Thursday, August 11, 2011

More on Almaden and San Francisco

Packing to start the long journey home;   meanwhile some more trivia and pictures of notable places.
I have taken one of the days to visit the IBM Almaden Research Center, in San Jose.  This is an impressive place, as seen in the picture it resides in a middle of a nature reserve, on top of a mountain.  I have visited IBM sites in various countries -- Israel, USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, China (hope did not forget anybody),  and Almaden is by far the nicest one, has a very relaxed atmosphere,  and also responsible for some of the breakthroughs of IBM research.    A possible collaboration may lead to more visits- the minus side, it is far away, and 10 hours time difference for a conference calls.

In San Francisco itself,   there are many interesting places,  I have driven (not for the first time) through the famous part of Lombard Street which looks like this:
There was a long queue to enter this part of the road, which required stop and go in a steep hill climbing up, but it was worth the experience.     I also drove on the Golden Bridge and stopped there to find out that it is much colder and foggier than down on earth.    In Pier 39 I found the store for left handed 
known as "Lefty's".   One can purchase clocks that move anti-clockwise and a lot of stuff that can help to improve the life of left-handed people (like can opener,  I gave up on the ability to use can openers many years ago!).   I actually never understood why anti-clockwise clocks are relevant to left handed people, but discovered this time looking at some books that left-handed people always draw circles anti-clockwise (true for me).    I purchased a book for lefties as a present to my daughter Hadas, the only of my daughter which inherited this noble property from me.  I'll write more about lefties after digesting this book, but it is now packed. 

Last trivia item --  in the past I thought that Chinese restaurants are dominants in SF, they surely are present, but it seems that the dominant ones are Japanese.  I ate a lot of Sushi this week (I am a Sushi fan anyway -- the only form in which I eat fish).

Driving up and down the hills  is fun, but fun is over --- driving to the airport soon.

On computational sustainability

Every once in a while I learn a new phrase - the one I have learned today is computational sustainability, in AAAI there is a track dedicated to it, it turns out that there is a community and even an organization (originated in Cornell), their site has a rotating logo, this is one of their logos.  They define computational sustainability as the way that computer scientists can help in improve the ecology, economics and society - pretty large.    They have a "green" orientation and various environmental projects.   The session I attended today in the AAAI track was dedicated to transportation management --  every speaker emphasized the possible impact on the environment -- if people stay less in cars, the amount of CO2 will be reduced,  but the presentations themselves were quite interesting about intersection control in autonomic cars, avoiding starvation and gridlocks, and another talk was about a system deployed in several cities in Oregon, taking reports from the city (in Portland -- periodic every second, in Eugene - event-driven every time that a traffic light is changed) about the traffic light status, displaying the result on mobile phones for subscribers (sounds dangerous to watch while driving) and advises about desired speed to get the green light and advice to go in alternative road,  if they'll have enough subscribers they'll be able to load balance the traffic.  Cool stuff -- they actually process events.  

BTW - I sat in the conference reception in a table with two robotics guys (they are a lot of them here) that deal with autonomic cars,  they said that autonomic cars cannot be trusted to react quickly enough to dangers, so there is actually a human in every car that takes the control when needed.   So the Google driverless car is not entirely driverless nowadays;   this stems from the current limitations in perception and action speed in robotic technology that I've written about before.      

We can label some of the things we are doing as computational sustainability -- a trend to follow!

On event processing and robotics

In my standard presentation about proactive event-driven computing  (I gave one of those in Almaden earlier this week),  I always show these two pictures:   I am about to spill coffee on my laptop, and my robot detects it and grasp the cup.    This is the simplest example to explain the idea and people understand it and typically smiling (or laughing),  in one instance one commented that it is not cost-effective to use robot for these purposes, which is probably true, but he missed the point of what I've tried to do.
BTW -- spilling coffee is something I do always on a daily basis (today I spilled ice-coffee), I am very talented in spilling coffee on everything (though until now not on a laptop, I have a rule of not drinking the coffee too close to the laptop), so having such a robot would be extremely useful to me!   

In the EPTS meeting in Trento we heard a talk by Sebastian Wrede about event-based robotics,  but I admit that I have never followed up with the robotics guys.    

