Sarah Jaffer, MS candidate

Project Title:
Genometry: Using Smartphones to control Interactive content on Public Displays

The genometry project is a multi-used virtual environment in which users from WPI and Osaka University in Japan can interact on public displays through the use of mobile devices. On the screen, users are represented by creature avatars, which they can customize and navigate around the display for the purpose of interacting with the environment and with the other users. The project explores interactive uses of public displays with mobile devices as controllers, as well as international interaction and communication.

Why I chose this project:
I was drawn to this project initially because I really wanted to go to Japan. Also, the project itself allowed me to work on systems programming in a much different context; I had never been involved in video programming before, which was an interesting and different angle from what I had been doing.

What I learned from my MQP:
As far as technical skills, I learned a lot about concurrency programming and how to design a system that is efficient and effective in providing a service to a globally distributed set of users. I was also exposed to innovation; at the Cybermedia Center there, they were doing some really cool research looking at a lot more interactive media.

Additionally, I gained invaluable team work skills, especially in organizing and delegating. The CS department at WPI prides itself on the idea that by the time you finish the program, you will be able to work well with other people. For me, they certainly accomplished this goal. The project put me together with a lot of disparate personalities and people I didn’t know before. This was certainly a challenge and helped prepare me for the many times I will need to work with others in a collaborative effort in the future.

How this project made me stronger in my field:
It really stressed a lot of the abilities that I gained through the general program such a being very self efficient when working and being able to pick up new ideas very quickly. It was less of a learning experience for me there and more of a testing experience of how well I had internalized the WPI program to that point – whether or not I could then go out into my field and work, and be a productive member of a team, and be able to tackle hard problems that didn’t have readily available solutions. I feel as though I passed this test.

How I have benefitted from my MQP as a person and a student:
As is par for the course with the MQP, I came out with a lot more knowledge than I went in with. As a student, you learn on the fly and pick up so much more as you apply skills in the real world.

As a person, I really enjoyed my time spent in a different culture meeting new people. We spent most of our time at Osaka University interacting with the students in the graduate research lab there. Those experiences meant a lot to me.

What I accomplished:
I personally made a lot of the different parts of the system run and work together. I specialized in working with the backbone of the system. I’d like to think I was very instrumental in making the system work.

In creating it, we were able to localize the entire program in both English and Japanese. We offered a chat functionality providing preset conversation options – it wasn’t rich, but it provided a means of communication so that international users could converse without running anything through a translator.

The goal that was presented to us was to create some interactive media that could be used to help enhance the communication between America and Japan, for instance. We were also challenged to use a system of large public displays that Osaka University had. The last part of the challenge was to integrate the Smartphone as the ubiquitous control. We succeeded on all three tasks.

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