspiring growing confidence in AI’s ability to assist in solving some of humanity’s greatest challenges. Leaders in AI and humanitarian action are convening on the neutral platform offered by the United Nations to work towards AI improving the quality and sustainability of life on our planet.
The 2017 summit marked the beginning of global dialogue on the potential of AI to act as a force for good. The action-oriented 2018 summit gave rise to numerous ‘AI for Good’ projects, including an ‘AI for Health’ Focus Group, now led by ITU and the World Health Organization (WHO). The 2019 summit will continue to connect AI innovators with public and private-sector decision-makers, building collaboration to maximize the impact of ‘AI for Good’.

Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (IT​U) – the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technology (ICT) – in partnership with the XPRIZE Foundation, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and close to 30 sister United Nations agencies, the 3rd annual ​AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva, 28-31 May, is the leading United Nations platform for inclusive dialogue on AI. The goal of the summit is to identify practical applications of AI to accelerate progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals​​.​

►►► MEDIA REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN ◄◄◄

Media are recommended to register in advance to receive key announcements in the run-up to the summit.

WHAT: The summit attracts a cross-section of AI experts from industry and academia, global business leaders, Heads of UN agencies, ICT ministers, non-governmental organizations, and civil society.

The summit is designed to generate ‘AI for Good’ projects able to be enacted in the near term, guided by the summit’s multi-stakeholder and inter-disciplinary audience. It also formulates supporting strategies to ensure trusted, safe and inclusive development of AI technologies and equitable access to their benefits.

The 2019 summit will highlight AI’s value in advancing education, healthcare and wellbeing, social and economic equality, space research, and smart and safe mobility. It will propose actions to assist high-potential AI solutions in achieving global scale. It will host debate around unintended consequences of AI as well as AI’s relationship with art and culture. A ‘learning day’ will offer potential AI adopters an audience with leading AI experts and educators.

A dynamic show floor will demonstrate innovations at the cutting edge of AI research and development, such as the IBM Watson live debater; the Fusion collaborative exoskeleton; RoboRace, the world’s first self-driving electric racing car; avatar prototypes, and the ElliQ social robot for the care of the elderly. Summit attendees can also look forward to AI-inspired performances from world-renowned musician Jojo Mayer and award-winning vocal and visual artist​ Reeps One

WHEN: 28-31 May 2019
WHERE: International Conference Centre Geneva, 17 Rue de Varembé, Geneva, Switzerland

WHO: Over 100 speakers have been confirmed to date, including:

Jim Hagemann Snabe – Chairman, Siemens​​
Cédric Villani – AI advisor to the President of France, and Mathematics Fields Medal Winner
Jean-Philippe Courtois – President of Global Operations, Microsoft
Anousheh Ansari – CEO, XPRIZE Foundation, Space Ambassador
Yves Daccord – Director General, International Committee of the Red Cross
Yan Huang – Director AI Innovation, Baidu
Timnit Gebru – Head of AI Ethics, Google
Vladimir Kramnik – World Chess Champion
Vicki Hanson – CEO, ACM
Zoubin Ghahramani – Chief Scientist, Uber, and Professor of Engineering, University of Cambridge
Lucas di Grassi – Formula E World Racing Champion, CEO of Roborac

Confirmed speakers also include C-level and expert representatives of Bosch, Botnar Foundation, Byton, Cambridge Quantum Computing, the cities of Montreal and Pittsburg, Darktrace, Deloitte, EPFL, European Space Agency, Factmata, Google, IBM, IEEE, IFIP, Intel, IPSoft, Iridescent, MasterCard, Mechanica.ai, Minecraft, NASA, Nethope, NVIDIA, Ocean Protocol, Open AI, Philips, PWC, Stanford University, University of Geneva, and WWF.

Please visit the summit programme for more information on the latest speakers, breakthrough sessions and panels.

The summit is organized in partnership with the following sister United Nations agencies:CTBTO, ICAO, ILO, IOM, UNAIDS, UNCTAD, UNDESA, UNDPA, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNGP, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNICRI, UNIDIR, UNIDO, UNISDR, UNITAR, UNODA, UNODC, UNOOSA, UNOPS, UNU, WBG,  WFP, WHO, and WIPO.

The 2019 summit is kindly supported by Platinum Sponsor and Strategic Partner, Microsoft; Gold Sponsors, ACM, the Kay Family Foundation, Mind.ai and the Autonomous Driver Alliance; Silver Sponsors, Deloitte and the Zero Abuse Project; and Bronze Sponsor, Live Tiles.​

More information available at aiforgood.itu.int
​Join the conversat​ion on social media ​using the hashtag #AIforGood

As promised here are the media accreditation details from the ITU Media Registration and Accreditation webpage,

To gain media access, ITU must confirm your status as a bona fide member of the media. Therefore, please read ITU’s Media Accreditation Guidelines below so you are aware of the information you will be required to submit for ITU to confirm such status. ​
Media accreditation is not granted to 1) non-editorial staff working for a publishing house (e.g. management, marketing, advertising executives, etc.); 2) researchers, academics, authors or editors of directories; 3) employees of information outlets of public, non-governmental or private entities that are not first and foremost media organizations; 4) members of professional broadcasting or media associations, 5) press or communication professionals accompanying member state delegations; and 6) citizen journalists under no apparent editorial board oversight. If you have questions about your eligibility, please email us at pressreg@itu.int.​

Applications for accreditation are considered on a case-by-case basis and ITU reserves the right to request additional proof or documentation other than what is listed below. ​​​Media accreditation decisions rest with ITU and all decisions are final.

