Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tech Vista '08, Oct 1 2008@ Chennai

In your life there might be many memorable moments and events. At times you might have even felt that if you had missed that event it would have been one big blunder. Tech Vista 2008 is one such event which is in the Black box of my heart.
Tech Vista is Microsoft Research India’s annual Symposium for students, teaching fraternity and Scientist to interact and share their views. More than thousand of students and staff attend the symposium on Microsoft Research.
Tech Vista 2008 was held on 1st October 2008 at Chennai Convention Centre, Chennai. The event was organized by many student volunteers and Chennai Microsoft Student Partners. I came to know that this time there were more than 1400 participants.
As a Computer Science student I was very eager as Prof. John Hopcroft , Author of our Theory of Computation text book was the keynote speaker.

@Day Before the event :)
For this event we were supposed to pre - register a month before. Unfortunately due to our developer conference and mahendra college event we couldn't find time to register. We were trying to find some or the other way to participate, but all in vain. Then At last I would say "Microsoft Student partner program" to the rescue. We received an invitation mail from Microsoft on 29th Of September 2008 @ about 11:00 pm. Immediately I called up Abhishek, Sundar and Madan(Jyothi had already registered so I dint) whether they were interested in coming. After a long conversation we decided at about 1:00 am to go and planned to leave evening itself.

@ 1st October 2008, Chennai Convention centre:
It was huge and I haven't seen that big auditorium anywhere(As me and Sundar where the ones who searched the whole Coimbatore for finding an Auditorium for developer Conference).
Microsoft tech vista banners and hangouts were everywhere and all the way to The hall. There were tight checking and a very long queue for the registration. The auditorium itself was super cool and highly professional(obviously its Microsoft's event).

@ Morning Session:
Dr.P.Anandan started the event by introducing all the guests. He explained about the recent project undergone by Microsoft Research-India in colloboration with Department of Science and Technology (DST) , “India Digital Heritage Project” i.e. With the help of Photosynth to show the history and heritage of Srivilliputhur Andal temple . It was really nice to see how technology can be used to propagate Tourism. A group of people took all possible snaps in and around the temple and created it. Even the explanation of the deity with the help of videos was too cool.

The first session was by Prof. John Hopcroft, IBM Professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics in Computer Science at Cornell University. Prof. Hopcroft has also been honored with the A.M. Turing Award.He is also the author of our "Theory of Computation" text book. He said that the book was his class notes in 1960s.
His lecture was on Computer Science in the Future. How to effectively use all the information available online and how it will improve over next few years. I liked his example of how we can plan our entire tour with the details available online. Like at time we always have the problem of flight delay or train delay. It usually happens due to the change in climatic condition or some unavoidable problems. But With the help of online resources we can find the climatic condition in that particular location where we wish to go and schedule accordingly.

The next one was Dr. Rick Szeliski, Group Lead, Interactive Visual Media Group, Microsoft Research. He was elected an IEEE fellow in 2004.
He spoke on Weaving the World's Photos. He explained us how the entire world can be modeled and visualized with the help of Massive Photo Collections. Guys who have seen the photosynth video already knew him because he and his team were the ones who released Photosynth and Hdview. He explained how exactly photosynth work and how it would help us in the future.

The next one was my favorite that made me tighten my seat belts (lol !). It was by Prof. Shafi Goldwasser , RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and of computer science and applied mathematics at Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Prof. Goldwasser has won Gödel Prize twice, first in 1993, and again in 2001.
She gave a lecture on Program Obfuscation and One-Time Programs. We all know that if we simply check the source code of any application that is password protected , we can easily crack the password . But if the Entire code is made difficult to understand then it might be difficult for anybody to crack the password, this is known as program obfuscation. I liked the way she explained the whole session. First she explained the threats in application that are password protected, then how it can be protected with help of program obfuscation, next the benefits of the software that obfuscate, next the problem faced when the software is used and at last the best solution for protection, i.e. to use both hardware and software for program obfuscation and also the use of a hardware key she called “Read Once Key” to support execution of any program in a predefined number of times only.

After that all the three of them were invited to the dias for Q and A session. Actually they had given all of us a paper where we were supposed to write questions. These papers were collected and given to the speakers. I liked this methodology as it reduces a lot of time.

@During Lunch

TechVista also featured a poster session where the best projects from computer sciences and electrical engineering by PhD students from India’s leading technical institutions were showcased and cash awards to the tune of Rs.2.25 lakhs were given out. So all the students who were undergoing PhD presented their projects.

@Afternoon Session
The afternoon session was kicked off by Dr. Rick Rashid , Senior Vice President, Microsoft Research. Dr. Rashid was awarded with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Emanuel R. Piore Award in 2008. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2003 and 2008 respectively.
His lecture was on Making an Impact, Microsoft Research. He spoke on the various fields and area were Microsoft is undergoing Research. After this everyone were dumbstruck as no one knew that Microsoft was involved in Research in those field were no one could ever imagine. Like he explained the research on Computation Biology for curing AIDS. He also explained BOKU (which I have posted earlier).

Prof. Shree Nayar , T. C. Chang Chaired Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academies, Washington DC in 2008, and received the NTT Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the NTT Basic Research Laboratory, Japan, in 1994.
He spoke on Computational Cameras: Redefining the Image. The entire session with demos and the projects he worked was truly awesome. His explanation on direct light and general light was amazing. He explained with a demo, how direct light can help us find whether an object in original or duplicate.

The last one was by Dr. Vijay Chandru Chairman, Co-Founder Chief Executive Officer, Strand Life Sciences. He is an academic turned Entrepreneur. A Co-founder of Strand Life Sciences, a leading in silico life sciences company, he currently serves as Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of the company. He also co-founded the Association of Biotech led Enterprises (ABLE) and continues to serve as an executive council member. Dr. Chandru is the recipient of several awards and honors.
He spoke on Computational Biology and Vice Versa. He explained how Biology and Computation are inter-dependant. I tried to listen to the session as our HOD is currently undergoing his PhD in this field and thought of impressing him, but all in vain lolz. :D

@ After the event :D
I came to know that the company spends more than half of its profit for research and research is something that is really important for any companies or nations growth. I personally felt TechVista truly highlights the impact research has in various fields and also gave me a second thought of choosing research as a career. Choosing Research as a career not only helps you earn a lot but also gives you a satisfaction of achieving some thing in life.

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