Friday, November 26, 2010

Visit at BRP Rotax

My flight back from Vienna was later in the evening on Friday - this had been the cheapest available flight, so I had recommended to book this one. This meant that after my visit at FH St.Poelten which I had done in the past 3 days, I now had Friday morning and early afternoon available for other activities, and it fit very well to my schedule that I received an invitation by Johannes Christian to visit the company BRB-Rotax. This company manufactures petrol motors for a variety of vehicles: small airplanes, snowmobiles, fun vehicles. Johannes' work is in the area of teaching and training in the "After Sales" context, which means training for maintenance. He investigates here the use of Augmented Reality for intuitive new training methods.

I got up quite early - the train ride from St. Poelten to Gunskirchen took 1 1/2 hours, I had to change trains in Linz. This day was foggy, and some snow flurries began to fall down.

The company buildings are right next to the train station, so it was easy to find. Then we had a chat about Johannes' work, and he showed me around in the training centre where I had the opportunity to test-sit one of those "fun vehicles". He also gave me a tour of the manufacturing hall - very impressive!

At 12:30 the train left. The ticket machine at the train station did not work properly - when trying to pay with a card, it could not connect to authorize the payment. Since I had too little cash, I entered the train without ticket - although it said in several places that on this train line one could NOT purchase a ticket on the train. Well, I would have to discuss this with the conductor. But there was nobody checking the tickets on this train to Linz... When I got of to change the train, I rushed to the nearest ticket machine - there it worked fine, and my ticket was now 4 Euro cheaper. Well, the OEBB needs to get their act together and fix their ticket vending machines, if they want payment for train rides!

The Railjet is a nice comfortable and fast train. It has three classes: standard economy, first, and premium (which would cost an additional 25 Euro). I chose the cheapest option, good enough for me now. The train leaving at 13:10 from Linz was quite full, so unfortunately I could not get a window seat.

Arrived 14:40 at Wien Westbahnhof. Bought at a bakery a nice dark rye bread to take with me for the next days. Then with the bus to the Airport.

Everything fine there. Vienna Airport has free WIFI, which is nice! I even used it to make a Skype call from the iPhone through Wifi.

In AMS the announcement that the flight to Leeds would be delayed and would take off at 22:15 instead of 20:45. Decided to spend 5000 Miles from my KLM Flying Blue account to get into one of their lounges. Had not done this for a few years now; back in the time when I was travelling more often, the admission to the lounge had been free.

The flight departed then more than 2 hours late, but arrived ok in Leeds. No snow there yet, but the car was covered in frost. When I began driving, the snowfall started, but I made it home fine.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

3rd Day in St.Poelten

Today on Thursday was now the rest of my ERASMUS teaching at FH St.Poelten: I gave an overview on some "historic aspects of Augmented Reality", talking about my work at RSC on marker and building tracking and explaining some of the issues related to head-worn displays. In the afternoon I gave a lecture on my work in developing SCORM shareable content objects (SCOs). I also met with Prof Dr Alois Frotschnig, the Technology Department Director of FH St.Poelten. And for the fourth day in a row, I came back to the hotel after 22:00.

Three very busy days, but well worth spending. Tomorrow I will travel back to Leeds, but before my flight there is another highlight planned: a visit at a factory which employs Augmented Reality in their employee training.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Second Day in St.Poelten

On Wednesday the Forum Medientechnik continues. I meet with the Executive Director of FH St.Poelten, Dr Maria Gabriela Fernandez. Later that day I also meet Dr Alexander Seewald from Seewald Solutions, a really ingenious inventor in a wide variety of areas: computer vision, augmented reality, music recognition. In a Viennese Heurigen Stube, he uses his software on an iPhone to automatically detect the music style of the two musicians who play Viennese music - and it properly recognises a waltz. Brilliant!

Again I return back to the hotel late - 23:40. Will I see St.Poelten also some time during daylight?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First day in St.Poelten

Tuesday morning I walked again through downtown St.Ploelten. This time there were actually people there, the stores began to open. Went north through the railway station to the other side of the railway tracks, passing the hospital, then approaching the Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences). A simple contemporary building, glass and steel, three stories high. I register for the Forum Medientechnik and join the other participants in the auditorium. There are talks about new media 3.0, about the use of Twitter, and about guidelines for software / web development for mobile phones. All very interesting. I meet Thiemo Kastel, one of the main organisers of this conference, and Hannes Raffaseder, Vice Rector for Research at FH St.Poelten. In the afternoon I join a tour of the media facilities, where a complete studio is available with green-screen technology and tracking, also an AVID system for studio production. Frank Angermann from Metaio who also gives a talk about mobile AR and the Junaio Mobile AR system, joins a student seminar with a group of Thiemo Kastel's students who are working on a mobile AR tour guide for Vienna. There are a few interesting new things about to come regarding the Junaio project... am not allowed to say more!