​Accreditation eligibility & credentials 
​1. Journalists* should provide an official letter of assignment from the Editor-in-Chief (or the News Editor for radio/TV). One letter per crew/editorial team will suffice. Editors-in-Chief and Bureau Chiefs should submit a letter from their Director. Please email this to pressreg@itu.int along with the required supporting credentials, based on the type of media organization you work for:

​​​​​Print and online publications should be available to the general public and published at least 6 times a year by an organization whose principle business activity is publishing and which generally carries paid advertising;
o please submit 2 copies or links to recent byline articles published within the last 4 months.

News wire services should provide news coverage to subscribers, including newspapers, periodicals and/or television networks;
o please submit 2 copies or links to recent byline articles or broadcasting material published within the last 4 months.

Broadcast media should provide news and information programmes to the general public. Inde​pendent film and video production companies can only be accredited if officially mandated by a broadcast station via a letter of assignment;
o please submit broadcasting material published within the last 4 months.

Freelance journalists and photographers must provide clear documentation that they are on assignment from a specific news organization or publication. Evidence that they regularly supply journalistic content to recognized media may be acceptable in the absence of an assignment letter and at the discretion of the ITU Corporate Communication Division.
o if possible, please submit a valid assignment letter from the news organization or publication.

2. Bloggers and community media may be granted accreditation if the content produced is deemed relevant to the industry, contains news commentary, is regularly updated and/or made publicly available. Corporate bloggers may register as normal participants (not media). Please see Guidelines for Bloggers and Community Media Accreditation below for more details:

Special guidelines for bloggers and community ​media accreditation

ITU is committed to working with independent and ‘new media’ reporters and columnists who reach their audiences via blogs, podcasts, video blogs, community or online radio, limited print formats which generally carry paid advertising ​​and other online media. These are some of the guidelines we use to determine whether to accredit bloggers and community media representatives:

​​ITU reserves the right to request traffic data from a third party (Sitemeter, Technorati, Feedburner, iTunes or equivalent) when considering your application. While the decision to grant access is not based solely on traffic/subscriber data, we ask that applicants provide sufficient transparency into their operations to help us make a fair and timely decision. If your media outlet is new, you must have an established record of having written extensively on ICT issues and must present copies or links to two recently published videos, podcasts or articles with your byline.​

Obtaining media accreditation for ITU events is an opportunity to meet and interact with key industry and political figures. While continued accreditation for ITU events is not directly contingent on producing coverage, owing to space limitations we may take this into consideration when processing future accreditation requests. Following any ITU event for which you are accredited, we therefore kindly request that you forward a link to your post/podcast/video blog to pressreg​@itu.int.

Bloggers who are granted access to ITU events are expected to act professionally. Those who do not maintain the standards expected of professional media representatives run the risk of having their accreditation withdrawn.

UN-accre​dited media

Media already accredited and badged by the United Nations are automatically accredited and registered by ITU. In this case, you only need to send a copy of your UN badge to pressreg@itu.int​to make sure you receive your event badge. Anyone joining an ITU event MUST have an event badge in order to access the premises. ​Please make sure you let us know in advance that you are planning to attend so your event badge is ready for printing and pick-up.​

You can register and get accreditation here (scroll past the guidelines). Good luck!

SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) and their art gallery from Aug. 12 – 16, 2018 (making the world synthetic) in Vancouver (Canada)

While my main interest is the group’s temporary art gallery, I am providing a brief explanatory introduction and a couple of previews for SIGGRAPH 2018.

Introduction

For anyone unfamiliar with the Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH) and its conferences, from the SIGGRAPH Wikipedia entry Note: Links have been removed),

Some highlights of the conference are its Animation Theater and Electronic Theater presentations, where recently created CG films are played. There is a large exhibition floor, where several hundred companies set up elaborate booths and compete for attention and recruits. Most of the companies are in the engineering, graphics, motion picture, or video game industries. There are also many booths for schools which specialize in computer graphics or interactivity.

Dozens of research papers are presented each year, and SIGGRAPH is widely considered the most prestigious forum for the publication of computer graphics research.[1] The recent paper acceptance rate for SIGGRAPH has been less than 26%.[2] The submitted papers are peer-reviewed in a single-blind process.[3] There has been some criticism about the preference of SIGGRAPH paper reviewers for novel results rather than useful incremental progress.[4][5] …

This is the third SIGGRAPH Vancouver has hosted; the others were in 2011 and 2014.  The theme for the 2018 iteration is ‘Generations’; here’s more about it from an Aug. 2, 2018 article by Terry Flores for Variety,

While its focus is firmly forward thinking, SIGGRAPH 2018, the computer graphics, animation, virtual reality, games, digital art, mixed reality, and emerging technologies conference, is also tipping its hat to the past thanks to its theme this year: Generations. The conference runs Aug. 12-16 in Vancouver, B.C.

