DM's USA and Japan 2016 Diary

Day 4 - Conference, Canon dinner

Tuesday, 16 February, 2016

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The morning rolled along leisurely, as I got up at 7:30 to go down and buy some milk and yoghurt from the lobby cafe. I also got an apple for morning tea, since I'd be having a late lunch. We ate some Grape Nuts and then prepared for the day. M. planned to walk to Cow Hollow, along Grant Avenue to Washington Square and then along Union Street to the shops in Cow Hollow.

I, on the other hand, had the second day of the conference. The morning session was about image filtering and denoising, which isn't particularly exciting for me, but worth knowing about. One paper was the award winning best paper of the Digital Photography conference, which I helped judge, about using genetic programming techniques to develop image filters useful for restoring degraded images. It was a cool paper, and a cool talk, even though it was given by the main author's Ph.D. supervisor rather than the main author, who had been caught in traffic and didn't arrive in time!

Multi-sensory VR gaming
Demo of a computer game with immersive 3D VR graphics via the headset, plus surround fans and heat lamps for wind and heat effects.

After the coffee break I attended a session from the Material Modelling and Reproduction of Material Appearance conference. First was an invited talk about imaging refractive objects, that is objects which are transparent and that you can only see because they refract light, like glass. He went into some details of Schleiren imaging, which is a way to make phase changes in light caused by refraction visible, and presented some cool examples of modifying Schleiren imaging to do new things. However, at one point the speaker said, "Ask questions at any time." This is kind of stepping on the chairperson's job, and also an invitation for disaster, as was clearly demonstrated when someone interrupted to ask a question about something they didn't understand, which was explained in great detail two slides ago, thus forcing the speaker to explain it all again, when most of the audience already understood it.


Following this talk there were three talks about material appearance modelling, basically finding ways to represent and calculate how physical objects look based on scanning and mathematical modelling. I ducked out of the third one to move to a different room to one of the parallel conferences on Colour, for a talk about using the Retinex visual model to process astronomical photos. I thought this would be a technical talk involving astrophysics and imaging, but it turned out to be an imaging guy who takes his own astro photos as a hobby just trying to make them look nicer. It was moderately interesting, but had no astronomy in it.

This talk ended at 12:40, and Shaenon was going to meet me at 13:00 in the lobby for lunch. So I went back to the hotel room to drop off my laptop bag. On the way through the lobby I saw, and heard, a Chinese dragon dance, with two people in a dragon costume dancing to the sound of two other people playing Chinese drums. Presumably this was a thing for the Chinese New Year. After dropping my things, I came down to wait, and found Shaenon already there in the lobby, with her boy Robin, 19 months old.

We walked out to get lunch, looking at a few places nearby before settling on the Pinecrest Diner just on the next block. Shaenon got a chicken pesto sandwich, while I tried a reuben. Robin ate Shaenon's dill pickle and some chips, making a bit of a mess, but not too much. He also seemed to like eating the ice out of Shaenon's water glass. And when the waitress moved his stroller to the back room, he kept wandering back there to check on it.

Reuben sandwich at Pinecrest Diner.

Shaenon and I chatted about comics and Kickstarters and Patreon and also some other random stuff, like about my trip, and what she'd been doing lately. The reuben I ate was okay, but not as good as ones I've had in Baltimore and Salem on the east coast. Shaenon actually said when I ordered it that San Francisco wasn't really the best place for reubens. After eating, we wandered over to Union Square, where artists had displays of canvases for sale set up all over the square. Robin chased pigeons and dogs and examined flowers while we chatted some more. Eventually I had to return to the conference and we had a stranger take a few photos of the three of us before we parted company. Shaenon walked back to the BART station while I headed back to the hotel.

The afternoon sessions began with another plenary talk, this time by Ren Ng, inventor of the Lytro, the first consumer lightfield camera. He talked about lightfield photography in the context of the new areas it opened up in terms of sensor design, lens design, and software pipeline for future photography. The extra dimensions sampled by lightfield photography can make use of much higher sensor pixel counts than make sense for conventional photography, so he predicted pixel counts will rise rapidly once lightfield capture becomes more common, to as high as 1000 megapixels. He showed how software can remap lightfield rays from aberrated pixels back to their proper places, essentially synthesising an ideal, aberration free image from a lightfield capture using a relatively simple, light, and cheap lens design. This was something I hadn't considered before, and I see how it could be revolutionary for future camera design in terms of size and cost, which is quite exciting. And you can get images better than even the best quality lenses as you're synthesising a perfect lens with zero aberrations. So it was a pretty cool talk.

After the break I attended more Digital Photography talks, this session about high dynamic range imaging. There was one about producing HDR video from interlaced rows of pixels captured at different ISO speeds, which looked pretty cool. One about recovering HDR colours from saturated pixels by extrapolating out of range colour channel values from unsaturated channels in the same pixel or nearby pixels. The results from this also looked very good. And the last talk was about constructing an algorithm to determine if a scene needs to be shot in an HDR mode, or if a standard exposure is enough. This was somewhat less interesting. This took me to 16:30, but there were still more talks in other conferences, so I switched rooms and took in a couple of the late talks in the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference, which were both about creating autostereoscopic displays, i.e. 3D displays that don't require special glasses to view.

I returned to the hotel room about 17:10, and ran into M. in the lift lobby as she was just returning from her day out. She had spent the entire day walking down to Cow Hollow and back, taking a detour through the Middle Polk neighbourhood along the way, which she'd discovered by chance as she walked past. She said it was a good exploration and saw lots of interesting shops and cafes and things.

Key way
Street sculpture on corner of Stevenson Street and 3rd Street.

We rested in the room for a bit before dinner. I had an organised Canon group dinner with colleagues from several offices around the world. M. was invited to join us, but she felt it would be too businessy and decided not to go. Instead, we walked together down to the Pinecrest Diner where I'd had lunch to see if they'd do a sandwich to go. M. got a toasted swiss cheese sandwich with fries, and I had to leave here there to head over to the Canon dinner venue, while she waited for her sandwich to take back to eat at the hotel.

The Canon dinner was at Osha Thai on Third Street, south of Market Street. I walked over and went in at 19:30, to find most of the others there already. We got a long table in the middle of the dimly lit restaurant, and Francisco ordered a round of appetisers for everyone. I sat next to Mike and Mike, two guys from Canon USA in New York, Maria and Christophe from Océ in Paris, and Manuel from Canon USA in San Jose. One weird thing on the menu was lychees, crumbed and fried, and stuffed with mozzarella cheese! That's a very Americanised "Thai" dish! For my main meal I had the green curry chicken, which was pretty good, very flavoursome. But the cutlery provided was a knife and fork! I'm used to eating Thai with a fork and spoon, like they do in Thailand, and felt so weird eating with a fork that I asked the waitress for a spoon. I also had a glass of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc to go with it, which was nice.

Green curry, Osha Thai
Green curry chicken, Osha Thai.

I left the dinner earlier than anyone else, as I wanted to get back to the hotel and M. before it got too late. When I got in she was reading in bed. She showed me a photo of her dinner. The take away sandwich and fries had come with nine(!) packets of ketchup, as well as multiple sachets of salt and pepper.

I had a shower, wrote up this diary, and was ready to turn in for the night.

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