This is my first blog since the new year, so I would like to start by wishing you a very Happy New Year!
As mentioned in many other blogs posted by our Early State Researchers (ESRs), a very common and fantastic feature of being in a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project like the FoodSmartphone is traveling around – being able to talking with new people and experiencing different cultures. With great appreciation to the FoodSmartphone project, I got the opportunity of travelling to Louisville, Kentucky, USA in the end of 2018 and attending the ISSPIT2018 conference. It was not a short trip – I had to fly across the Atlantic Ocean with an approximately 10 hours flight (including time of flight transfer). There is a 5 hours’ time difference between here in Northern Ireland and Kentucky, USA. However, the excitement of revisiting the U.S. after 5 years of my graduation in the U.S. made me ignore any hardship due to the long-distance traveling. The conference was held in a decent hotel with a group of hospitable people from all over the world (mostly Americans, but also Arabian, Canadian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and many others…). During the discussions, I got to know that the hotel hosting this conference was maintained in a very historical building. The owner of this hotel likes art a lot and collected a big amount of art pieces. Instead of letting these arts rest in his personal gallery, he disseminates them in his own hotel. Then, this half-hotel-half-gallery turned out to be a big success and soon became one of the most attracting destinations for visitors and conferences in the city. Therefore, the ISSPIT2018 conference became an event harmoniously combining technologies and arts. During the conference, I gave a 10min oral presentation introducing the illumination correction algorithms we had proposed according to the agenda. The presentation was given in front of an audience with culture backgrounds of all kinds and technical backgrounds mainly in signal processing and bioengineering in the middle of the art pieces aforementioned. It was truly a great experience of practicing dissemination skills within such an audience and environment by both presenting myself and observing others, though only one question was raised after my presentation indicating still a huge room for improvement on my dissemination skills.
Other than attending the conference, I also visited the city and experienced local food and culture a little bit. Kentucky, USA is famous for producing a kind of Whiskey – Bourbon. I visited some local shops and got to know some history behind Bourbon – a Bourbon can only be called a Bourbon if it was produced in USA. Curiosity drove me to order and taste a small cup of Bourbon in a local restaurant. My first impression about Bourbon was that this thing was Very Strong! It was a 101 proof Bourbon. The measurement “proof” can be converted to percentage of alcohol by dividing by two. The nice waiter constantly came over and checked me “Are you okay?” while I was drinking this small cup of Bourbon. “Of cause, I am totally all right!” even though I knew something is definitely not going right in my body. I also ordered a sandwich (Yes, it is literally called a sandwich). I really appreciated the hospitality of that restaurant (later I got to know that it was not only that restaurant) for offering me such a fulfilled sandwich, which was probably even more fulfilled compared to a hamburger in Northern Ireland. But I have to admit that the sandwiches in Kentucky taste really good. After that meal, I left the restaurant being a new “Bourbon snout” and could barely walk back to the hotel by myself…
In the early 2019, I also visited Manchester, England, the city where the first steam engine and computer were born in. In the local Science and Industry Museum, I witnessed and appreciated how the dissemination of simple science experiments could inspire the young generation, and how this could bring energy to the city. This again reinforced my believe of what we are doing in the FoodSmartphone project (doing research in science and disseminating them to the public) will bring tremendous value to not only promoting food analysis but also inspiring the next generation.
Back to my work. I will introduce more technical detail about the illumination correction algorithm we have proposed in my future blogs since it has not been published yet. For this blog, I will talk about some of the experience I have gotten during the development of the camera calibration technique that I am currently working on. My newest understanding towards research is that it is a process of re-search. That is, sometimes the reality is just not as perfect as one could have planned beforehand in the research world. One has to re-search his/her research path constantly. I hit a hard rock while trying to develop a camera calibration technique that I previously planned – the original plan seems infeasible. But I think this is the nature of doing research – one has to analyse where went wrong and find another path to overcome or work around the hard rocks. Eventually, I believe that everyday on-site food analysis with one’s smartphone on hand will be in the reach of normal end-users in the near future after all these re-searches.
In the end, thank you very much for reading my blog and wish you a great 2019!
Until next time,
All the best,