Archive for February, 2017

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 4

Sunday, 19 February, 2017

Tuesday 31 January, 2017. 19:20

I didn’t sleep very well, and struggled out of bed when the alarm went off at 08:00. After a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, I went down for the first talks of the day at the conference.

Today there were sessions on image quality measurement and the image processing pipeline, as well as a plenary talk on “Making virtual reality better than reality”. This talk was mostly about the challenges of producing a convincing 3D experience that avoids clashes between the different 3D cues. A good part of the talk was actually about differences in people’s eyesight, and the fact that people with different refractive errors respond differently to the monocular lens accommodation cue. A particularly interesting finding was that people over about 40 years old and developing presbyopia show such poor accommodation that it actually provides a worse 3D experience if you change the focus distance of the virtual image, since rather than accommodating for it, such people merely see a blurry image. So you have to design your VR headsets to work differently with people of different vision or ages.

Google 360
Monkey with a Google 360 VR camera array

Read more: technical demos at the conference, and the conference organising committee lunch

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 3

Sunday, 19 February, 2017

Monday 30 January, 2017. 19:14

The first day of the conference began with me waking up about 07:20 thanks to the light of the sunrise. I had a couple of the bagels I’d bought last night with cream cheese, and then did some stretching exercises to relieve the sore leg muscles from all the walking. I slept for most of the night, but woke up briefly a bit.

I headed downstairs to the conference in time for the opening talk at 08:50. Throughout the day I attended all the talks for the Digital Photography and Mobile Imaging (DPMI) conference stream, for which I am on the organising committee. There are parallel talks in other themed streams all going on at the same time, about seven or eight usually going on at any one time. The only exception was the conference-wide plenary talk held immediately after lunch, on large scale gigapixel imaging for microscopy. The other talks in DPMI were on a range of topics from camera arrays, depth imaging, image reconstruction, capture for immersive VR, and image quality assessment.

I bumped into various people I knew: Stuart and Quan from home, Nicolas who moved to Apple from CiSRA, as well as Jackson and Paul from Apple, Norman from Imatest, Margaret from Nvidia, and Francisco, formerly from Canon in San Jose, but now out of a job following the recent disbandment of his research team there. I got introduced to a number of other people who were hanging with them, but I don’t remember much who they were.

Pear salad, Max's
Pear salad at Max’s

For lunch, I decided to try walking to Burlingame, after Stuart said he’d tried yesterday and failed because of some street blockage due to roadwork. I thought I could probably walk around it, since I knew exactly where I needed to get to, but when I reached the blockage and tried to go around, I found it was much more extensive than I had realised, and indeed there was no way through, on either side of the road. So I turned back, thinking about where to go for lunch. Passing Max’s, a sort of diner restaurant, I spotted Paul and Margaret with a few other people, and called out to them. They suggested I join them for lunch, which I accepted, making us a party of seven.

Not much more: lunch at Max’s, and the conference reception with dinner

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 2

Sunday, 19 February, 2017

Sunday, 29 January, 2017. 20:36

Today was a very active day, with over 22 km of walking through the city of Pacifica, which is on the coast just south of San Francisco. After a restless night in which I didn’t get nearly enough sleep, I got up a bit before 07:30 and had a shower, then headed out to get a taxi to Rockaway Beach. This is almost due west of where I’m staying, just over on the ocean side of the peninsula, but there are steep mountains and the San Andreas Lake in the way, so you have to go around those.

I asked the hotel concierge to call a taxi for me, as I couldn’t get the Uber app working last night. The guy who helps guests with transport at the front of the hotel didn’t know where Rockaway Beach was, and when I told the taxi driver he didn’t know either. I had to tell him Pacifica, which turns out to be the name of the city area where Rockaway Beach is. And when we arrived there, with me using a GPS map tracking app to make sure I was going to the right place, I realise why he’d never heard of it. Rockaway Beach is a tiny settlement with just a couple of blocks of small businesses and maybe a handful of houses, with two motels right by the waterfront at the tiny beach.

The fare was nearly $60, so I gave the driver $70 with a tip. He asked me how I was going to get back to my hotel, and said there weren’t going to be any taxis here. I just said I’d figure it out and thanked him for his service. He was a cheerful chap who chatted with me during the ride, telling me how the Pacifica area used to be fashionable, but now after the tsunami threats have become well known, nobody wants to buy there any more.

View from Breakers
View from Breakers diner, Rockaway Beach

Read more: Diner breakfast, walking over Mori Point, Pacifica State Beach, and San Pedro Valley County Park

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 1

Tuesday, 14 February, 2017

Saturday, 28 January, 2017. 19:40. Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Hotel

I took a taxi to the airport in Sydney at midday, arriving in plenty of time for my 15:00 flight. It turned out to be delayed a bit in departing though. I met Quan from work and Stuart who used to work with us, both catching the flight to the same conference, Electronic Imaging 2017. We made a joke that Donald Trump might cancel the ESTA visa waiver program while we were in flight, and that we’d all be turned back at San Francisco airport. As it turned out, this wasn’t far from the truth, with news on out landing including the fact that some people with Green Cards were in fact now being turned away from US ports of entry.

I’d used a bunch of frequent flyer points to reserve an exit row seat, but this may not have been particularly efficient. The flight was mostly empty, and nearly everyone in economy had one or two empty seats next to them, while I was stuck in the middles seat between two large guys who had also bothered to pay extra for an exit row because they were big and wanted the extra legroom. The row of four middle seats across the aisle and right behind the bulkhead near us was completely empty as we took off. A flight attendant whispered to us that we should keep an eye on those seats and one of us could try to grab them. But as soon as the seat belt sign was turned off after take off, we looked around, and there was a woman already lying across all four of the seats. She stayed there for the entire flight.

For the first meal I had chicken cacciatore, which came with green beans and polenta. In the middle of the flight we got a hot gözleme, with cheese and something else inside. The breakfast before landing in San Francisco was a frittata with leek, plus sausage, bacon, and baked beans. I tried to snooze during the flight, but don’t think I did.

The entry at San Francisco had been somewhat streamlined, with automated booths for taking fingerprints and photos, but mine didn’t seems to work even after a few attempts at scanning the prints, so I had to go to a manual process with a person anyway. But without luggage, I got through quicker than Quan and Stuart, and said I’d meet them at the hotel shuttle pickup. But I want out on the arrivals level, and only after asking someone figured out the shuttles left from the departure level upstairs. By the time I got there a shuttle was waiting and Quan and Stuart were already getting on!

At the hotel, we checked in and I agreed to meet Stuart at 11:00, in about fifteen minutes. I raced to my room and had a quick shower before returning to the lobby. where i waited a few minutes more for Stuart. We planned to go into San Francisco to get some clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, which Stuart had been told he had to do. Since this was precisely my plan too, I offered to take him to Boudin Bakery at Pier 39.

We walked from the hotel to Millbrae BART station and added some cash to the two old tickets I still had from my last trip here. While there, an old lady asked us for help in loading cash onto her Clipper card, which we had no idea how to do, but worked out by following the prompts, which seemed to help the lady, so that was good. We caught the train to Powell Street and got off there to walk up through Union Square and over to Grant Avenue, where we walked north through Chinatown, avoiding the much steeper hills of the streets a block or two west.

Lucky red
Firecracker remains on Grant Avenue

Read more: lunch at Pier 39, the Musée Mécanique, chocolate sundaes, and brurgers, oh my