I just got back from the CHI conference in Portland Oregon. It was a mix of emotions and experiences, but overall, it was very positive. I participated in a student design competition, and it marked the second time I had done so in as many years. However, my experience in the competition didn’t carry my team through to the second round, which was pretty disappointing. I can’t take anything away from the winners though, especially since they’re from IU, and I know they did top notch work. They even made it through the presentation round without the use of a projector! After the projector failed mid-sentence, they did not break stride and went on to deliver a wonderful message “Life is not a function of technology”. Given their situation, I couldn’t have put it better. All in all, I think they could have improved the judging process. I don’t think they respected the amount of work that the teams put in to this project, and it put me off when I realized how naive some of them were, especially in terms of their understanding of some of the projects, and the misunderstanding of the problem domain itself. All in all though, I think competition brings out the best in people, and I wouldn’t have changed my mind to compete and work together with my team, which I think has been one of the more positive group experiences I’ve had while at this school.
The speakers were incredibly diverse in topic, and I saw several things there that I have difficulty describing with words, including a new type of interaction surface that I’m certain would make an incredible music controller. I’ll have to see if they’d be interesting in developing it in that direction. The closing plenary was given by Michel Waisvisz from STEIM. He exists in a weird space between electronic engineering and music, and has been an inspiration for me in my own project. You can imagine my excitement when I was asked to participate in the closing “concert”, consisting of two dozen volunteers with crackleboxes making all sort of weird noises. I even got to keep one!
All in all, a very busy week, and a very welcome distraction from school. Unfortunately, I’ve got to get back into the grind of things…