TechMeetup Aberdeen

19 November 2009

There was another good turn out for Aberdeen’s second TechMeetup last night. It was great to see some familiar faces from last month’s meet, along with quite a few new faces.

Once again our sincere thanks goes to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Aberdeen for their sponsorship of the event. And of course a special thank you to Dr Bruce Sharlau for once again organising the room, beer and pizza.

The first talk of the evening was about developing for the Microsoft Surface and was presented jointly by Kate Ho and Neelima Alluri. Kate started the talk with a cringe-worthy promotional video from Microsoft, demonstrating how the surface could be used to pick up girls in a Las Vegas bar. She then went on to describe some more practical uses, including two conceptual applications with which the presenters won a Royal Bank of Scotland backed competition; an interactive mortgage advisor and an application which would provide account information for a credit card placed on the surface. Neelima then took the stage to describe some of the under the cover detail of developing for the surface.

Special thanks also needs to be given to Mark Griffiths and his team from Codify for bringing along a surface for people to experience for themselves, no mean feat as the equipment was not designed to be particularly portable.

Next up Dave Westwater gave a fascinating talk on the BabyTalk project with which he has been involved. The aim of this project, jointly run by members of Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities, is to use Natural Language Generation (NLG) to communicate the details of babies in a hospital’s high dependancy unit to nurses coming on duty. The system, which is currently being trialled at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, takes data from a wide variety of sources and produces English language sentences summarising the information.

Dave also described how a spin-off startup company (Data2Text) has been established to, for example, use this technology to automatically compile the shipping forecast, a task which is currently several hours work for a human.

The videos for both talks will be posted shortly.