Ben Fry Guest Lecture

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune of sitting in on lecture of a scientific visualization class* at Tufts at which Ben Fry, creator of many great works of visualizations that can even be called information art as well as the visualization toolkit, steroids Processing, was guest speaking. The talk was great, spanning lots of work and interesting commentary.

Some notes:

  • Ben showed quite a bit of his previous work – some of it would be familiar to readers of his book, Visualizing Data.
  • Showed off some of his work that has appeared in movies, highlighting the fact that he is asked to add rows of standard grey computer buttons to his work because it doesn’t look “real” otherwise.
  • Talked about some experience teaching classes, particularly the challenges of classes with mixtures of cs students and artists. Making CS students do projects more artsy and artists do more interactive, technical work can be interesting. He showed off some examples of student work. (One cool student project asked a set of Nobel laureates what type of pets they had. Quite a few found time to respond and the results are here.)
  • The coolest demos were of some of the work he’d done for Oblong Industries (Not a lot of information online now- here’s one cnet article)- they have a working Minority Report-style gesture interface that allows one to control a computer with hand movements. Paired with the right interface, this looks to make light work of navigating through vast amounts of multidimensional data. Ben showed some videos, along with a demo (running on his macbook pro w/o the fancy hardware it was still really cool).

* I’d been asking for a class like this to be offered several times while I as still working on my degree at Tufts, but to no avail. Of course it’s offered right after I graduate!

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