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UW CSE News

DawgBytes midwinter break workshops for high schoolers – Feb 16 and 20

05a231f5-e588-4b89-9760-953062bc9218DawgBytes – “A Taste of CSE,” UW CSE’s K-12 outreach program – will be hosting one-day midwinter break workshops for high school students on February 16 and 20.

Learn more here.

Learn more about the wide range of DawgBytes here.; lots of news on the DawgBytes Facebook page here.

February 5, 2016

Qi Lu and Harry Shum @ UW CSE

qi-ed-harryQi Lu and Harry Shum, two of the four engineering members of Microsoft’s Senior Leadership Team, spent the day at UW CSE today participating in a wide variety of research interactions.

In the photo, Qi and Harry join Ed Lazowska in the wetlab housing a joint project between UW (principally Luis Ceze and Georg Seelig) and Microsoft Research (principally Doug Carmean and Karin Strauss) concerning extremely high density DNA-based data storage.

February 2, 2016

UW CSE Women’s Research Day, Saturday January 23

12299373_10100736310055548_5242813163717865055_nA belated post celebrating the second annual UW CSE Women’s Research Day, held on Saturday January 23.

Undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty women from UW CSE, as well as colleagues from regional companies, spent the day in research presentations, panel discussions, lab tours, and a poster session – all celebrating the role of women in the computing research ecosystem in UW CSE and the region.

Facebook page here.

February 2, 2016

NSF CAREER Award to UW CSE’s Shayan Oveis Gharan

shayanUW CSE’s Shayan Oveis Gharan has received an NSF CAREER Award – the 29th UW CSE faculty member to have been recognized through this program and its predecessors.

The NSF CAREER Program “offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.”

Shayan is one of the most recent additions to UW CSE’s Theoretical Computer Science Group. His research focuses on the design and analysis of algorithms. With his coauthors, he gave the first asymptotic improvement in the approximation ratio for the Asymmetric Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) in over 30 years, for which he won the best paper award at SODA 2010. He followed this up by doing the same for the standard TSP problem on graphs, improving Christofides’ famous 3/2 bound from 1976; for that, he won the best paper award at FOCS 2011. Most recently, by proving a generalization of the famous Kadison-Singer Conjecture, Shayan and Nima Amari have given an improved bound on the integrality gap of the classical Held-Karp relaxation for Asymmetric TSP. In addition to his work in approximation algorithms, Shayan is well-known for fundamental contributions in algorithmic spectral graph theory.

Congratulations Shayan!

February 1, 2016

Computer Science For All

POTUS_CodeThis morning President Obama announced Computer Science For All, a $4 billion initiative to empower all American students from Kindergarten through high school to learn computer science and computational thinking.

Congratulations to Jan Cuny (NSF), Hadi Partovi (Code.org), Megan Smith (US CTO), and the many others who have worked so hard over so many years to get us to this point.

Now the question is: Will Washington State up its game?

Learn more here.

January 30, 2016

UW computer scientists are working on a way for you to talk to the dead

Supasorn Suwajanakorn

Supasorn Suwajanakorn (photo credit: Abhishek Sugam)

Advances in computing have disrupted many industries, from financial services and retail, to travel and real estate. Could psychic readings be next?

In a story posted on MyNorthwest.com, KIRO Radio reporter Rachel Belle foresees the day when you will be able to interact with a 3-D model of your dearly departed. And it will all be thanks to members of UW CSE’s GRAIL Group. From the article:

“Five years ago I sat down with my Grandma Sue and a tape recorder and interviewed her for two hours. I asked her to tell me stories of her childhood in New York City, her marriage, anything about her life. I learned that she got married at 16 years old in a jail, along with several other young women and their soldier fiancés. They later divorced and, on tape, she advised me not to marry a bum.

“Unfortunately, a few weeks later I accidentally deleted the recording. And before I could schedule another visit to re-record, she died. Now, the only recording I have of Grandma Sue’s thick, New York accent is a five second video on an old, out-of-service cellphone.

“What if you could have one more conversation with someone who passed away? Or many conversations? Would you do it? Eventually, this may be possible. Computer scientists at the University of Washington are working on bringing photos and video to life.”

Belle is referring to research by CSE graduate student Supasorn Suwajanakorn and professors Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman and Steve Seitz in which they construct and animate 3-D models of celebrities from photos and videos. The project—What Makes Tom Hanks Look Like Tom Hanks?—is attracting a lot of interest and promises to advance the state of the art in animation and augmented reality.

We predict you will want to read the full article here, and check out our past coverage of the project here.

necroIMPORTANT ADDENDUM: Richard Anderson notes that the recent research by Suwajanakorn, Kememacher-Shlizerman and Seitz ignores prior work on “Necrocomputing” carried out in 2001 by UW CSE Ph.D. student Craig Kaplan, now a faculty member at the University of Waterloo. We regret this lapse in scholarship. See Kaplan’s talk on the subject here.

January 27, 2016

At Davos, Microsoft President Brad Smith highlights UW’s role

IMG_0181-1150-630x420

At Davos, Microsoft President Brad Smith points to the UW “solar system” in the Seattle Tech Universe map

At a Davos event hosted by his alma mater Princeton University, Microsoft President Brad Smith used the Seattle Tech Universe map to illustrate “the connection between leading universities and innovation ecosystems, using the University of Washington as an example.”

GeekWire article here. More information on the Seattle Tech Universe map here.

January 26, 2016

Daphne Koller delivers first annual Ben Taskar Memorial Lecture

Daphne Koller at UWUW CSE professor Ben Taskar passed away tragically, in his 30’s, in 2013, of sudden and severe heart failure.