“In the literal people sense, pioneers in the computer graphics industry are standing shoulder to shoulder with researchers, practitioners and the future of the industry — young people — mentoring them, dabbling across multiple disciplines to innovate, relate, and grow,” says SIGGRAPH 2018 conference chair Roy C. Anthony, VP of creative development and operations at software and technology firm Ventuz. “This is really what SIGGRAPH has always been about. Generations really seemed like a very appropriate way of looking back and remembering where we all came from and how far we’ve come.”

SIGGRAPH 2018 has a number of treats in store for attendees, including the debut of Disney’s first VR film, the short “Cycles”; production sessions on the making of “Blade Runner 2049,” “Game of Thrones,” “Incredibles 2” and “Avengers: Infinity War”; as well as sneak peeks of Disney’s upcoming “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” and Laika’s “Missing Link.”

That list of ‘treats’ in the last paragraph makes the conference seem more like an iteration of a ‘comic-con’ than a technology conference.

Previews

I have four items about work that will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2018, First up, something about ‘redirected walking’ from a June 18, 2018 Association for Computing Machinery news release on EurekAlert,

CHICAGO–In the burgeoning world of virtual reality (VR) technology, it remains a challenge to provide users with a realistic perception of infinite space and natural walking capabilities in the virtual environment. A team of computer scientists has introduced a new approach to address this problem by leveraging a natural human phenomenon: eye blinks.

All humans are functionally blind for about 10 percent of the time under normal circumstances due to eye blinks and saccades, a rapid movement of the eye between two points or objects. Eye blinks are a common and natural cause of so-called “change blindness,” which indicates the inability for humans to notice changes to visual scenes. Zeroing in on eye blinks and change blindness, the team has devised a novel computational system that effectively redirects the user in the virtual environment during these natural instances, all with undetectable camera movements to deliver orientation redirection.

“Previous RDW [redirected walking] techniques apply rotations continuously while the user is walking. But the amount of unnoticeable rotations is limited,” notes Eike Langbehn, lead author of the research and doctoral candidate at the University of Hamburg. “That’s why an orthogonal approach is needed–we add some additional rotations when the user is not focused on the visuals. When we learned that humans are functionally blind for some time due to blinks, we thought, ‘Why don’t we do the redirection during eye blinks?'”

Human eye blinks occur approximately 10 to 20 times per minute, about every 4 to 19 seconds. Leveraging this window of opportunity–where humans are unable to detect major motion changes while in a virtual environment–the researchers devised an approach to synchronize a computer graphics rendering system with this visual process, and introduce any useful motion changes in virtual scenes to enhance users’ overall VR experience.

The researchers’ experiments revealed that imperceptible camera rotations of 2 to 5 degrees and translations of 4 to 9 cm of the user’s viewpoint are possible during a blink without users even noticing. They tracked test participants’ eye blinks by an eye tracker in a VR head-mounted display. In a confirmatory study, the team validated that participants could not reliably detect in which of two eye blinks their viewpoint was manipulated while walking a VR curved path. The tests relied on unconscious natural eye blinking, but the researchers say redirection during blinking could be carried out consciously. Since users can consciously blink multiple times a day without much effort, eye blinks provide great potential to be used as an intentional trigger in their approach.

The team will present their work at SIGGRAPH 2018, held 12-16 August in Vancouver, British Columbia. The annual conference and exhibition showcases the world’s leading professionals, academics, and creative minds at the forefront of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

“RDW is a big challenge since current techniques still need too much space to enable unlimited walking in VR,” notes Langbehn. “Our work might contribute to a reduction of space since we found out that unnoticeable rotations of up to five degrees are possible during blinks. This means we can improve the performance of RDW by approximately 50 percent.”

The team’s results could be used in combination with other VR research, such as novel steering algorithms, improved path prediction, and rotations during saccades, to name a few. Down the road, such techniques could some day enable consumer VR users to virtually walk beyond their living room.

Langbehn collaborated on the work with Frank Steinicke of University of Hamburg, Markus Lappe of University of Muenster, Gregory F. Welch of University of Central Florida, and Gerd Bruder, also of University of Central Florida. For the full paper and video, visit the team’s project page.

###

About ACM, ACM SIGGRAPH, and SIGGRAPH 2018

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field’s challenges. ACM SIGGRAPH is a special interest group within ACM that serves as an interdisciplinary community for members in research, technology, and applications in computer graphics and interactive techniques. SIGGRAPH is the world’s leading annual interdisciplinary educational experience showcasing the latest in computer graphics and interactive techniques. SIGGRAPH 2018, marking the 45th annual conference hosted by ACM SIGGRAPH, will take place from 12-16 August at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver, B.C.

They have provided an image illustrating what they mean (I don’t find it especially informative),

Caption: The viewing behavior of a virtual reality user, including fixations (in green) and saccades (in red). A blink fully suppresses visual perception. Credit: Eike Langbehn

Next up (2), there’s Disney Corporation’s first virtual reality (VR) short, from a July 19, 2018  Association for Computing Machinery news release on EurekAlert,

Walt Disney Animation Studios will debut its first ever virtual reality short film at SIGGRAPH 2018, and the hope is viewers will walk away feeling connected to the characters as equally as they will with the VR technology involved in making the film.

