Techvista observations

    I  attented Techvista organized by Microsoft Research yesterday at Taj Residency.It was one helluva of a conference and I had the oppurtunity to listen to some very great speakers.

    The meet was inaugrated by the minister of Science & Technology Kapil Sibal and he spoke very boldly that government should move away from its old mindset towards that of a free market. He expressed a personal opinion that the morning of news of government interfering with the IIM-B is not a good sign and also said that government should release the genius of Indian education. It was very refreshing to see these thoughts come from a politician.

     It was great oppurtunity to be able to listen to two Turing Award winners talk (for those who don’t know about a Turing Award, it is the nobel prize equivalent in the field of computer science).

     The first speaker was  C.R Hoare (Turing Award winner,his claim to fame was the invention of  quicksort) and he gave a talk on his 40 years in Computing.  Coming from classical literature/philosophical background he went to explain his tryst with Computer science and what made him choose this field. It was basically that the  philosophy of mathematics that began posing interesting problems with the coming of computers which intrigued him into this field of CS.

       If one listens to the work of Prof Raj Reddy then there will be no doubt left as to why he deserved a Turing Award, he is doing some of the most pioneering work in the area that he works in. His work involves some of the most hard problems in the field. I have had few oppurtunity to listen to him ( or interact with him) before but those were not about technical talk. ( He is the chairman of my alma-mater). His presentation was on work on creating a universal Digital Library ( US, India & China).

   Two  quotes that he used in his presentation which I like a lot.

“Bill of Rights for Information Society: Getting the right information to the right people, in the right timeframe, in the right language, with the right granularity ” – Jaime Carbonnel (his Colloborator in Research)

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention? – Herbert Simon (Raj Reddy is Herber Simon Professor at CMU) .   This quote is a favourite of mine as it  paraphrase the world that we live in today (from 1995 to date, since the explosion of internet)

Then there was talk by Andrew Zisserman, one of the most noted researcher in the field of Computer Vision. I saw him here for the first time , he looked so young,just like a college graduate but he has been doing research in this field for about 20 years. He holds a PhD degree Theoretical Physics but has been working in  the field of Computer vision immediately after his PhD and his papers are some of the best that in computer vision. His talk was about tracking/searching a face in video. ( dubbed as video google), it was titled as “Finding Julia Roberts” and the demo’s that he had shown were really cool.

Prof Ashok Jhunjunwala was passionate & energetic in his talk and taught a Wireless 101 course to the audience, he is in one guy who knows his wireless funda very well, it rekindle all my old  liking of wireless communication. He was very bold and speaked his mind and made an attempt to help the audience look beyond the hype. His points were really hard hitting. He talked about the latest in the field of wireless communication viz Turbo Coding, Oppurtunistic Scheduling, OFDM , MIMO.He also went on to explain how corDECT developed by his team is far superior than anyother solution especially for the Indian market. Others give at best ( FLASH – OFDM) 4bps/Hz/Cell site whereas corDECT can yield 10bps/Hz/Cell site.

  Later in the evening a discussion panel was organized in the last which I enjoyed thoroughly, the members of the panel were Dr. P. Anandan(moderator) (Director,MSR India & a very well known Computer Vision researcher), Harry Shum (Another hotshot in the field of computer vision , now heading MSR china – this year alone his team sent 10-12 SIGGRAPH papers), Prof. Sadagopan (well known as the founding director of IIIT-B),   director of the MSR Europe division.

  The topic of discussion was about career in advanced research, the discussion started with each member giving each of their perspective of what is it that they like about research, what are its rewards , challenges & sacrifices.   A common theme that emerged that all of them were here because of its intellectual challenge. It yields intellectual freedom  and lets you set your own agenda and build up intellectual knowledge. For all of them research was like a love affair.

Prof Sadagopan also added that situation in India has changed vastly where in the early 70’s due to license raj and other simillar policies there was no incentive for knowledge/research to happen but in these times there are huge space of oppurtunities that have opened up and students should make use of it.  Some pretty interesting questions were also raised by the audience.

  All in all those who were present would have got greatly inspired to do research which is what the agenda of techvista was ,to inspire more students to take up research.

   Also most would have got biased to choose computer vision because majority of speakers were computer vision researchers – Rick Rashid, Dan Ling, Takeo Kanade, Andrew Zisserman, Harry Schum, P.Anandan, Kentaro Toyoma, Raj Reddy. The room was filled with people from Computer vision.  For instance when asked what stream should students choose if they decided to pursue research should,  Dr. Anandan suggested they should just plainly take up Computer Vision and not think twice 🙂

     Now I would say that if you are interested in doing research (in Computer Vision) if you want to do it overseas then you should  go to schools like CMU, Stanford, Oxford Brooks but if you want to do it in India then go to IIT-D or IIIT-H( my alma mater). I would suggest IIIT-H more than IIT-D( you know why :)) well because there are about 5-6 very well known Computer vision faculty at IIIT.


2 thoughts on “Techvista observations

  1. Intersting read, but, personally I really did not enjoy Ashok Jhunjunwala’s talk. I know it did wake up quite a lot of people around but his talk was in no way related to the discussion there. He started by mentioning that he wanted to talk about India. I am not sure if India figured even once when he started his Wireless 101 course.

  2. On the contrary I found Prof Jhunjhunwala’s talk to be very enlightening though I am sure it could have been percieved as puffery when corDECT was explained.
    About India what he meant was that telecom in India was a monopoly perpetuated by regulation and license raj. Now those evil clouds have parted and a golden era is going to be ushered but the next generation is going to broadband and not copper wires. His further point was that if it is going to broadband wireless we need a robust solution for a country like India given its price point & geography. In his inital few slides he tried to throw some light on the hype that is currently in the market about broadband wireless and showed that how it is all hogwash.

    He was asked to talk about research but he wanted to first show the plight of the Indian scenario and stress the point that one has to do research keeping the local problems in mind.

    Research wise in wireless his lab is doing some of the best of the work. I knew that FLASH OFDM is the best out there in next gen wireless but I was taken aback when he went on to say that corDECT is far superior than FLASH OFDM

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