APOGEE '13 BITS Pilani

I just finished exhibiting at my second festival in India, this one was called APOGEE ‘13 and was at BITS Pilani and I’ve got to say I think I am starting to get the hang of these festivals!

Overall I had a better time at this second festival, I think this was probably mainly due to having a better idea of what to expect and a better understanding of how things work in India, also this festival was also slightly smaller and seemed a bit better organized. Since this stop was added fairly last minute there was also less pressure on us with the demonstration and it was more of a collaborative effort to figure out how we could get everything setup for the festival which was nice.

We’ve never really come up with a standard way in which we mount the projector above the table for ARPool which has led to some “interesting” setups but I have to say what we rigged up at BITS Pilani is probably my favourite, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Jugard!!

Awesome, for reference compare this to our setup in London!

During the setup we were introduced to a very appropriate Hindi word / saying jugard which roughly means “hack it together” or “as long as it works”. A lot of India runs on jugard!

The demo was again a huge success - probably less people overall than Techkriti as it was near the end of the festival but those that came out were very interested which made it very fun to present. The students here are very sharp - I mean very sharp - and most of the students we talked to were only first or second year. I really think they are getting something right with their “general” first year here at BITS as it is much more broad and deep than ours at Queen’s. I can’t tell you the number of times I asked someone what they were studying after talking in depth about ARPool for 10 minutes expecting to hear computer engineering or computer science to find out that they were in first year civil engineering (sorry civil engineers back home). Also they have a mandatory course in Linux for all engineers :)

I briefly mentioned it earlier but another thing that made it really awesome was all the help we had setting up. At Pilani, and in retrospect a bit at IIT Kanpur as well, it really felt like we (being us and the students) were setting up together rather than us setting up for them. We all wanted the demo to be a success! We actually trained a few local students on how to run the demo on their own so that we could keep it running while we went and grabbed dinner (and a nap)!

ARPool Extrinsic Calibration
The awesome crew from BITS Pilani that helped us setup ARPool all the way until 3:00 AM

At BITS because the festival was smaller we were able to better interact with the students and learn more about their college, life etc. Here is a picture of one of our friends Mayank in his dorm room:

Mayank's Dorm, pretty much what its like back home!

On one of the evenings we were invited to Mithali where the BITS Music, Dance and Mime clubs performed for everyone’s entertainment. The Mime club was mainly in Hindi but it was still entertaining and judging by the audience’s reaction it must have been very funny. The Dance club was probably the most impressive, its pretty hard to reduce their performance to words but it was awesome! The music club performed a variety of traditional, hindi rock and classic rock songs all of which were really well done. The students at BITS are very talented both technically and in the arts!

I've seen the real Aerosmith and these guys did a better dream on

I really liked presenting at the festivals and it is something I would definitely consider doing again. Big shout out to all the people that helped make this happen! Now its time for a bit of a vacation in India!

read more

Techkriti '13 IIT Kanpur

Earlier this year ARPool and myself were invited to give a demonstration at Techkriti ‘13 at IIT Kanpur in India. I’d been very busy with my thesis and First Robotics so I hardly noticed this trip creeping up on me when suddenly I was boarding a flight to India, or rather a flight to Chicago to Heathrow then finally to Delhi!

I really had no idea what I was getting into or what to expect from the festival when I arrived and to be honest even now that the festival is wrapping up I’m still not really sure what I got into lol!

I got to meet and present along side Marshall Strabala architect of the Burj Khalifa and 2 more of the world’s ten tallest buildings, Boaz Almog quantum researcher, TED speaker, and inventor of quantum levitation (http://youtu.be/VyOtIsnG71U), Michael J. Foreman a NASA astronaut and Trace Bundy the acoustic ninja (http://www.youtube.com/TraceBundyFan) along with several others with less impressive titles or nicknames who were none the less just as interesting people to spend the festival with. Only here at this festival do I get to be placed in some sort of group with these impressive individuals as almost an equal; craziness!

The ARPool demo itself was a great success!

The festival itself was quite interesting, we never really knew exactly what all was going on. Undergraduate students from IIT Kanpur would sort of just come collect us when we were supposed to do something or be somewhere. Talking with the other presenters this seemed to be just how things run here. Definitely an experience. I really have no idea how things get done in India but they do get done! Its very different from events in Canada there wasn’t really a schedule posted somehow it all just happened - amazing! Just like driving on the roads here, they don’t really have rules and the lines might as well not be there but somehow it just works and people get around without a bazillion accidents. I just can’t understand it!

Another thing I really couldn’t get over is people wanting to have their picture taken with me, that and being called “sir” - it was too weird!!

Me and one of our hosts Ishaan

All in all I had a great time at Techkriti ‘13 and IIT Kanpur!

read more

"Free" WiFi (rant)

There’s a reason free is in quotations.

On the front page of my website I vaguely promised some rants and I realized that until now I have not delivered on this promise.

Well here we go.

I am getting super sick of the status of WiFi when I’m abroad/travelling. Free does not mean 10 minutes of browsing, Free does not mean I have to make an account or download an app, Free does not mean you’ll send me a password by SMS - if I could just use my phone then I probably wouldn’t need the damn WiFi. For Fucks sakes just use a simple open network and be done with it! WiFi is to our generation what phones were to the last - note how many places offer a courtesy phone or how reasonably priced pay phones are? When’s the last time someone asked to use your phone and you said no? (especially for businesses) Its how we communicate now and people generally need to communicate when they travel.

People need WiFi when they travel. period. lets just give it to them.

Also if you say you have free WiFi and then it turns out I have to “pay” for it then F!#@ you

Also if you are going to charge then offer a good service at least, half the time my devices have a hard time connecting to the network and then when they do it takes forever for your initial “please pay me now” page to load. Get It Together.

I’d like to end with acknowledging Starbucks for their no-nonsense, BS free, legit Free Wifi. Thanks Starbucks you’ve helped me (and others too I’m sure) out of some tough spots.

read more