In the evening is the award ceremony for the Golden Wire 2010 Media Prize in which student project receive awards. More than 18 different projects in 6 categories are shortlisted, and a jury decides the winners. Quite impressive work - animation, short films etc. At 22:30 I return to the hotel, after again a night walk through the empty streets of St.Poelten.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Arrived well in St.Poelten

A long day. Why does it seem to be so difficult to travel from Northern England to Eastern Austria? There is not a single direct connection to Vienna from any of the Northern England airports. One would assume that at least Manchester has one, but no... the only connections are from the London airports, Standsted and Luton. But this would have meant a 4 hours hazzle train ride from Leeds. So the only reasonable alternative is to use KLM from Leeds-Bradford airport. Not ideal; the very lowest-cost flights would have left me stranded at the Vienna airport at night, because no further trains leave to St.Poelten. So I had to choose a "reasonable" flight during the daytime, with a 4 hour transit time in Schiphol airport (Amsterdam).

Everything went well in the morning, I decided not to take a taxi and instead drive to the airport, the parking for a week costs as much as the two taxi rides. Takeoff from LBA on time, then walking through the AMS airport. This is in my opinion the best airport in the world: besides having a museum with paintings of Dutch masterpieces there, they now also have a library! The four hours go by fast, as I stroll around, exploring some electronic gadgets (Sony has a digicam with 360 view video capture! And there are quite a few micro pocket projectors available - would be good when giving talks or demonstrations where a projector is not available). Can also do a bit of work. Then I proceed to the gate B15. Flight to Vienna, departure 17:40. I sit there and read a magazine, waiting for the boarding call together with other passengers. The plane at the gate is from Austrian Airlines. I did not know that this KLM-flight would be a code-share flight - there was no mention on my ticket and boarding pass! Well, maybe they have some nice Austrian food during the flight. As the call for boarding comes, they mention the Star-Alliance. That cannot be right - since when is KLM a member of the Star-Alliance? I go to the desk and ask if this is the right flight - no, it is not. The KLM flight to Vienna, at 17:40, is at another gate. How could I be so stupid not looking at the flight number? That never has ever happened to me before! Now I have an opportunity to test my sprint capabilities, as I run to gate B36, fortunately on the same letter track. They are about to close the gate, but I can still go in. Lucky, I made it. Everybody is seated, and they just make the announcement that they are waiting for a few late passengers and are about to unload their luggage...
How can there be two flights at exactly the same time, to exactly the same destination? Well, next time I will be more careful and will check exactly the flight number, to rule out any confusion with code-sharing.

The flight goes well, and we arrive actually on time in Vienna. Now by bus to West-Bahnhof. Takes 45 minutes, through some narrow streets in the "12.Bezirk" of Vienna. The Westbahnhof is a huge construction site - the main hall is basically stripped of everything, not sure if they will actually turn it down. I know that they are rebuilding the Suedbahnhof into a new main station for Vienna (Hauptbahnhof). From the schedule there are only 5 minutes to buy the train ticket now and to get onto the train, but the bus has arrived a few minutes early. So I catch the proper train to St.Poelten, and arrive there at 22:00 local time. 20 min walk from the station through the empty and silent, but well illuminated town centre; my two rolling suitcases make a lot of noise on the rough pavement.

Then finally at the hotel. The travel day is over.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Launch of Safe4

On Tuesday evening I was invited to the launch event of the company Safe4 which took place at the Club LS1 in Leeds City Centre. Safe4 is a start-up company which offers a safe online keeping of important documents, primarily targeted for businesses. I saw a demonstration there, and was quite impressed with the ease of the user interface. The online storage of the documents is encrypted and provides good data security.

At the launch Keith Madeley introduced the company and also spoke about the Middleton Railway, which will soon (in 2012) have its 200-year anniversary of the world-wide-first successful use of a steam locomotive in a commercial context (coal transport).

Also attending were the Lord Mayor of Leeds (Councillor James McKenna and Councillor Andrea McKenna), HM Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire (Michael S Fox), and the Venerable Peter Burrows, Archdeacon of Leeds. We had a nice chat about the Berlin Stadtschloss and discussed if it should be rebuilt or not.