Today in AAAI there has been a keynote talk by Kurt Konolige about robotics,  after the talk I came forward and introduced myself by saying that the closes I came to robotics was reading Asimov books (which  probably was a bad starting-point for a conversation with him), and explained him a little bit about what event processing is and then moved to the coffee spilling scenario.  His reaction was that in the robotics world they deal which more more basic stuff:   How to improve the vision and perception, and how to calibrate the robot's arm to be more accurate, so he thinks that the speed in which the robot will identify that I am going to spill coffee and the accuracy in which he can grasp the cup are not in the level that the current robotic technology can do this scenario -- which does not mean that I'll stop using it!   His message is that before robots will be able to participate in "high level" tasks, as he called what I described to him, there are many "low level" problems to be solved.      Well - I'll have to wait patiently,  or find some other pointer in the robotic community who will be interested in the synergy between robotics and event processing -- I should definitely start active search.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Artificial Intelligence

This morning, in the opening session of AAAI'11  there has been a panel of people who participated in the first instance of AAAI in 1980 who compared AI research then and today.    Hearing them I could not have seeing in my mind the picture of  the late Professor Yeshahayu Leibowitz, maybe the smartest Israeli of our time, who was known in his blunt controversial statements and opinions (e.g. he has been religious, but claimed that religion is just a set of axioms he taken upon himself and had nothing to do with reality).  The reason I remember him is because in the height of the Artificial Intelligence boom he wrote an article in one of the daily newspapers entitled  "Artificial Intelligence - an oxymoron", which claimed that intelligence is inherently a property of a living entity and cannot be artificial.   Since then I always addressed the term AI with a grain of salt.    AI research is very diversified, and there are sessions in this conference about: multi-agent systems, description logics, social networks, machine learning, natural language processing, search, knowledge representation and reasoning, planning, search engines, reasoning under uncertainty and more.    It also seems that like academic research, each paper concentrates on a narrow aspect of one of these areas,  it will probably take integration of all of these and more to create a real artificial intelligence that will break the Turing test.  It does not seem that this is a focus of current AI research, it actually broke away from the attempt to create artificial intelligence to solve specific goals.   Maybe the AI community needs a grand challenge.     The first keynote address was of Dave Ferrucci, the principal investigator of the Watson project who won the Jeopardy! game earlier this year.   It is probably the strength of industrial research that unlike academic research can gather multi-disciplinary people and focus them on a single goals.  Dave told us that in order not to stay focused on the goal, the researchers did not publish a single paper in four years, and started to publish all the scientific results only after the win - this is against the academic DNA, where people are measured on quantity of publications.     Tomorrow another day of AAAI,  starting the l-o-n-g trip home on Thursday.  I also visited the IBM Almaden Research Center yesterday, but will write about Alnaden in a separate post.

Monday, August 8, 2011

AAAI 2011 tutorial on event processing and its challenges

San Francisco.   Just had dinner in an English pub here, it also serves the same food of pubs in England, and the receptionist at the hotel is saying "lift" instead of "elevator",  but I am really not in England, but in San Francisco.  

Today I have given a tutorial together with Yagil Engel in AAAI 2011 about event processing and research challenges in establishing the next generations of event processing that might be of interest to the AI community. 
The tutorial is now available on slideshare.  
 It consists of two parts - the first one is introduction to event processing which is similar to previous talks I have given, and is in essence a short version of the VLDB 2010 tutorial,  the second part talked about the challenges,  the outline slide of the second part can be seen below:

More details in the tutorial itself -- enjoy!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On San Francisco and Storm

Today I had a single day to play a tourist in San Francisco.  Arrived yesterday afternoon, and is planned to stay until Thursday I am attending AAAI 2011, giving a tutorial there tomorrow, and plan some side trips and meetings, meanwhile spent all day out.  Since I have been in SFO many times before (although last time was in 2007!),  I decided to pick up a place that I have never visited before, looking at the brochure that I found at the hotel I chose the Walt Disney Museum, that resides in the Presidio which was a good opportunity to take a look at the Presidio (never been here before).  The Disney museum was interesting and surprisingly I spent there more than four hours (including the Disney old film of the day - the "Absent Minded Professor" in black and white).    Any visit in SFO is not perfect without walking near the bay, and eating sushi in Pier 39 looking at the waves.  San Francisco is one of my favorite cities, although driving here require patience, as the center city is totally congested.     And what about the storm in the title of this posting?  well - the weather here is nice, no storms!,  catching up on news I found a news item entitled "Twitter to open source complex event processing engine",  which of course attracted my interest, but drilling down to the details -- the title is somewhat over-statement.   Twitter has acquired BackType which created Storm, which is a kind of real-time Hadoop, on which one can implement event processing engine, but Storm itself is a platform and does not seem to have event processing language implemented, similar to Yahoo's S4.  It should be noted that there are some similar works that have implemented at least part of the event processing functionality over a kind of real-time Hadoop.  One of them is Colin Clark's DarkStar, the other is HStreaming. 
Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the Twitter is getting there.