Cycles, an experimental film directed by Jeff Gipson, centers around the true meaning of creating a home and the life it holds inside its walls. The idea for the film is personal, inspired by Gipson’s childhood spending time with his grandparents and creating memories in their home, and later, having to move them to an assisted living residence.

“Every house has a story unique to the people, the characters who live there,” says Gipson. “We wanted to create a story in this single place and be able to have the viewer witness life happening around them. It is an emotionally driven film, expressing the real ups and downs, the happy and sad moments in life.”

For Cycles, Gipson also drew from his past life as an architect, having spent several years designing skate parks, and from his passion for action sports, including freestyle BMX. In Los Angeles, where Gipson lives, it is not unusual to find homes with an empty swimming pool reserved for skating or freestyle biking. Part of the pitch for Cycles came out of Gipson’s experience riding in these empty pools and being curious about the homes attached to them, the families who lived there, and the memories they made.

SIGGRAPH attendees will have the opportunity to experience Cycles at the Immersive Pavilion, a new space for this year’s conference. The Pavilion is devoted exclusively to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality and will contain: the VR Theater, a storytelling extravaganza that is part of the Computer Animation Festival; the Vrcade, a space for VR, AR, and MR games or experiences; and the well-known Village, for showcasing large-scale projects. SIGGRAPH 2018, held 12-16 August in Vancouver, British Columbia, is an annual gathering that showcases the world’s leading professionals, academics, and creative minds at the forefront of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

The production team completed Cycles in four months with about 50 collaborators as part of a professional development program at the studio. A key difference in VR filmmaking includes getting creative with how to translate a story to the VR “screen.” Pre-visualizing the narrative, for one, was a challenge. Rather than traditional storyboarding, Gipson and his team instead used a mix of Quill VR painting techniques and motion capture to “storyboard” Cycles, incorporating painters and artists to generate sculptures or 3D models of characters early on and draw scenes for the VR space. The creators also got innovative with the use of light and color saturation in scenes to help guide the user’s eyes during the film.

“What’s cool for VR is that we are really on the edge of trying to figure out what it is and how to tell stories in this new medium,” says Gipson. “In VR, you can look anywhere and really be transported to a different world, experience it from different angles, and see every detail. We want people watching to feel alive and feel emotion, and give them a true cinematic experience.”

This is Gipson’s VR directorial debut. He joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2013, serving as a lighting artist on Disney favorites like Frozen, Zootopia, and Moana. Of getting to direct the studio’s first VR short, he says, “VR is an amazing technology and a lot of times the technology is what is really celebrated. We hope more and more people begin to see the emotional weight of VR films, and with Cycles in particular, we hope they will feel the emotions we aimed to convey with our story.”

Apparently this is a still from the ‘short’,

Caption: Disney Animation Studios will present ‘Cycles’ , its first virtual reality (VR) short, at ACM SIGGRAPH 2018. Credit: Disney Animation Studios

There’s also something (3) from Google as described in a July 26, 2018 Association of Computing Machinery news release on EurekAlert,

Google has unveiled a new virtual reality (VR) immersive experience based on a novel system that captures and renders high-quality, realistic images from the real world using light fields. Created by a team of leading researchers at Google, Welcome to Light Fields is the tech giant’s splash into the nascent arena of light fields VR experiences, an exciting corner of VR video technology gaining traction for its promise to deliver extremely high-quality imagery and experiences in the virtual world.

Google released Welcome to Light Fields earlier this year as a free app on Steam VR for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. The creators will demonstrate the VR experience at SIGGRAPH 2018, in the Immersive Pavilion, a new space for this year’s conference. The Pavilion is devoted exclusively to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality and will contain: the Vrcade, a space for VR, AR, and MR games or experiences; the VR Theater, a storytelling extravaganza that is part of the Computer Animation Festival; and the well-known Village, for showcasing large-scale projects. SIGGRAPH 2018, held 12-16 August in Vancouver, British Columbia, is an annual gathering that showcases the world’s leading professionals, academics, and creative minds at the forefront of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

Destinations in Welcome to Light Fields include NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery, delivering to viewers an astronaut’s view inside the flight deck, which has never been open to the public; the pristine teak and mahogany interiors of the Gamble House, an architectural treasure in Pasadena, CA; and the glorious St. Stephen’s Church in Granada Hills, CA, home to a stunning wall of more than 14,000 pieces of glimmering stained glass.

“I love that light fields in VR can teleport you to exotic places in the real world, and truly make you believe you are there,” says Ryan Overbeck, software engineer at Google who co-led the project. “To me, this is magic.”

To bring this experience to life, Overbeck worked with a team that included Paul Debevec, senior staff engineer at Google, who managed the project and led the hardware piece with engineers Xueming Yu, Jay Busch, and Graham Fyffe. With Overbeck, Daniel Erickson and Daniel Evangelakos focused on the software end. The researchers designed a comprehensive system for capturing and rendering high-quality, spherical light field still images from footage captured in the real world. They developed two easy-to-use light field camera rigs, based on the GoPro Hero4action sports camera, that efficiently capture thousands of images on the surface of a sphere. Those images were then passed through a cloud-based light-field-processing pipeline.

