Wolfram Technology Conference 2012

2012-10-29 by . 2 comments

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The Wolfram Technology Conference took place from 2012-10-17 to 2012-10-19 in Champaign, IL. This is a loose collection of whatever interesting/entertaining stuff I came across during the conference. Note that I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to attend sessions on future Mathematica releases and upcoming Wolfram technology products, so there will be no infos on on that (make of that what you will).

Some general info for those who are not familiar with the Tech Conference:

There are several types of talks, and you can easily cram your schedule bumper to bumper:

  • WRI overview talks (presenting some topic, e.g. “Mathematica Connectivity” or “Image Processing” in general)
  • WRI in-depth talks (taking on a specific area, e.g. “Manipulate Secrets”)
  • Hands-on workshops (big this year: SystemModeler)
  • User talks that cover the wide range of Mathematica application in education, science, industry and entertainment. See the 2011 schedule and the 2012 videos to get an impression.

The Champaign Hilton Garden Inn is a decent venue, the only thing to be aware of is the sometimes lethal airconditioning, so be sure to bring warm clothes.

The focus of most presentations is on Mathematica, but since it is the Wolfram Technology Conference, things like Wolfram Alpha, SystemModeler and other technologies start to feature more and more prominently. There is an exceptional density of Wolfram developers (and thus WRI competence)  and you can set up meetings with them and other participants with the online conference system (crowdvine) or just try to taser and drag them into the coffee room downstairs (there is also a merchandise and book store offering conference discounts).

The program  is quite packed with three to four tracks and other things like meet-ups, lunch round tables on certain subjects and similar. On all evenings there is some kind social event either on-site or in Champaign at large. The crowd is a very easygoing one with a quite high proportion of regulars.


Landing at ORD.

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Yawn. The good thing about flying west is that getting up early (really early) is easy. Staying awake will be the hard part. Met Murta both in chat and real world  (see the chat transcript, and no, we did not make that up). Met up with rcollyer and a few WRI MMA.SE regulars at the reception.


Opening keynote by Stephen Wolfram: As every year, Stephen demoed a lot of interesting things to come — all of which were NDA’d. Bugger. Except for the fact that the next release will have version No. 9. Enjoyable: Stephen took the epic crashes of some demos (all on Apple devices) with good grace (John Fultz does not look too amused, though). Watch this:

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Accelerate session: One hour of 5min talks about things Mathematica. My personal highlight was Mark McClure’s astounding quadratic camera.  My 5min: a mashup of my selection of the most entertaining Q&A’s, most of them of the graphical persuasion:

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Stickers and pens provided by Aarthi vanished swiftly. It seems that Mathematica.SE is still not known to quite a number of serious Mathematica users.


Soundbite from the front end keynote by John Fultz about coming interface features (paraphrased): “We decided we needed more hubris, more arrogance. Stephen took the lead on that”.

Assembling all present MMA.SE personnel for the group shot proved astonishingly difficult (think herding cats), so this was the best one we got (From left to right: Mark McClure, Murta, rcollyer, Arnoud, Brett, myself, Michael Wijaya, Daniel ):

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Fun: “Connecting the ARDrone Quadrocopter to Mathematica” by Christopher Wolfram and Todd Gayley. The demo devil struck again, so for the first few minutes Todd did all the acting (including sound). Fear not, in the end the drone followed a simple line path defined in Mathematica and reacted to signs shown to it´s camera.

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Evening event: Conference Dinner. Food, drink and nice company and then Stephen presents the Wolfram Innovator Awards for the second time. I´ll not spoil the fun and tell and instead leave authoring the proper accolades to WRI on their blog. Check up on this year’s laureates. Not to be missed: The yearly comprehensive Q&A by Stephen.

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Shaky screenshot of my presentation, “Fun with Flaps”, which went reasonably well (well, it’s got airplanes in it and with that, plus pop culture reference, you cannot go wrong).

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Another really awful photo of one highly entertaining events: The oneliner competition. A pity that Chris Carlson’s hilarious presentation is not taped. Again, Chris will probably do a splendid job showing those oneliners on the Wolfram Blog, so I´ll simply mention that a certain CEO’s head featured prominently in the winner entry and then some. If you are not familiar with the oneliner competition, this one was the fourth (enjoy #1, #2 and #3).

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Remarkable: The youngest (conference, oneliner and probably Mathematica.SE) participant ever not related to WRI shareholders, Jesse Friedman, is eleven years old and got an honorable mention for his concise Wolfram Alpha interface oneliner which won him his own brandnew student license with upgrade to version 9! Kudos, Jesse! We are looking forward to hear more of you in the future.

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Nice:Luc Barthelet’s “Introduction to Image Processing–Solving the Rubik’s Cube from Pictures”

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One for the hardware-tinkerers: “Arduino and Mathematica – Computation in the Maker World”. A laser pointer controlled by an arduino board targets objects recognized by image processing in Mathematica.

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Evening Event: “Discover Downtown”: Free choice of several bars and restaurants in downtown Champaign, and coupons to redeem at will there (venue switching encouraged). From sushi to pizza, from sake to stout. One detail of one of the more robust venues in the murky birds-eye shot below:

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All in all, a really enjoyable, densely packed conference with excellent networking opportunities and highly recommended if you are a serious Mathematica user (or seriously planning on becoming one).

PS: Heavy loot from the oneliner competition: Generous WRI goodie basket! As far as carry-on luggage goes, this really makes one think about getting a kindle.

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PPS: Thanks to the Stackexchange team (esp. Aarthi) for providing swag and support! I still got some stickers, but t-shirts and pens sure diffused nicely.

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  • Great stuff Yves!

  • Jesse says:

    Hmm, didn’t get my good side :) Thanks Yves!

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