Back from the USA

I have just arrived (suitcases still to be undone) from my trip to the USA. This time, I went to Philadelphia for the MIR Conference, where I have presented a poster on the work of my student Fábio Faria. I have met many interesting people at MIR and heard exciting, new ideas from them, but (without any intention to dismiss the hard work of the organizers) I must confess I was expecting a more diverse array of works (especially considering how broad the “Multimedia” community is).

Instead, I was astonished by how much the presented selection was similar in terms of technical foundation: classification based on discriminant approach (almost always using SVM) and representation based on “bags of visual features”. It is not that those do not interest me — after all, our own work is sits squarely on those pillars — but I was very interested in hearing about, seeing other approaches: generative models based on latent or explicit semantics, representations based on constellation models — what do I know ? — perhaps something completely new, which I haven’t even heard about.

I was left wondering why those “competing theories” were so notably absent. Has the community decided that SVM + Bags of Features is so conspicuously better than everything else ? (If that is the case, I would like to know how they reached this conclusion — though I like the results given by the pair “bags + SVM”, I am far from considering the “case closed”).

Was it self-selection by the autors, who didn’t submit their works to this particularly community ?

Or — and this is obviously the worst scenario— have all the alternative works been retained at the peer review barrier, because ideological considerations have (maybe  unconsciously?) tainted the assessment of quality. I would like to quick dismiss this latter possibility, but the similarity between the works was really astounding.  My student Otávio Penatti, who is on his first months of Ph.D. (he was there presenting a demo of his M.Sc. work) remarked it immediately.

I was very glad, nevertheless, to have this opportunity to visit Philadelphia. It was a very moving experience for me, because it gave me a very concrete, very immediate realization of how strongly The Enlightenment was shining in America at that time.

* * *

Otávio and I have profited from our travel to the USA to visit Prof. Edward Fox in Virginia Tech, who was the former Ph.D. advisor of Otávio’s current Ph.D. avidsor and my Post-Doc advisor Prof. Ricardo Torres. We have an ongoing cooperation with Prof. Fox. In fact, while we were there, we have met a Brazilian colleague of ours, Nadia Kozievitch, who is spending an year of her Ph.D. with Prof. Fox.

While we were there, we gave a talk on our current work and got acquainted with several exciting projects Prof. Fox is conducting, on a broad array of applications of digital libraries,  including identification of fingerprints, biodiversity databases, e-Science, cooperation for crisis situations, and education.

We have also met Brazilian Prof. João Setúbal, who showed us the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, and talked about his work in genomics, and the new field of transcriptonics.

We were very impressed not only with the infra-structure of Virginia Tech, but also with the kindness and attentiveness of everyone who received us.

2 thoughts on “Back from the USA

  1. My explanation about the paper similarities: fashion. Scientists are (in large part at least) humans. Humans, even when competing, want to be “better”, not “different” (with rare exceptions). When scientists see some “trend” (more technical name for fashion) in papers, they just go after it. It is no different from everyone using the same kind of shoes, or shirts, or trousers.

    I remember that once there was a “trend” in Computer Graphics of techniques to morph images, all due to a Michael Jackson video. During that year, an ET arriving at any CG conference would think that morphing images was the most needed technology by humankind. No need to cure cancer…

    Nowadays, as soon as we get over the trend of social networking on anything, we will probably get to “3D-anything”. Be prepared…

    • I like the way you think… 🙂

      I am worried that after the great “visual dictionaries” fad, fatally there will come the infamous “trough of disillusionment”, which is a shame, because the idea itself is very interesting.

      I am also afraid I was too harsh on MIR. Perusing the proceedings I’ve noticed that as far as the dictionary tidal wave is concerned, discriminating and generative approaches are both well represented. I shall comment on when I can breathe a little bit.

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