Among other things, explains Overbeck, “The processing pipeline uses computer vision to place the images in 3D and generate depth maps, and we use a modified version of our vp9 video codec

to compress the light field data down to a manageable size.” To render a light field dataset, he notes, the team used a rendering algorithm that blends between the thousands of light field images in real-time.

The team relied on Google’s talented pool of engineers in computer vision, graphics, video compression, and machine learning to overcome the unique challenges posed in light fields technology. They also collaborated closely with the WebM team (who make the vp9 video codec) to develop the high-quality light field compression format incorporated into their system, and leaned heavily on the expertise of the Jump VR team to help pose the images and generate depth maps. (Jump is Google’s professional VR system for achieving 3D-360 video production at scale.)

Indeed, with Welcome to Light Fields, the Google team is demonstrating the potential and promise of light field VR technology, showcasing the technology’s ability to provide a truly immersive experience with a level of unmatched realism. Though light fields technology has been researched and explored in computer graphics for more than 30 years, practical systems for actually delivering high-quality light field experiences has not yet been possible.

Part of the team’s motivation behind creating this VR light field experience is to invigorate the nascent field.

“Welcome to Light Fields proves that it is now possible to make a compelling light field VR viewer that runs on consumer-grade hardware, and we hope that this knowledge will encourage others to get involved with building light field technology and media,” says Overbeck. “We understand that in order to eventually make compelling consumer products based on light fields, we need a thriving light field ecosystem. We need open light field codecs, we need artists creating beautiful light field imagery, and we need people using VR in order to engage with light fields.”

I don’t really understand why this image, which looks like something belongs on advertising material, would be chosen to accompany a news release on a science-based distribution outlet,

Caption: A team of leading researchers at Google, will unveil the new immersive virtual reality (VR) experience “Welcome to Lightfields” at ACM SIGGRAPH 2018. Credit: Image courtesy of Google/Overbeck

Finally (4), ‘synthesizing realistic sounds’ is announced in an Aug. 6, 2018 Stanford University (US) news release (also on EurekAlert) by Taylor Kubota,

Advances in computer-generated imagery have brought vivid, realistic animations to life, but the sounds associated with what we see simulated on screen, such as two objects colliding, are often recordings. Now researchers at Stanford University have developed a system that automatically renders accurate sounds for a wide variety of animated phenomena.

“There’s been a Holy Grail in computing of being able to simulate reality for humans. We can animate scenes and render them visually with physics and computer graphics, but, as for sounds, they are usually made up,” said Doug James, professor of computer science at Stanford University. “Currently there exists no way to generate realistic synchronized sounds for complex animated content, such as splashing water or colliding objects, automatically. This fills that void.”

The researchers will present their work on this sound synthesis system as part of ACM SIGGRAPH 2018, the leading conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. In addition to enlivening movies and virtual reality worlds, this system could also help engineering companies prototype how products would sound before being physically produced, and hopefully encourage designs that are quieter and less irritating, the researchers said.

“I’ve spent years trying to solve partial differential equations – which govern how sound propagates – by hand,” said Jui-Hsien Wang, a graduate student in James’ lab and in the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering (ICME), and lead author of the paper. “This is actually a place where you don’t just solve the equation but you can actually hear it once you’ve done it. That’s really exciting to me and it’s fun.”

Predicting sound

Informed by geometry and physical motion, the system figures out the vibrations of each object and how, like a loudspeaker, those vibrations excite sound waves. It computes the pressure waves cast off by rapidly moving and vibrating surfaces but does not replicate room acoustics. So, although it does not recreate the echoes in a grand cathedral, it can resolve detailed sounds from scenarios like a crashing cymbal, an upside-down bowl spinning to a stop, a glass filling up with water or a virtual character talking into a megaphone.

Most sounds associated with animations rely on pre-recorded clips, which require vast manual effort to synchronize with the action on-screen. These clips are also restricted to noises that exist – they can’t predict anything new. Other systems that produce and predict sounds as accurate as those of James and his team work only in special cases, or assume the geometry doesn’t deform very much. They also require a long pre-computation phase for each separate object.

“Ours is essentially just a render button with minimal pre-processing that treats all objects together in one acoustic wave simulation,” said Ante Qu, a graduate student in James’ lab and co-author of the paper.

The simulated sound that results from this method is highly detailed. It takes into account the sound waves produced by each object in an animation but also predicts how those waves bend, bounce or deaden based on their interactions with other objects and sound waves in the scene.

Challenges ahead

In its current form, the group’s process takes a while to create the finished product. But, now that they have proven this technique’s potential, they can focus on performance optimizations, such as implementing their method on parallel GPU hardware, that should make it drastically faster.

And, even in its current state, the results are worth the wait.

“The first water sounds we generated with the system were among the best ones we had simulated – and water is a huge challenge in computer-generated sound,” said James. “We thought we might get a little improvement, but it is dramatically better than previous approaches even right out of the box. It was really striking.”

Although the group’s work has faithfully rendered sounds of various objects spinning, falling and banging into each other, more complex objects and interactions – like the reverberating tones of a Stradivarius violin – remain difficult to model realistically. That, the group said, will have to wait for a future solution.

