Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Presentation of "Centre of Creative Technology"

Last year, the research strategy of Leeds Metropolitan University, as set out by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Sheila Scraton, had called for the creation of "Centres" for various research topics. The goal of these centres would be to increase the research profile of Leeds Met, to give the research activities a branding, and to foster collaboration between researchers, also across faculty boundaries. These research centres would be organised around the research interests and activities of the professors. Our faculty dean Cath Orange had then encouraged us professors at "Innovation North" (INN) to organise these centres.
Since Prof. William Latham and myself are "Professors of Creative Technology", it was natural to organise a "Centre for Creative Technology". The focus of this centre would be on all types of creative technology, including video, graphics, games, audio, music. It would include software development as well as creative practise. We invited staff members of INN to join this center and to keep their research activities going under this new umbrella. One of our first external actions was to contact game companies in the Yorkshire region, to establish relations for possible collaborations. We planned to give an introductory presentation to INN staff in the context of the weekly Wednesday afternoon staff development sessions.

However, William has accepted a position at Goldsmith College in London and will be involved with the centre as "Visiting Professor" at Leeds Met.

So I gave the main talk, and I also had invited other researchers from this centre to give an overview about their work: Ben Dalton spoke about his work on visual and acoustic tracking, Richard Stevens presented the "Repossessed" project, Nikos Stavropoulos spoke about the Echochroma 1 concert, and Duncan Folley talked about our new motion capture system. These presentations were very well received by staff. Unfortunately, our "centre presentation" had started later than planned, due to another topic that needed to be discussed at this Wednesday afternoon session.

The centre still needs a while until it can be considered as working functionally: research clusters need to be established, and a regular meeting schedule needs to be set up. Then an official launch will be organised, to mark the official inauguration of this centre.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Train Crash in Cumbria

On Friday evening, the breaking news came on TV about a train that had derailed in Cumbria. I estimate that the location is about 2 hours from here when driving by car - I had never been in that area.

Somehow I am not surprised, in fact I expected a train crash sooner or later. Twice I had been travelling to London, on a GNER train. The service runs nice, on time, the trains go fast. But more than once I was wondering if the trains do not go too fast. I have gone on trains in Europe, with TGV from Paris, with the ICE in Germany. So I know what kind of vibrations and shaking one has to expect. The train from Leeds to London seemed to have the worst shaking of all train rides I had done. Some sudden bumps, wagons move to the side. Obviously the passengers are used to this, because when I experienced this, everybody was just quiet, nobody looked even up. But I felt that going over switches / points ("Weichen") there was too much vibration and bumping. Must be some unevenness in the tracks, some tolerances set as too tolerant.

I hope that the tracks in the UK get an update soon, otherwise another of these accidents is unavoidable.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Echochroma 1 - Electronic Music Concert

This evening, 17:00 - 18:30, Nikos Stavropoulos from our Faculty Innovation North organised a concert of electronic music, held in the James Graham Building (Jubilee Room). All music was composed by either members of staff or students. Quite an impressive event!

With exception of the first piece, each of the music pieces was played purely electronically, from recorded soundtracks of electro-acoustically generated sounds. The first piece involved a live clarinet player who was accompanied by a recorded sound track.

Here the program:
Katherine Norman: "Trilling Wire"
Adam Nicolle: "Ut Af Taktur Meo Timi"
Tom Goodall: "Composition 06"
Nikos Stavropoulos: "Atropos"
Tom Davey: "Christ I left the Iron on"

Daniel Murr: "Untitled"
Adam Stansbie: "Early Morning"
Sally Townsend: "Sally and the fireflies in the kitchen"
William Harner: "Resonant Drops"

Our dean Cath Orange was very pleased with this display of musicality - so the music group will get their requested speaker system! :)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Professorial Parlay: Climate Change

Leeds Met has a nice event that is organised every 4 months or so: the professors and readers of Leeds Met meet one evening, to discuss a topic of interest over a "light supper". The event is usually held in "The Grange" which is the oldest building on the Headingley Campus of Leeds Met - the Vice Chancellor has his office there.
The meeting room has a nice chimney, large portaits hang at the wall, providing an aura of history and tradition.

Before we started with the "topic of the evening", which was "Climate Change - and what the Academic Community can do", we remembered Robert Ellis - a condolence book was available so that we could write a brief note.