UW CSE has commemorated Ben in a number of ways, including the establishment of the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, and of the annual Ben Taskar Memorial Lecture.

Today, the inaugural Ben Taskar Memorial Lecture was delivered to a packed house by Ben’s Stanford Ph.D. advisor and founder of Coursera, Daphne Koller.

The event began with remarks honoring Ben by UW CSE professor Carlos Guestrin – like Ben, a Daphne Koller Ph.D. alumnus and machine learning star – and a overview of the Taskar Center by its director (and Ben’s wife) Anat Caspi.

Daphne followed her own remarks honoring Ben with an inspirational talk describing the mission and impact of Coursera.

“Anyone, anywhere can transform their life by accessing the world’s best learning experience.”

That is the vision of Coursera, which has transformed access to higher education through a robust platform for delivering massive open online courses (MOOCs) to people around the world.

Daphne talked about the growth of Coursera as an online learning platform and the impact that it has had on learners and instructors. She shared some impressive numbers: four years ago, the first online courses offered by Stanford reached around 100,000 learners. Today, Coursera has surpassed 17 million registered learners around the globe, with more than 130 institutions and 1,000 instructors offering classes on the platform (including the UW, which was an early partner). And it is opening up pathways to learning for people who would not otherwise have access to quality higher education: 40% of active learners on Coursera are from emerging economies.

The data tell a compelling story on their own, but Daphne also shared personal anecdotes that illustrate the tremendous impact that Coursera and MOOCs in general have had on people’s lives around the globe—real people who gained access to a world of learning they otherwise would not have had.

In keeping with the day’s theme of accessibility, Daphne shared the touching story of Jerry Vickers. Vickers was diagnosed with ALS, for which the life expectancy is around 18 months. After losing his ability to move his limbs, Vickers spent what precious time remained of his life studying programming and a variety of other subjects on Coursera using a tablet controlled with his eye movements. From the Indian baker who took business classes so she could save her female friends from being sold into servitude, to the professor whose course about human trafficking enabled victims to pursue restitution for their own tragic experiences with it, Daphne’s stories revealed what a powerful—and empowering—tool MOOCs have become for both learners and instructors.

The standing-room-only lecture capped off a day of workshops and events focused on accessibility to mark the first anniversary of UW CSE’s Taskar Center for Accessible Technology. Today’s program was a terrific way to honor Ben’s memory, and a terrific celebration of the work being done at the Taskar Center. Many thanks to Daphne for sharing the Coursera story with us.

January 21, 2016

AAAI shows UW CSE’s Dieter Fox some love with its Classic Paper Award

RHINO and museum visitors

Museum visitors interact with RHINO the robot

A paper co-authored by UW CSE professor Dieter Fox in his graduate student days was one of two papers selected this year for special recognition by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) with its Classic Paper Award, which recognizes papers that have been the most influential in the field. AAAI will show Fox and his colleagues the love during the opening ceremony of its 2016 conference on February 14th in Phoenix, Arizona.

The winning paper, “The Interactive Museum Tour-Guide Robot,” was originally presented at the 15th National Conference on Artificial Intelligence held in 1998 in Madison, Wisconsin. In it, the research team described RHINO, an autonomous, interactive robot that was designed to entertain and assist the public in highly dynamic environments.

Dieter Fox

Dieter Fox

The team focused on two priorities when building RHINO: achieving safe and reliable navigation at high speeds, and providing an intuitive and appealing user experience. Fox and his colleagues incorporated a number of innovations in localization, mapping, collision avoidance, and planning into RHINO’s software to enable it to operate under challenging conditions without having to modify the environment to aid its navigation. Because RHINO’s main purpose was to interact with people, they also placed special emphasis on user interaction, taking care to make the robot interface intuitive and user-friendly for non-experts—a relatively new concept in robotics research at the time. The team then put RHINO through its paces over the course of six days in the crowded Deutsches Museum Bonn in Germany. In addition to visitors interacting with RHINO in person, people around the world had the ability to control RHINO remotely via the Web.

In a related article on the RHINO experiment, the team noted that while most people found the robot entertaining, some took the entertainment too far and attempted to “break the system.” (In at least one case, someone who must not have received enough affection as a child attempted to lead RHINO dangerously close to a stairwell.) Happily, such attempts failed, and the robot was able to fulfill a total of 2,400 requests to tour the museum, either in-person or online—a whopping 99.75% success rate.

Fox’s Ph.D. research was a significant contribution to the paper, which was co-authored by Fox’s advisor, Armin Cremers, and colleagues at the University of Bonn, Aachen University of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University. Their RHINO experiment pointed to the future of robotics with its focus on adaptability and human-computer interaction. It was a truly astounding result at the time, for which the team deserves this accolade from the AAAI today.

Congratulations, Dieter!

January 21, 2016

Business Insider: Washington’s economy ranks No. 1 in the nation

seattle_skyline-1-680x380“We ranked the economies of all the states and DC on seven measures: Unemployment rates; GDP per capital; average weekly wages; recent growth rates for nonfarm payroll jobs; GDP; house prices; and wages,” Business Insider explained.

In ranking Washington state #1, Business Insider said:

“Washington state scored extremely well on most of our metrics. Its Q2 annualized Gross Domestic Product growth was a stunning 8.0 percent, by far the highest among the states and D.C.  The November 2015, average weekly wage of $1,073 was the second highest in the country, and was 5.6 percent higher than the weekly wage in November of 2014.”

Read the full report here. Washington slide here.

January 20, 2016

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