Timothy Langlois of Adobe Research is a co-author of this paper. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and Adobe Research. James is also a professor, by courtesy, of music and a member of Stanford Bio-X.

Researchers Timothy Langlois, Doug L. James, Ante Qu and Jui-Hsien Wang have created a video featuring highlights of animations with sounds synthesized using the Stanford researchers’ new system.,

The researchers have also provided this image,

By computing pressure waves cast off by rapidly moving and vibrating surfaces – such as a cymbal – a new sound synthesis system developed by Stanford researchers can automatically render realistic sound for computer animations. (Image credit: Timothy Langlois, Doug L. James, Ante Qu and Jui-Hsien Wang)

It does seem like we’re synthesizing the world around us, eh?

The SIGGRAPH 2018 art gallery

Here’s what SIGGRAPH had to say about its 2018 art gallery in Vancouver and the themes for the conference and the gallery (from a May 18, 2018 Associating for Computing Machinery news release on globalnewswire.com (also on this 2018 SIGGRAPH webpage),

SIGGRAPH 2018, the world’s leading showcase of digital art created using computer graphics and interactive techniques, will present a special Art Gallery, entitled “Origins,” and historic Art Papers in Vancouver, B.C. The 45th SIGGRAPH conference will take place 12–16 August at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The programs will also honor the generations of creators that have come before through a special, 50th anniversary edition of the Leonard journal. To register for the conference, visit S2018.SIGGRAPH.ORG.

The SIGGRAPH 2018 ART GALLERY is a curated exhibition, conceived as a dialogical space that enables the viewer to reflect on man’s diverse cultural values and rituals through contemporary creative practices. Building upon an exciting and eclectic selection of creative practices mediated through technologies that represent the sophistication of our times, the SIGGRAPH 2018 Art Gallery will embrace the narratives of the indigenous communities based near Vancouver and throughout Canada as a source of inspiration. The exhibition will feature contemporary media artworks, art pieces by indigenous communities, and other traces of technologically mediated Ludic practices.

Andrés Burbano, SIGGRAPH 2018 Art Gallery chair and professor at Universidad de los Andes, said, “The Art Gallery aims to articulate myth and technology, science and art, the deep past and the computational present, and will coalesce around a theme of ‘Origins.’ Media and technological creative expressions will explore principles such as the origins of the cosmos, the origins of life, the origins of human presence, the origins of the occupation of territories in the Americas, and the origins of people living in the vast territories of the Arctic.”

He continued, “The venue [in Vancouver] hopes to rekindle the original spark that ignited the collaborative spirit of the SIGGRAPH community of engineers, scientists, and artists, who came together to create the very first conference in the early 1970s.”

Highlights from the 2018 Art Gallery include:

Transformation Mask (Canada) [Technology Based]
Shawn Hunt, independent; and Microsoft Garage: Andy Klein, Robert Butterworth, Jonathan Cobb, Jeremy Kersey, Stacey Mulcahy, Brendan O’Rourke, Brent Silk, and Julia Taylor-Hell, Microsoft Vancouver

TRANSFORMATION MASK is an interactive installation that features the Microsoft HoloLens. It utilizes electronics and mechanical engineering to express a physical and digital transformation. Participants are immersed in spatial sounds and holographic visuals.

Somnium (U.S.) [Science Based]
Marko Peljhan, Danny Bazo, and Karl Yerkes, University of California, Santa Barbara

Somnium is a cybernetic installation that provides visitors with the ability to sensorily, cognitively, and emotionally contemplate and experience exoplanetary discoveries, their macro and micro dimensions, and the potential for life in our Galaxy. Some might call it “space telescope.”

Ernest Edmonds Retrospective – Art Systems 1968-2018 (United Kingdom) [History Based]
Ernest Edmonds, De Montfort University

Celebrating one of the pioneers of computer graphics-based art since the early 1970s, this Ernest Edmonds career retrospective will showcase snapshots of Edmonds’ work as it developed over the years. With one piece from each decade, the retrospective will also demonstrate how vital the Leonardo journal has been throughout the 50-year journey.

In addition to the works above, the Art Gallery will feature pieces from notable female artists Ozge Samanci, Ruth West, and Nicole L’Hullier. For more information about the Edmonds retrospective, read THIS POST ON THE ACM SIGGRAPH BLOG.

The SIGGRAPH 2018 ART PAPERS program is designed to feature research from artists, scientists, theorists, technologists, historians, and more in one of four categories: project description, theory/criticism, methods, or history. The chosen work was selected by an international jury of scholars, artists, and immersive technology developers.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of LEONARDO (MIT Press), and 10 years of its annual SIGGRAPH issue, SIGGRAPH 2018 is pleased to announce a special anniversary edition of the journal, which will feature the 2018 art papers. For 50 years, Leonardo has been the definitive publication for artist-academics. To learn more about the relationship between SIGGRAPH and the journal, listen to THIS EPISODE OF THE SIGGRAPH SPOTLIGHT PODCAST.

