Bye-bye book of abstracts

A new app called Conference-compass makes navigating conferences easier.
There’s a ritual on the first day of technical conferences that regular attendees know well, and that is a nerve-racking initiation for first-time conference attendees.

The ritual involves deciding which presentations to attend or to skip. Typically, after registration, one’s time is spent pouring over the book of abstracts and sketching out one’s own program, a process that includes penciling in when star researchers are presenting and the time of a colleague’s, or even one’s own, presentation.

This process takes so long that it’s a normal sight to see people perusing the book of abstracts during the conference’s keynote address instead of listening. To break this inefficient ‘Day One’ ritual and allow one to quickly, as well as intuitively, draw up a personal conference program, there is now a mobile app called, Conference-compass, which the app’s founders and developers, Jelmer van Ast and Mathieu Gerard, describe as a ‘complete conference program in your pocket’. 

Once downloaded to your phone, users can view a day-by-day breakdown of the conference program. If a session is interesting, a few taps on your iPhone or BlackBerry delivers the session’s overview and in-session presentations, while a few more taps supply the presentation’s complete details, including title, author, time and room number.

The app started out as a spare-time project of Gerard and Van Ast during their PhD studies at the Delft Center for System and Control (DCSC), but Conference-compass has now been incubated as a YesDelft startup. The app has been used at three scientific conferences thus far, and to ensure its wide availability the app is designed to run not only on expensive iPhones and BlackBerrys but also ordinary Java-enabled phones, like Nokias and Samsungs.
It is with presentations that this new app truly comes to life. The ability to tag presentations means users can assign ‘favorite’ tags to presentations they want to attend. Another cool feature enables users to select an author from the authors’ list presenting at the conference, with the app automatically recommending all other presentations given by the chosen author at the conference. Similar recommendations for presentations can also be generated by selecting keywords from a keywords list.

For attendees who are not just attending but also presenting or chairing sessions, they can tag themselves – as ‘that’s me’ – in the authors’ list. The tags ‘favorite’, ‘recommended’ and ‘that’s me’ are highlighted in three different colors at all levels in the app. These color-coded tags are a design highlight, making the app both beautiful and intuitive to use.

For any conference visitor the first day is exemplified by searching for the halls where presentations are being held, which is a frustrating experience for both the organizers and visitors. To overcome this typical day one conference bugbear, Conference–compass comes with a nifty map feature: by clicking on a presentation location mentioned in the presentation details, the location is immediately identified on the map of the conference venue.
In an era when internet and mobile telephony are making books and newspapers in print rapidly disappear from our lives, the book of abstracts remains a stubborn, papery holdout.  Conference-compass seems set to change that, while helping to make attending conferences much more productive and enjoyable.

“Waarschijnlijk kreeg de wagen een klapband en werd daardoor onbestuurbaar”, vertelt de persvoorlichter van het team, Mariana Popescu vanuit Australië.”De neus is gebroken en een aantal zonnecellen is beschadigd.”

De Delftse studenten van het Nuon Solar Team bereiden zich in Australië voor op de World Solar Challenge, een drieduizend kilometer lange tweejaarlijkse race met tientallen zonnewagens van Darwin naar Adelaide.

De Delftenaren hebben de race de afgelopen vier keer gewonnen. Dit jaar hebben ze de wagen weer lichter en gestroomlijnder gemaakt en voorzien van efficiëntere zonnecellen. Maar alles zal nu afhangen van de reparatiesnelheid. De race start op 25 oktober.

Overigens is het is niet de eerste keer dat de zonneracers zoiets overkomt. In 2005 bleek de wielophanging van de Nuna3 niet bestand tegen de hobbels in de weg. De wagen zakte door zijn pootjes en schuurde tijdens een proefrit over het asfalt waarna het vervolgens ook in de berm belandde. Na drie dagen hadden de studenten de schade toen hersteld.

Op de website van Nuon Solar Team stromen de reacties intussen binnen. Van vrienden en familie, maar ook van concurrerende teams. ‘Een crash zo kort voor de race wenst niemand iemand toe. We zijn er verzekerd van dat er een geduchte Nuna aan de start zal staan. Als jullie ergens hulp kunnen gebruiken, laten jullie dit maar weten’, schrijft het Umicore Solar Team uit Leuven. Het Australische team Sunswift schrijft ook dat ze de Delftenaren wil bijstaan. ‘We have access to our workshop. If you need anything let us know!’

Editor Redactie

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.