On November 5, I attended part of the Fall 2014 Retreat for the Berkeley Vision and Learning Center (BVLC). The BVLC is a new group of faculty, students, and industry partners in EECS that focuses on research in vision (from computer vision to visualization) and machine learning. The retreat was held in the Faculty Club, a nice, country-style building enclosed by trees near the center of the UC Berkeley campus. While there were events going on all morning (and the day before, actually), I only attended the poster session from 5:00pm to 7:00pm and the dinner after that.

The poster session wasn’t as enormous as I thought it would be, but there were still quite a few people crowded in such a small area. I think there were around 15 to 20 posters from various research groups. I brought one about the BID Data project, whose principal investigator is John Canny. I’m hoping to become a part of that project within the next few weeks.

As far as the people who actually attended, there were a good number of faculty, postdocs, senior graduate students, and even industry people (from Microsoft, NVIDIA, Sony, etc.).  For faculty, I saw Pieter Abbeel, Trevor Darrell, Alexei (Alyosha) Efros, Michael I. Jordan, and Jitendra Malik at various times throughout the evening. (Trevor is the head of the group so he was guaranteed to be there.) I had two interpreters for the poster session, which was probably overkill, but they were able to help me describe what a few people were saying when I went to see two specific posters that were interesting to me.

I didn’t have anyone there for dinner, though, which meant it was a struggle for me to communicate. Also, during dinner, we listened to guest speaker Andy Walshe of Red Bull Stratos. His talk was titled Leveraging Cross­modal Data from High ­Performance Athletes at Red Bull. Andy mostly talked about the limits of human performance, and as far as I can tell, his talk was not an advertisement for the actual drink known as Red Bull, which as everyone knows is dangerous to consume. Even so, I was often wondering why this kind of talk was being given, because I would have expected a “traditional” machine learning talk — but maybe I missed something at the start when Trevor Darrell was introducing Andy. (This is one of the things one should realize about me; dinners and talks are some of the most difficult situations for me to be in, while they may be quite easy to get involved in for other people.)

I could tell that the talk was not overly technical, which meant that there was a lot of discussion and questions once the talk was over. In particular, Michael Jordan and Alexei Efros asked consecutive questions that made everyone in the room (except me) roar with laughter. I’ll have to find someone who can explain what they said….

(Note: the image at the top — taken from the Faculty Club website — shows the location where we had dinner and where Andy gave his 30-minute multimedia presentation.)