Here’s to a great 2013

Just like last year, here I am looking in retrospect to what happened this year but I have to be brief because Helena and I are spending the night with my parents.

Last year I said 2012 would be a year of change but, depending on the perspective, it really wasn’t. In 2013, however, many things will change for sure but I will let you know about that soon. Meanwhile, here is a bit of what happened in my life during this year.

The big trip this year was a very special one — Japan — which I won’t repeat how great it was. We also revisited London and I traveled to other places due to work (even though this year’s GUADEC was in the city I live in).

Last year, I set up a reading challenge at Goodreads for 15 books; 5 more than in 2011. Sadly, I read only a third of those… 5 books in 2012. However, I need to say that in the list there is Crytonomicon, a book I took great pleasure in reading, but which has almost 1000 pages; besides that, the list does not include a few technical books I read.

In 2012, my 4th year in Igalia, I was part of a new team — the Interactivity team. The most important part of my work was definitely the development of Skeltrack: the world’s first Open Source skeleton tracking library.
Skeltrack, together with other libraries like GFreenect was the basis for many of the projects we developed throughout the year.
5 versions of Skeltrack were released since its release, it won an award and in last November it powered a completely Open Source interactive installation in Berlin.

As for other projects, I released 3 versions of OCRFeeder and only 1 of SeriesFinale in 2012.

To finish, this year I restyled my blog, with dedicated sections for the travels and presentations I do and the software I write.

Have a great 2013!

Skeltrack got an award

Last week, while I was busy in Berlin with an interactive installation, I received some good news: Skeltrack got an award in an innovation contest organized by the KNetworks project.

From its own website, KNetworks “[…] is an open network based in the Atlantic area with main interest in the fields of: e-government, innovation, knowledge transfer, technology, the Internet, collective intelligence, the future and the creation of knowledge.”
Members of KNetworks include several universities and government organizations of the European countries in the Atlantic area.

Being the first Open Source library for skeleton tracking, there are a number of possibilities that Skeltrack makes possible and we developed it in Igalia simply because we wanted to use skeleton tracking and there were no open solutions available. So I am very happy with the recognition, in this case a joint 3rd place.

View of Oxford
Oxford, England

Since there was a ceremony in Oxford for the delivery of the awards, I bought a shirt in Berlin 🙂 and flew to London instead of Coruña. I presented Skeltrack and also mentioned Igalia and the cool things that make us different.
At the ceremony, I also had the chance to meet the other contest winners and members of the organization. It was an interesting dinner where I spoke English, Spanish and Portuguese 🙂
After that we ended up in the Turf Tavern — the oldest pub of Oxford — where I discovered that I completely dislike ale.

I had never been to Oxford before so I stayed an extra night to visit the city. What a nice city it is! It is kind of similar to Évora, where I studied, in the way that it has many university buildings spread across the city but of course, at a different scale.

On my way back to Heathrow, more awesome stuff: I found out that the old man sitting close to me in the bus was in fact Donald Knuth! I presented myself, chitchatted a bit and, feeling like a little boy who met Spiderman, thanked him for everything.

I would like to thank the organization of the KNetworks contest for the award and congratulate the other contest winners.

The world’s 1st interactive installation to use Open Source skeleton tracking

Edu and I, proud members of the Igalia Interactivity team, spent the last week in Berlin for the culmination of an interesting project: an interactive installation in the Museum für Kommunikation.

The museum commissioned the Berlin’s interaction/design Studio Kaiser Matthies to create an installation so the studio created the concept and teamed up with us to develop the technical part.
The installation’s purpose is to show different forms of communication and the concept is very simple:
When a user is detected in the “action zone”, an actor shows up in a screen and performs a salutation; the user is supposed to do the same salutation and receives a positive feedback if it was performed well or a negative feedback otherwise.
Examples of gestures are the Japanese bow or waving a kiss.

Pictures of the salutations installation in the Museum für Kommunikation, Berlin
Salutations installation in the Museum für Kommunikation, Berlin

The screen in the right side shows a live video of users so they can compare their gestures with the ones expected from another person’s perspective.

For user detection and to know where their skeleton’s joints are, we used Skeltrack. We also used OpenCV on top of it in order to track more complex salutations, such as the US East Coast hand’s sign.
As for the rest of the stack, we used a minimal Debian, Clutter and GStreamer with many mechanisms to make it robust in case of failure and all this running from a USB stick.

This means that the software used in this installation is completely Open Source and more importantly, it is the world’s first interactive installation that uses Open Source skeleton tracking. We are also going to release the very application’s source code once we have time to release it.

We would like to thank Studio Kaiser Matthies for the opportunity of having such an important project in one of the world’s art capitals. Be sure to visit the museum the next time you’re in Berlin and, if you want us to help you do awesome interactive installations using Open Source software, let me know.