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Speaker series attracts experts from EA, Google, and beyond, to campus

The UC Santa Cruz Computational Media Department Seminar Series (held on Mondays between 12-1pm in Engineering 2-192 or the UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley satellite campus) has brought a surprising variety of speakers to campus.

“They come from academia and industry, with expertise ranging from virtual reality, human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, games and others,” Professor Sri Kurniawan, chair of the computational media department said. So far there have been professors, teachers, alumni, mentors and researchers.

It’s a speaker series that began this year and is expected to continue indefinitely.

“Computational media is a very interdisciplinary department with all kinds of people and research going on, so this series was a way to hear ideas from different practitioners, researchers and universities,” Community Organizer Breanna Baltaxe, a Ph.D student in the computational media department said.

The kickoff this Winter 2020 quarter featured a talk given by Assistant Professor Elizabeth Swensen, from UCSC’s Digital Art and New Media program. She spoke about the Personal Voice in Recombinant Narrative, demonstrating slides taken from some of the games she’s created which feature language and identity and recombinant expression such as 736, featuring an unprepared priest ad-libbing an important religious text.

The following week, Jesse Harder, a UC Santa Cruz alumnus who is now a senior artificial intelligence engineer at Electronic Arts (EA), described incorporating artificial intelligence into computer games—he demonstrated algorithms that used a stack of maneuvers to decide how best to respond to a player’s moves, and a teaching graphic design program to draw terrain using adversarial learning and animating fluid movements.

Weeks three and four reached beyond the community: Dan Russell, a Google Research Scientist discussed his The Joy of Search book, a narrative expression of Google searches. The following week saw Dr. Diane Pawar, the creator of ImmersED, a conference devoted to introducing K-12 teachers to augmented media described how researchers can best collaborate with teachers and develop learning tools.

“We’ve been delighted with how interdisciplinary our audience has been,” Professor Sri Kurniawan said. “There have been students and faculty from HAVC, Film and Digital Media, Games and Playable Media, Computer Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, to name a few.”

Coming up are talks from Pamela Kato, EdM, PhD, a games for health expert; Bob de Schutter from Miami University, and Chaim Gingold, a freelance designer and independent game developer. The series will continue throughout the year, currently planned for every working Mondays noon to 1:00 PM.

“Ultimately you should come see one of these lectures if you want to learn something new,” Baltaxe said.

For more information about the Computational Media program at UC Santa Cruz, please visit: https://engineering.ucsc.edu/departments/computational-media/

The Winter 2020 Seminars:

January 9 — Elizabeth Swensen, Assistant Professor DANM, UC Santa Cruz

January 13 — Jesse Harder, Senior AI Engineer at Electronic Arts (EA)

January 27 — Dan Russell, Research Scientist at Google

February 3 — Dr. Diane Pawar, co-founder, ImmersED

February 24 — Pamela Kato, owner of P. M. Kato Consulting, Games for Health expert

March 2 — Bob de Schutter, C. Michael Armstrong professor of Applied Game Design, Miami University

March 9 — Chaim Gingold, freelance designer and independent developer (held at SCV campus)