Sunday, September 20, 2009

how to watch a cubs game

It just hit me that I have a way to properly watch a cubs game now!

So like any good Chicagoan, I like to watch Cubs games with Pat and Ron on the radio and the TV volume muted. There's always a problem with this as the radio is usually a few seconds ahead of the TV broadcast. So you hear what's about to happen before you see it.

But today I realized that the MLB At Bat app on the iPhone has the radio broadcast too, but it's *delayed* a few seconds. And my tivo can happily handle that with a quick press of pause and play.

So now I've got my phone piping the audio of the game into the speakers next to my TV and the game playing on mute on ESPN with a few second delay. And it's perfect!

If only I could have figured this out in April! :) MLB better port the At Bat app over to Android this winter! That's one app I'd definitely miss!


8 years

Last week was my 8 year service anniversary at Motorola. It's hard to believe it's been that long! (For those of you doing the math and coming up short, they add 12 weeks on to the full-time hire date for each internship)

It's interesting to look at how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in all of that time. A good number of people in the lab are still here, although some of them are in quite different roles now. Some great new people have come (and some of them gone). We've been through four different lab names (Applications Research Lab, User Centered Solutions Lab, Social Media Research Lab, Experiences Research Lab). Three lab managers. Three heads of research. Two big roller coaster rides from long-term research to short-term to long-term and back to short-term. And a few big changes on how we commercialize our ideas.

Over this time, I've been able to work in many different domains. I started by looking into how people use, manage, and find photos and music in their lives. This led to the Metadata Services Engine which we published and commercialized in a bunch of phones through the "Media Finder" application.

Then I moved on to location and context sharing. We recorded people's phone calls to listen to how they talked about location, and built a bunch of prototypes to help understand what people could infer from different types of context and what they did with that information (see the Oct-Dec issue of Pervasive Computing for a nice overview). I was even able to bring in some work from my masters thesis in enhancing awareness around TV viewing. In that same time, I was able to work with startups such as TileFile and came to really understand both what it takes to create a successful startup and a successful service. Taking our Ambient Communications research to product was definitely the most fun and rewarding part of the last 8 years. Working with our design group to create Contacts 3.0, a new phonebook and service centered around integrating all of one's social information was a blast! (I'm working on a case study talking about this whole process) You can see a bunch of our concepts in action on the MotoBlur service debuting our new Android devices.

The services bug stuck with me, and for the the last two years I've been working on creating TuVista, a mobile sports video service that gets multi-angle instant replays to your phone in less than 30 seconds from the play in the game. This has been a whole new set of challenges, from the design of the service itself to understanding media production workflows and the crazy world of content rights. It's been our own little startup in the labs and fun to try to keep pushing Motorola more into services. If I get my way, it looks like my next focus area will be aging and health. For any of you working in the area, I'd love to collaborate!

I've definitely had my ups and downs and times when I was ready to leave at a moment's notice. But I'm glad I've stuck it out and have been able to have so many different experiences all in one place. That's the best part about a corporate research lab in such a large company.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Four days in Europe

Last weekend I was able to spend four wonderful days in Europe! I had to be out in London for Friday and Saturday and decided to spend Sunday and Monday in Paris as I really needed a break and what better place to get away?

Work in London went really well which is always exciting. Since we've been doing a lot of trials of our sports system, it's now super-easy to set up and get going so these trips are fairly stress free. After setting up on Friday, I decided to take the tube into the city and walk around a bit since I had some free time and wanted to force myself to stay awake so that I could adjust to the time change. I made my way over to Covent Garden and had a wonderful dinner at Wagamama (I really hope they put more in the states soon!). After dinner I wandered around a bit and found myself down by Picadilly and starting to get tired, so I jumped back on the tube to the hotel.

Saturday was a busy day of work all day. But after work, a coworker and I again took the tube in the city and ended up at Busaba Eathai. It's another restaurant by Yao - the guy behind Hakkasan and Wagamama. I had the most amazing butternut pumpkin curry with coconut rice and some spring rolls. All very amazing as is all of the food he makes. I was sad that there is no dessert menu, but enjoyed the ginger tea. Upon returning to the hotel, I had a fun little statistics problem to help out a friend that I worked on for a bit before bed. I even got to use some skills I had learned in an AI class at MIT years ago which was actually a whole lot of fun! :)

Sunday was a busy day of travel. I made it into the city early to meet up with an old friend from MIT who was coming in on the EuroStar a few hours before I was going out. We took a photo in the train station (as is becoming obligatory when I meet up with MIT people in other countries!) and made our way over to Eat and Two Veg for brunch. I had their big vegan plate which was a full english breakfast vegan style - beans, scrambled tofu, potatoes, toast, etc. Very tasty and also very wonderful to catch up with Carol, even if we only had a short amount of time between trains.

