August 2011 Archives

Prof. Holly Yanco has been granted senior membership status in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). She was presented with a certificate at the 25th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence on August 9, 2011. Yanco was one of nine people selected for senior membership this year, which is the first year that AAAI has named senior members.  

Yanco has been involved with AAAI since exhibiting her robots, Bert and Ernie, at the 1992 conference. Since then, she has served in a number of roles. In 1997, she chaired the Robot Exhibition, and, in 2000 and 2001, she co-chaired the Robot Competition and Exhibition.  She served as the Chair of the AAAI Symposium Committee from 2002–2005. In 2006, she was elected as a member of AAAI’s Executive Council and served until her term ended in 2009. She is currently a member of AI Magazine’s Editorial Board.

Prof. Holly Yanco becomes one of nine inaugural Senior Members of AAAI at 25th anniversary conference, August 9, 2011.
Professors Holly Yanco and Benyuan Liu were invited guests at the twelfth Microsoft Faculty Summit, held from July 18 to 20, 2011, in Redmond, Washington.

Yanco and Liu have each received an award from Microsoft Research, and were among an elite group of only 300 computer science researchers world-wide who were invited to the Summit.

Prof. Liu recently received an equipment grant from Microsoft Research to introduce Windows 7 phones and mobile cloud services (Project Hawaii) in his offering of 91.564 Data Communications II. Students were very excited about the opportunity to use the advanced mobile cloud technologies from Microsoft Research, and developed a variety of mobile app projects ranging from smartphone RSS news reader to providing various services for the community.

Prof. Yanco was at the Faculty Summit as part of her collaboration with Microsoft on human-robot interaction using the Microsoft Surface. While there, she learned more about Microsoft’s ongoing research in Natural User Interfaces (NUI), including the recent SDK release for the Kinect.  

Microsoft produced a special news video and blog posting describing the work that Yanco’s Robotics Lab has conducted using the Microsoft Surface. The video, entitled “Learn How Robots Can Help When Disaster Strikes,” can be viewed here.

Robotics Lab’s “DREAM Controller” system for interacting with a robot, implemented on Microsoft Surface. (Image from “Learn How Robots Can Help When Disaster Strikes” video.)
Alexander Baumann, a doctoral student in UMass Lowell’s Computer Science department and researcher at the Institute for Visualization and Perception Research (IVPR), successfully defended his doctoral dissertation on May 9, 2011. Dr. Baumann’s research and thesis, entitled “The Design and Implementation of Weave: a Session State Driven, Web-Based Visualization Framework,” was advised by Prof. Georges Grinstein of the Computer Science department.

Baumann’s research focused on the design and development of Weave, a web-based data visualization framework that is now available under an open source license. Dr. Baumann oversaw the development of this software package from its original design to the current implementation with his research on a novel windowing environment for web-based data visualization that allows transitions between many types of user interactions and layouts.

Baumann’s work was funded by the Open Indicators Consortium (OIC), which was founded to both develop this platform and offer a community of learning for not-for-profits and government agencies who deal with indicator data, or custom measures that track progress towards a goal or quality of an entity. The agile development process was used to provide the members with regular releases and use their feedback to drive feature design and evolution.

Dr. Baumann extended many of the concepts of the earlier desktop-based Universal Visualization Platform in whose development he participated. He led the team in its first Weave designs, and through the feedback from the OIC, extended that design to provide a more flexible and customizable framework for web-based data visualizations. The new design supports dynamic customizable layouts, visualizations targeted to different levels of users, and exploratory data visualization, all within a novel windowing environment.

Prof. Grinstein noted that there are already many users of the software ranging from small communities to cities such as Boston, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta, to states such as Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, with many more anticipated users.

Dr. Baumann has accepted a position as Software Product Developer at Knome, a genome sequencing platform company in Cambridge, MA founded in 2007 by Harvard Geneticist George Church. KNome has just received $5 million of an expected $20 million equity round of funding.

Dr. Baumann’s dissertation committee readers were Dr. William Mass (Economic and Social Development of Regions) and Dr. Haim Levkowitz (Computer Science). Baumann's thesis document is archived on ProQuest.

The novel windowing environment within Weave. The image at the top left shows a single map tool with quality of life index data for each country within a movable, resizable, customizable window. At the bottom of this image is the minimized tool area that windows are moved to when minimized using an animated transition. When this area is hovered over with a mouse, the size of it increases to show screenshots of the minimized tools, and the name of the window is shown in a tooltip. Clicking on a tool restores it to its original layout. The windowing environment allows defining static layouts such as the Lowell foreclosure example: tools can be resized, positioned and customized and then turned to a static view that removes all windowing controls and fixes their position and sizes.
On March 21, 2011, Alessandro Agnello successfully defended his Master’s thesis, entitled “Design and evaluation of an Android/Web based system for acquiring users’ physical activity with minimal interaction.” This work was supported by adviser Dr. Haim Levkowitz.

Agnello developed an Android application that tracks a user’s physical activity using sensors built into most Android phones (primarily, GPS and accelerometer data). The application then analyzes the collected data and verifies that the user is actually doing physical activity (e.g., identifying running vs. sitting in a moving car).

Upon ending a session (shutting down the application or user selection), the application communicates with a web server and sends the user’s current physical activity completed. A corresponding web site displays different measurements of the user’s physical activity (by week, month, or year). Additionally, the web site offers RSS feeds dedicated to help motivate the user to continue their physical activity.

As this is application part of a framework for what could be a complete solution, Agnello designed this project in a modular structure for easy porting.  The technologies used in the development of this work were the Android operating system, PHP, MySQL and HTML. Dr. Guanling Chen served as thesis reader for the project.

Screenshot of Agnello’s Distance Watcher web site that accompanies the project’s Android phone app.

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