Report from Thomas Rist on Advanced Visual Interfaces (AVI2004) conference.
Some words on the AVI conference seriesAVI is an international conference focusing on advanced visual user interfaces. The attribute “advanced” has at least three different readings. Firstly, AVI is a top-class conference to learn about significant innovations and latest developments in the field of visual interfaces and visualization techniques. Secondly, it refers to the multidisciplinary flavor of many conference contributions that report on work at the crossroad of visual interfaces and other disciplines, such as Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Computing. Last but not least, it relates to the application of novel innovative visual interface concepts in real applications. Attracting participants from academia as well as from industries, AVI has always provided an excellent forum to exchange experiences among industrial practitioners and researchers.
The AVI series started back in 1992 with a first event held in Rome. Since then, it has been held every other year at different locations all across Italy: AVI’94 in Bari, AVI96 in Gubbio, AVI’98 in L’Aquila, AVI’00 in Palermo, AVI’02 in Trento, and this year’s AVI’04 was held in Galliopoli, a sea resort located at the Gulf of Tarantino in South Italy. While rooted in Italy, AVI is a true international conference regarding nationalities of participants, authors of papers, and program committee members. It is perhaps the mixture of carefully selected research contributions in the area of visual interfaces paired with cordial Italian hospitality that creates this unique conference atmosphere and made AVI an internationally recognized brand on its own.
AVI’04 Overview:AVI’04 has attracted leading researchers from all over the world. According to the statistics, authors of the papers came from twenty different countries and there was even a richer diversity regarding nationalities of the about 130 participants. AVI’2004 has been designed as a single track 3-days conference featuring a good mix of long and short presentations, extended demo and poster sessions, and an attractive workshop and tutorial program prior and after the main conference days. And AVI wouldn’t be AVI if there were not these many little extras – be it unexpected fireworks at the welcome reception, or the variety of performances by local artists and folklore groups - that even impress the most experienced conference travelers because they go far beyond the standard of what one expects from a well organized and smoothly run conference.
Organizing a high-quality conference is a laborious task. Organizing an AVI conference must be extremely laborious and, I have no doubts, requires a deep commitment to the underlying spirit that made this conference series so successful. Maria Francesca Costabile of University of Bari did a superb job as AVI’04 General Conference Chair. She and her collaborators from the Scientific Conference Secretary Paolo Buono, Rosa Lanzilotti, and Antonio Piccino made AVI’04 an extraordinary and memorable event regarding the scientific-technical program, social events, and the friendly and stimulating atmosphere during the conference.
Scientific-Technical Program:The AVI’04 conference program comprised five categories of scientific-technical contributions: invited talks, presentations of long research papers and short papers, system demonstrations, and poster presentations – all of which are documented in the AVI’04 proceedings . Thematically, the contributions covered a broad spectrum of research issues in the field of visual interfaces and information visualization. Just to mention a few thematic areas represented by papers, demos and posters: visualization techniques for screen-space optimization, 3D-visualisation techniques, graph drawing and animation, tools for visual data annotation, and visual interfaces and techniques to support usability testing.
Compared to previous AVI conferences, however, AVI’04 showed a significant increase in papers dealing with “beyond desktop” visualizations – be it in the form of multiple monitors, innovative projection technologies, or mobile devices. Also, there were a remarkable number of contributions that promote visual interfaces for intelligent decision support systems. In this application domain visual presentation forms seem to be especially advantageous if complex-reasoning processes must be made transparent to users. A further noteworthy tendency was the fact that more and more technical papers address usability and report on the outcome of conducted evaluation studies.
Invited Talks:Each of the three conference days started with an invited talk, each of them given by distinguished experts. Michel Bedouin-Lafon of University Paris-Sud started his talk with an insightful analysis of barriers that have hindered the uptake of many innovative interaction techniques. In his conclusion he advocated in favor of a shift from punctual “user interface design” towards a more holistic design approach that focuses on the generation and evaluation of interaction rather than interfaces.
The second invited speaker, Catherine Plaisant of the University of Maryland began her talk with a reflection on the state-of-the-art and best practice regarding the evaluation of information visualization techniques and tools. By means of thoroughly selected case studies she illustrated the long way from the invention of a novel visualization tool into a successful commercial product, and stressed the importance of appropriate evaluation procedures and tools. The invited talk given by Boris de Ruyter of Philips Research, Eindhoven, introduced the Ambient Intelligence vision with a special focus on the role that visualization plays in it. This impressive outlook on the (near) future included various novel ideas, such as the “living light” concept, which are currently explored at Philips’ HomeLab. More than others, this talk showed that advanced visualization is by no means limited to the desktop only.
Workshops and Tutorials:The scientific-technical program of AVI’2004 has been complemented by three workshops (“Environments for Personalized Information Access”, “Developing User Interfaces with XML”, “Invisible and Transparent Interfaces”) and two tutorials (“Harnessing the Power of Formalism for Understanding Interaction”, “Principles for the Design of Advanced User Interfaces for Mobile Computing”). Details about the workshops and the tutorials are available on the conference web page www.di.uniba.it/~avi2004/
In conclusion, AVI’04 not only continued the tradition of previous AVI conferences but even raised the yet high standards regarding the attractiveness of the technical and social program of this conference series. The preparations of AVI’2006 have already started. It will be held in Venice late May 2006. I’m very much looking forward to it.