Regarding the further topical discussions: The overall consensus among us was that the climate change is happening, and that something needs to be done. Most people expressed the opinion that drastic measures are necessary and should be implemented, to reduce CO2 emissions and avert the climate change. Also it was said that people need to change their habits, in consuming, in transport. I was a bit hesitant to bring in my own viewpoint on this, since it seemed to be almost isolated in the sea of consensus, but in the end I voiced it: all measures that will be introduced to battle climate change, are pointless, because they will have very little effect. Every little saving in emissions that we can achieve here in this country will be overcompensated by increase of emissions in other parts of the world. Climate change will happen, that is for sure. The latest UNESCO report states that even in the most optimistic case (that is every measure is taken, and the emissions will actually sink from 2020 on) the temperature will rise by a total of 2 degree Celcius. It has risen so far by 0.8C in the last 100 years.
So the temperature will get warmer, ice will melt, and the climate will chance. This has consequences - and it is these consequences which need to be dealt with. A huge wave of fugitives will arrive - there will be worldwide migrations of populations towards areas with better climate. Are we prepared to accept these fugitives? Is the infrastructure being prepared? Are the resources being developed (water, energy)? What about schools? Houses?
And what about the social acceptance? Are the populations of Europe being prepared that they will have to share their space with a couple of 100 Million immigrants from Africa or Sout-East Asia? This will happen, and our governments are not doing any preparations for this. Instead they opt to add more taxes onto CO2-intensive activities, such as flying and driving. But a higher price does very little to reduce the CO2 output - people drive when they have to drive, and they fly when they have to. They just have less money left afterwards. I, for example, would not change a thing, just because it is more expensive. I have to drive to work every day, as there are no suitable bus routes from where I live. I will have to fly a lot - how else can I attend a conference in New York or Beijing? Or should I go there by ship, or bicycle?
By imposing these taxes, everything will just get more expensive, and the government will have more money available to waste it on where they want to waste it. And the economy gets hurt, because people have less money to spend.

Not that I would recommend to do nothing: in fact I am all for all possible measures to reduce emissions. But I would not consider the climate change the major problem, but pollution in general. CO2 is not a pollutant - it is necessary for all plant life to exist. Just that there is now too much of it, and the climate system is imbalanced. But the more threatening thing is the poisson in most emissions: CO is a killer. Carcerogenic substances are everywhere, threatening the health of everybody - right now! This is in my opinion the true problem that needs to be addressed. And if it is addressed, then automatically also the CO2 emissions would be reduced.

There was not much discussion about this issue afterwards - the Parlay participants chatted in smaller groups, at a glass of wine, as the evening slowly faded away.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Obituary: Prof. Robert Ellis

With shock I read on Tuesday's reflection by our Vice Chancellor Prof. Simon Lee that a colleague has died: Professor Robert Ellis from the School of Built Environment at Leeds Metropolitan University.

I had known him since I came to Leeds Met more than a year ago. He was always very optimistic, cheerful, had a great sense of humor. And he was always ready for a joint collaboration project. Early in 2006 decided together on purchasing a monitor system - the ImmersaDome 2.0. Then we put together a joint proposal for a research project with other partners, with whom he had contact. It was a pleasure to be involved in activities with him - he was always eager to contribute and participate.

I learned now that he just got to know 3 weeks ago about his cancer. I will surely miss him very much.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On the Ice Rink

Every winter after New Year, the Millenium Square in Leeds is transformed into a large open ice rink, allowing people to skate outdoors. This year, the weather had been quite mild and rainy, until a few days ago. Now temperatures are at -3 C during the night, and barely above zero during the day - the right weather for some time on the ice.

Tonight, between 18:00 and 20:00, Leeds Met had rented the whole rink for a student party, to celebrate the launch of the Student Wiki. Video was shown on the BBC big screen above the rink, our Vice Chancellor gave a short speech, and then students could do their circles on the ice.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

At Fountains Abbey

The weather had been quite stable - blue sky for the whole weekend. So finally, it is a good time to go for a short excursion on Sunday. The Fountains Abbey is not far from Leeds, north of Harrogate, near Ripon. It takes about one hour by car.

The air is still crisp and cold, some of the ground in the shadow is frozen. But many people are out, walking on the grounds of the Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal park.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Workshop about FP7

On 22. December 2006, the European Commission started the "Framework Program 7" (FP-7), which outlines the funding for research from 2007 - 2013. Today I took the opportunity to participate in a workshop at Leeds Uni, organised by the UK Research Office (UKRO). Very interesting, some things disappointing (no full cost will be reimbursed), some things encouraging (large overall volume, simpler submission process). I will have to dig a bit deeper into this, to find good opportunities for joint projects, in Augmented Reality, Computer Vision, Robotics, and Human-Computer Interaction.

New template of blog

As I wanted to make a few changes to the blog layout, I was prompted that I would have to update my template, in order to be able to use a few more advanced features. As I went to the site with the modified template, I found that a couple of new templates have been added. I decided that it was time for a change, and choose another template, created by template master Douglas Bowman. He is really talented in assembling good looking blog templates!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winter Flu

It finally got me - the usual winter flu virus. It began last Saturday, and on Sunday I already stayed at home. No thought of going to work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - but there were several things to do. Fortunately with laptop computer and broadband internet, I was able to work on a few things - one with a deadline on Wednesday.

I had not been sick for quite a while - I think the last time was back in March, or was I again sick in June? I forgot...