San Francisco diary – Day 4: 4 Feb 2014


We are relaxing for the evening after an early dinner tonight.

We got up again at 07:30, and I got ready to go to the conference. I had slept better, but not great, and was tired. I also wanted to go over my conference talk, which I was due to give at 11:20 this morning. So I skipped the first session of the conference, which was a conference-wide plenary talk on functional MRI and the human vision system. Instead I sat in a rest area near the conference rooms and went over my talk, then had an apple before going in for my session.

There were three talks before mine and two after. M. wanted to see me give my talk, so she popped in at about 11:15 and stood near the back. There were about 100 people in the audience, with several standing at the back. My talk began on time and went reasonably well, but I left only a short time at the end for a couple of questions. They were straightforward, and then I sat down and watched the next two talks. M. left for the hotel lobby to read a bit, where I met her after the session finished and I had a short chat with some people who were interested in my talk.

We walked towards the Alexander Book Company store on 2nd St, stopping for lunch along the way at a Boudin’s Bakery. M. asked if they could do a grilled cheese sandwich, and the woman said no, but the Boudin’s in the basement of Macy’s would do that, and it was right next door! So we went in there and sat down for lunch. M. had the “great grilled” sandwich on sourdough, while I had a chicken and pesto sandwich on a baguette. They both came with salads.

M. said that in the morning she explored Niemann Marcus, which was filled with designer fashions and was very upmarket. The staff were friendly but very prim and proper. They even had a fur room! That was all she had time for before coming to see my talk.

Johnny Foley's irish House
Irish pub near the Hilton Hotel conference venue.

After lunch we walked to Alexander Books, where I left M. as I had to get back for the afternoon conference session. The talks were about the digital camera image processing pipeline and also an interesting talk about a new type of sensor chip design being developed in Italy, where each pixel is sensitive to different coloured light depending on the bias voltage. This was theoretical models in 2011 when I first attended this conference, but now they have fabricated a prototype chip to show that it works and measured various properties of it.

After the tea break was a panel discussion on the question of “What’s necessary to make mobile cameras the only cameras we use?” There were four panellists. The first was David Cardinal, a professional photographer who showed some of his shots and said you simply couldn’t do them with a phone camera with current technology – you need longer lenses, faster shutter speeds, better autofocus, better response times, better low light performance. That’s what is needed, he concluded. Another panellist said that the question was already moot, phone cameras already are the only cameras 99% of people use! It was a lively discussion and there were a lot of interesting points made. Sabine Süsstrunk said the frustrating thing about phone cameras – and here she showed pictures of an Apple, Nokia, and Samsung – was that the camera lens was smaller than the logo! She said they should cover the entire back of the phone with lenses and flashes, which would give you decent light collecting power and light projecting power, which you could then combine computationally to get a much better image than current phones. The basic message everyone agreed on is that you simply have to increase the photon collecting area before phones can really compete with SLR image quality. One of the panellists said that despite this, 99% of people are happy with camera phones, because they (a) don’t want to lug around a separate camera and (b) they really don’t care that much about image quality. He said t he thing that will save SLRs is having apps on them. If you open them up to third party app developers, people will go nuts with the things they can do with a high quality camera that you can’t do with a phone. But Nikon and Canon are too closed shop to do this. Some other manufacturer will do it first, and that will be the end of Nikon and Canon, because the market won’t support that many manufacturers.

At the end of this discussion, they held a lucky draw for people who had put their business cards into a bowl during the talks. They drew out a few people to win Amazon gift vouchers. Francisco got the first one, and I also won one! Then I headed back over to our hotel to meet M. in our room. She had used the afternoon to check out Barney’s, where she said the staff were snobby, and a shoe warehouse place, and to pick up the Giants T-shirt we’d ordered in at the fan store the other day.

We went out for dinner a bit after 18:00, walking over to Grant Ave and the Japanese restaurant we’d seen there called Mikaku. We both ordered bento box dinners, M.’s with sweet potato maki roll, fried veges and tofu, and tempura veges, mine with mixed nigiri, tempura prawns and veges, and teriyaki beef. We also has vegetable gyoza for a starter. It was okay, with the beef descending to gristly – I should have ordered the chicken or salmon option instead. We finished dinner early and headed back via Walgreens to get some more Grape Nuts, as well as a tub of Ben & Jerry’s

Cherry Garcia for my dessert. Yum!

Then it was back for an early night in to rest, type up this diary, shower, and read before bed.

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