After brunch, I made it back to the train station in time to board the train to Paris. I ended up with a ticket in the business class section of the train. Since I made the plans to go to Paris on fairly short notice, it was only $10 more, and they promised to feed me a vegan meal, so how could I say no!? The meal was the most amazing thing I've eaten on a form of transportation, so I'm really glad I went this way. There was a salad course, and then a wonderful quinoa dish, bread, and to finish it all off an earl gray chocolate!!! Those of you who have had my earl gray chocolate cupcakes know what a fan I am of this combination, so these little chocolates just made my day! The train ride itself was great. It's sort of surreal to pop out of the channel tunnel going 150+ MPH and all of a sudden see everything in French.

Sunday afternoon turned into a lazy day around Paris. After checking in at my hotel, I took the metro down to the Eiffel Tower and just sat around reading a book, glancing up from time to time to marvel at where I was :) As it got later, I hopped on the metro again, this time headed for Montmarte in search of dinner. There's a vegan restaurant right by the Abbesses station that I wanted to try out. It's basically just a woman who has some tables on the first floor of her house and she makes fresh, organic veggie food. Unfortunately, it didn't open until 7:30 and I arrived around 7.

While waiting for the restaurant to open up, I walked down to one of my favorite places in Paris, the Café des Deux Moulins from Amelie. There's nothing like the sight of this place to put a smile on my face. It wasn't very crowded this time, so I found a seat inside and enjoyed a nice beer while taking a bunch of pictures and sending them to people who would appreciate them. They even had the gnome which I don't remember from the last time I was there!

Once the restaurant was open again, I made my way back there and enjoyed a nice dinner of fresh veggies and baked seitan. There was another American in there and we traded tips on good vegan food in Paris. After dinner, I wanted to walk over to the steps by Sacré-Cœur but just as I got there, they were locking up the gates for the night. I managed a few pictures, but then just hopped on the metro back to the hotel.

Monday started with a really wonderful 10k run around the city. I had mapped it out a few days before and it would take me from my hotel near the FDR stop on Champ Elysees (which I was told by a Parisian is never said FDR but always as Franklin Roosevelt) up to the Louvre, then along the river over to the Hôtel de Ville and down to Notre Dame. From there, I turned back on the south side of the river and ran past the Musee d'Orsay and finished running through the park up to the Eiffel Tower. The run was fantastic and exactly what I needed to cheer me up and bring many smiles to my face :) One of the most awesome things was that the very first song that played on my iPod on random was the theme from Amelie! After the run I bought a very overpriced bottle of Vittel from the booth under the tower and made my way back to the hotel for a shower.

I decided to make it a very low key and relaxing afternoon, so I made my way back to Sacré-Cœur and sat on the steps for a while watching the street performers. There was a guy playing a guitar and singing American country songs and then some puppeteers and a sort of crazy variety show. All in all, fairly entertaining and relaxing. In another strange coincidence, while walking up the steps, I heard a street performer singing "When You Say Nothing At All" which was a song my iPod was playing while running that morning. I read a book under a tree for a bit and then decided to climb the stairs to the top of the basilica since I had never been up there. It was pretty amazing as the pictures can attest to.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped at BHV which is my favorite store in the world. They sell everything! You enter from the metro into the basement, which is this giant hardware store...basically like a Home Depot with anything you could ever imagine. But then the other floors are typical department store fair...but arranged lighting right next to lingerie, or tea next to art supplies (maybe that one makes a bit of sense). Anyway, I left with some of the most amazing tea ever - a green tea with ginger and lemon, a new notebook, and a Paris calendar. I had wanted to stop by the Musee d'Orsay as it's 1) an impressionist art museum and 2) in a train station! What better combination of things could there be!? But sadly, it's closed on Mondays.

That evening, I met up with an old colleague from Motorola who had worked on an earlier version of TuVista with us and had made the journey to Mexico City. While there, he didn't exactly believe me that Paris had amazing vegan food, so we decided that we'd meet up the next time I was in town. We made our way to La Victoire Supreme du Coeur, a vegan restaurant near the Hôtel de Ville (which isn't where it was the last time I was in Paris!). I had an amazing seitan dish with a mushroom sauce and a salad with "veggie poulet" which turned out to be quite good, but not as amazing as Hakkasan's veggie chicken (but really, who can top them!). I learned the French names for a bunch of different fruits while picking sorbet flavors which was fun :) We grabbed a beer in a little alley cafe before I had to make it back to the hotel since I had an early flight the next day.

And that's about it. I made my way to CDG the next morning and was on my way home. It was a very wonderful and relaxing trip. Exactly what I needed.