October 2008 Newsletter

Dear Friends of CITRIS,

CITRIS’s projects extend far beyond just the “technology push” elements of our mission. This issue of the newsletter shows how we reach into the lives of those outside our immediate community, often people who face harrowing social conditions. For example, many of the young children in our inner cities suffer from conditions that go undetected because of problems or neglect at home and overcrowding and poor resources at school. Sometimes these students do not show up on the administrative or clinical radar until late in their childhoods, when their predicaments are much harder to address and may already have led them into ever-worsening cycles of trouble.

We clearly understand that technology, in and of itself, cannot solve this kind of social problem. However, in the first story below, featuring the work of Greg Niemeyer and Kimiko Ryokai at Berkeley, and Randi Hagerman at Davis, we see there is an opportunity to use the fun, affordability, and popularity of video games to help. Their specially designed games screen high-risk pre-school students for neurological problems that, once identified, can be addressed while the children are still most responsive to corrective treatment. Some of those same compelling games can also be used to strengthen the cognitive deficits they reveal. In this case, the underlying problem is fragile X syndrome, a condition that, if left undiagnosed and treated, can lead to a lifetime of suffering both for the patient and his or her family. In the demonstrations we have seen at CITRIS, these culturally-sensitive games are instructive, fun for the participants, and without a trace of condescension or patrimony. The work speaks for itself, and we are very proud of it.

Our second story focuses on the work of UC Santa Cruz artist Sharon Daniel. She too reaches out to a set of socially neglected groups that are usually hidden beyond our academic horizon. In this case, it is young shantytown occupants in the slums of Buenos Aires and women in the California State Prison system. For those of us who enjoy the freedoms and privileges of an academic community like ours, it may seem difficult to identify at an emotional level with prisoners of any kind, let alone predominantly poor, minority women prisoners who are separated from their families and communities. Daniel’s work punches a hole in that emotional barrier. By granting us such a humanitarian view into the daily struggles and life-threatening challenges that face so many, this work also humbles and activates us.

Daniel’s work in Argentina, while focusing on different people with different concerns, is equally illuminating. The artistic self-expression of this Buenos Aires community is inspiring, vibrant, and creative, despite the overwhelming economic challenges it faces. I think I speak on behalf of all of CITRIS when I thank our Institute for enabling and encouraging work that brings us so close to the artistic expression of other communities.

I hope that you enjoy both articles. We appreciate your support. Keep up the good work.

Professor Paul K. Wright
Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society
Nokia Distinguished Lectures
CITRIS is honored to co-sponsor the Nokia Distinguished Lecture Series on Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are computing systems that interact with physical processes. The tight integration between the computation and the physical system is what differentiates CPS from other forms of computing, making CPS a kind of embedded system.

TIER Workshop: Oct. 17-18
Please join us for a two-day workshop on Technology Infrastructure for Emerging Regions on the UC Berkeley campus. This event will spotlight research dedicated to understanding the role of and developing innovative information and communications technologies for developing regions.

CITRIS Distinguished Speaker: "The Brain-like Vision"
On October 9 at 4:00 PM, Edgar Koerner, the President of the Honda Research Institute Europe GmbH, will speak about his research into brain architecture and applying that knowledge for autonomous interaction of Honda's humanoid robot, ASIMO.

Solar Taxi visits CITRIS
Swiss adventurer Louis Palmer is taking a small blue environmentally-friendly taxi around the world and visited CITRIS this summer. Photos and a video of the lecture are available online.

The Black Cloud: Using Games to Understand Air Quality
A game by Prof. Greg Niemeyer aims to draw connections between human behavior and local air pollution in an innovative learning environment.

UC Santa Cruz Team Developing a High-tech Dictionary for the Classroom

Dictionaries in the classroom may go the way of typewriters if researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have their way.

CITRIS Holiday Gala, December 12

We are pleased to host our annual gala on Friday, December 12, at 4:00 PM in the lobby of Hearst Memorial Mining Building. As is our tradition, we will present a performance piece at 6:00 PM that combines art and technology in a novel way. More details will be available soon.

CITRIS Headquarters Dedication, Feb. 27, 2009
On Feb. 27, 2009, CITRIS will mark the official opening of its new headquarters, Sutardja Dai Hall, with an afternoon of talks and celebration.