“In order to encourage a wider range of topics, we introduced a new submission type, short papers. This enabled us to accept more content than in previous years. Additionally, for the first time, we will introduce sessions that integrate the Art Gallery artist talks with Art Papers talks, promoting richer connections between these two creative communities,” said Angus Forbes, SIGGRAPH 2018 Art Papers chair and professor at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Art Papers highlights include:

Alienating the Familiar with CGI: A Recipe for Making a Full CGI Art House Animated Feature [Long]
Alex Counsell and Paul Charisse, University of Portsmouth

This paper explores the process of making and funding an art house feature film using full CGI in a marketplace where this has never been attempted. It explores cutting-edge technology and production approaches, as well as routes to successful fundraising.

Augmented Fauna and Glass Mutations: A Dialogue Between Material and Technique in Glassblowing and 3D Printing [Long]
Tobias Klein, City University of Hong Kong

The two presented artworks, “Augmented Fauna” and “Glass Mutations,” were created during an artist residence at the PILCHUCK GLASS SCHOOL. They are examples of the qualities and methods established through a synthesis between digital workflows and traditional craft processes and thus formulate the notion of digital craftsmanship.

Inhabitat: An Imaginary Ecosystem in a Children’s Science Museum [Short]
Graham Wakefield, York University, and Haru Hyunkyung Ji, OCAD University

“Inhabitat” is a mixed reality artwork in which participants become part of an imaginary ecology through three simultaneous perspectives of scale and agency; three distinct ways to see with other eyes. This imaginary world was exhibited at a children’s science museum for five months, using an interactive projection-augmented sculpture, a large screen and speaker array, and a virtual reality head-mounted display.

What’s the what?

My father used to say that and I always assumed it meant summarize the high points, if you need to, and get to the point—fast. In that spirit, I am both fascinated and mildly appalled. The virtual, mixed, and augmented reality technologies, as well as, the others being featured at SIGGRAPH 2018 are wondrous in many ways but it seems we are coming ever closer to a world where we no longer interact with nature or other humans directly. (see my August 10, 2018 posting about the ‘extinction of experience’ for research that encourages more direct interaction with nature) I realize that SIGGRAPH is intended as a primarily technical experience but I think a little more content questioning these technologies and their applications (social implications) might be in order. That’s often the artist’s role but I can’t see anything in the art gallery descriptions that hint at any sort of fundamental critique.

AI (artificial intelligence) for Good Global Summit from May 15 – 17, 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland: details and an interview with Frederic Werner

With all the talk about artificial intelligence (AI), a lot more attention seems to be paid to apocalyptic scenarios: loss of jobs, financial hardship, loss of personal agency and privacy, and more with all of these impacts being described as global. Still, there are some folks who are considering and working on ‘AI for good’.

If you’d asked me, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) would not have been my first guess (my choice would have been United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]) as an agency likely to host the 2018 AI for Good Global Summit. But, it turns out the ITU is a UN (United Nations agency) and, according to its Wikipedia entry, it’s an intergovernmental public-private partnership, which may explain the nature of the participants in the upcoming summit.

The news

First, there’s a May 4, 2018 ITU media advisory (received via email or you can find the full media advisory here) about the upcoming summit,

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now widely identified as being able to address the greatest challenges facing humanity – supporting innovation in fields ranging from crisis management and healthcare to smart cities and communications networking.

The second annual ‘AI for Good Global Summit’ will take place 15-17 May [2018] in Geneva, and seeks to leverage AI to accelerate progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and ultimately benefit humanity.

WHAT: Global event to advance ‘AI for Good’ with the participation of internationally recognized AI experts. The programme will include interactive high-level panels, while ‘AI Breakthrough Teams’ will propose AI strategies able to create impact in the near term, guided by an expert audience of mentors representing government, industry, academia and civil society – through interactive sessions. The summit will connect AI innovators with public and private-sector decision-makers, building collaboration to take promising strategies forward.

A special demo & exhibit track will feature innovative applications of AI designed to: protect women from sexual violence, avoid infant crib deaths, end child abuse, predict oral cancer, and improve mental health treatments for depression – as well as interactive robots including: Alice, a Dutch invention designed to support the aged; iCub, an open-source robot; and Sophia, the humanoid AI robot.

WHEN: 15-17 May 2018, beginning daily at 9 AM

WHERE: ITU Headquarters, 2 Rue de Varembé, Geneva, Switzerland (Please note: entrance to ITU is now limited for all visitors to the Montbrillant building entrance only on rue Varembé).

WHO: Confirmed participants to date include expert representatives from: Association for Computing Machinery, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Cambridge University, Carnegie Mellon, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Consumer Trade Association, Facebook, Fraunhofer, Google, Harvard University, IBM Watson, IEEE, Intellectual Ventures, ITU, Microsoft, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Partnership on AI, Planet Labs, Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab, University of California at Berkeley, University of Tokyo, XPRIZE Foundation, Yale University – and the participation of “Sophia” the humanoid robot and “iCub” the EU open source robotcub.

The interview

Frederic Werner, Senior Communications Officer at the International Telecommunication Union and** one of the organizers of the AI for Good Global Summit 2018 kindly took the time to speak to me and provide a few more details about the upcoming event.

Werner noted that the 2018 event grew out of a much smaller 2017 ‘workshop’ and first of its kind, about beneficial AI which this year has ballooned in size to 91 countries (about 15 participants are expected from Canada), 32 UN agencies, and substantive representation from the private sector. The 2017 event featured Dr. Yoshua Bengio of the University of Montreal  (Université de Montréal) was a featured speaker.

