Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Memories of Berlin

I (Bobby) haven't been back to Berlin since 2000, so it was nice to return, even if for one day just to remind myself that big cities can be inexpensive --- when compared with Paris. I arrived to my hotel with about an hour to spare before my talk, so I walked down to Kaiser-Wilhelm-GedÀchtniskirche, i.e., the protestant church that was damaged by bombing in 1943 --- one of 363 bombings suffered by Berlin.

My talk went well, but the highlight of this trip was a tour of the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, which in several ways resembles Google. Above is a picture of the PROGRAMMABLE office mailboxes. When mail is deposited in someone's box, the button on the right is pressed and an email is sent to the person alerting that mail has arrived.

Here is the interface to the office. Each morning you pass your RFID tag in front of it and tell the central computer system at which desk you will be working for the day. The computer then routes your phone number to that desk. You can also see what events are planned for the day, what rooms are available to use, and so on.
After a second free cafee latte from their coffee bar, in the room with foozball and an Xbox, we went to the demo room. Above is a box of rocks, but when you rub your hand over the rocks you hear splashing water. It is a simple but effective interface that has found use in making rehabilitation from strokes more interesting.
Lucky for me, I came to Berlin on the day my host, Georg Essl, was having a going-away party. He is moving to U. Michigan to become a full-time tenure track professor. (Incidentally, I applied for this position too, but with Georg in the pool too I had no chance.) At this party Georg assembled his mobile phone orchestra and played their greatest hits: 10 people wearing powered speakers attached to wrist sweat bands, and each one holding an iPhone running special softward Georg designed.

And here is Georg discussing his unique invention!

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