“This year, we’re focused on action-oriented projects that will help us reach our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. We’re looking at near-term practical AI applications,” says Werner. “We’re matchmaking problem-owners and solution-owners.”

Academics, industry professionals, government officials, and representatives from UN agencies are gathering  to work on four tracks/themes:

In advance of this meeting, the group launched an AI repository (an action item from the 2017 meeting) on April 25, 2018 inviting people to list their AI projects (from the ITU’s April 25, 2018? AI repository news announcement),

ITU has just launched an AI Repository where anyone working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) can contribute key information about how to leverage AI to help solve humanity’s greatest challenges.

This is the only global repository that identifies AI-related projects, research initiatives, think-tanks and organizations that aim to accelerate progress on the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To submit a project, just press ‘Submit’ on the AI Repository site and fill in the online questionnaire, providing all relevant details of your project. You will also be asked to map your project to the relevant World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action lines and the SDGs. Approved projects will be officially registered in the repository database.

Benefits of participation on the AI Repository include:

WSIS Prizes recognize individuals, governments, civil society, local, regional and international agencies, research institutions and private-sector companies for outstanding success in implementing development oriented strategies that leverage the power of AI and ICTs.

Creating the AI Repository was one of the action items of last year’s AI for Good Global Summit.

We are looking forward to your submissions.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: ai@itu.int

“Your project won’t be visible immediately as we have to vet the submissions to weed out spam-type material and projects that are not in line with our goals,” says Werner. That said, there are already 29 projects in the repository. As you might expect, the UK, China, and US are in the repository but also represented are Egypt, Uganda, Belarus, Serbia, Peru, Italy, and other countries not commonly cited when discussing AI research.

Werner also pointed out in response to my surprise over the ITU’s role with regard to this AI initiative that the ITU is the only UN agency which has 192* member states (countries), 150 universities, and over 700 industry members as well as other member entities, which gives them tremendous breadth of reach. As well, the organization, founded originally in 1865 as the International Telegraph Convention, has extensive experience with global standardization in the information technology and telecommunications industries. (See more in their Wikipedia entry.)

Finally

There is a bit more about the summit on the ITU’s AI for Good Global Summit 2018 webpage,

The 2nd edition of the AI for Good Global Summit will be organized by ITU in Geneva on 15-17 May 2018, in partnership with XPRIZE Foundation, the global leader in incentivized prize competitions, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and sister United Nations agencies including UNESCO, UNICEF, UNCTAD, UNIDO, Global Pulse, UNICRI, UNODA, UNIDIR, UNODC, WFP, IFAD, UNAIDS, WIPO, ILO, UNITAR, UNOPS, OHCHR, UN UniversityWHO, UNEP, ICAO, UNDP, The World Bank, UN DESA, CTBTOUNISDRUNOG, UNOOSAUNFPAUNECE, UNDPA, and UNHCR.

The AI for Good series is the leading United Nations platform for dialogue on AI. The action​​-oriented 2018 summit will identify practical applications of AI and supporting strategies to improve the quality and sustainability of life on our planet. The summit will continue to formulate strategies to ensure trusted, safe and inclusive development of AI technologies and equitable access to their benefits.

While the 2017 summit sparked the first ever inclusive global dialogue on beneficial AI, the action-oriented 2018 summit will focus on impactful AI solutions able to yield long-term benefits and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘Breakthrough teams’ will demonstrate the potential of AI to map poverty and aid with natural disasters using satellite imagery, how AI could assist the delivery of citizen-centric services in smart cities, and new opportunities for AI to help achieve Universal Health Coverage, and finally to help achieve transparency and explainability in AI algorithms.

Teams will propose impactful AI strategies able to be enacted in the near term, guided by an expert audience of mentors representing government, industry, academia and civil society. Strategies will be evaluated by the mentors according to their feasibility and scalability, potential to address truly global challenges, degree of supporting advocacy, and applicability to market failures beyond the scope of government and industry. The exercise will connect AI innovators with public and private-sector decision-makers, building collaboration to take promising strategies forward.

“As the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies, ITU is well placed to guide AI innovation towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development ​Goals. We are providing a neutral close quotation markplatform for international dialogue aimed at ​building a ​common understanding of the capabilities of emerging AI technologies.​​” Houlin Zhao, Secretary General ​of ITU​

Should you be close to Geneva, it seems that registration is still open. Just go to the ITU’s AI for Good Global Summit 2018 webpage, scroll the page down to ‘Documentation’ and you will find a link to the invitation and a link to online registration. Participation is free but I expect that you are responsible for your travel and accommodation costs.

For anyone unable to attend in person, the summit will be livestreamed (webcast in real time) and you can watch the sessions by following the link below,

https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/AI/2018/Pages/webcast.aspx

For those of us on the West Coast of Canada and other parts distant to Geneva, you will want to take the nine hour difference between Geneva (Switzerland) and here into account when viewing the proceedings. If you can’t manage the time difference, the sessions are being recorded and will be posted at a later date.

*’132 member states’ corrected to ‘192 member states’ on May 11, 2018 at 1500 hours PDT.

*Redundant ‘and’ removed on July 19, 2018.