Another amazing edition of CSE 501: Designing Human Centered Systems

Teaching DHCS has always been fun and exciting! As always, I had a lot of stories to tell students on the first day of class, about the past editions of the course, with descriptions of the projects, video recordings of past students, and Facebook pictures of BBIs! In total, we had 108 students take the course, with 20 projects, and 6 Teaching Assistants. We had wonderful guest lectures by Karan Gupta from Dropbox (IIITD Alum, MS in Design from Univ. of Washington), Apoorv Narang from Instawork (IIITD Alum, MS in HCI from Carnegie Mellon University), Prof. Timothy Moyers (faculty at IIITD), and Harshita Arora, an unschooler! All these guest lectures added great flavor to the topics that we covered in the class. Broad topics that we covered were:

  •  Design process overview
  • Contextual Inquiry
  • Task analysis
  • Sketching and prototyping
  • Human factors & Mental models
  • Low-Fidelity prototyping
  • Visual design
  • Usability engineering
  • Usability evaluation: think aloud, observing users, testing and modeling users, expert evaluations
  • Information visualization
  • HCI and mobility
  • HCI and security
  • User modeling, personalization
  • Interface modalities: color, sound, etc.
  • Cool characteristics of a good HCI designer, user experience engineer
  • Recent trends and happenings in HCI
  • Whirlwind tour of different research groups, academic conferences, and organizations in the space of HCI

We had, on average, 1 activity per class. Some pictures from the activities in the class. In addition to activities, we also have Critique, i.e. we spend about 30 min in class after the formal project reviews, where students showcase their projects to all their classmates. Every group showcase their project artefacts on a table for other students in class to come and see them. Below is a pic from Critique, more pics from both activities and Critique.

This edition we had some really interesting projects! Below is the list of all projects from the course (arranged in alphabetical order), with the respective blog entry written by students, a video showcasing the project, and fliers / promotional materials used by students. The reason for making all these public is to get future students or others interested in the course / projects to make use of the content. I sincerely thank all students who agreed to share the content.

  1. Alumnect | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  2. Brú | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  3. busKARO | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  4. CookMate | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  5. EventsCart | Blog | Flier and Promotional materials
  6. FITOR | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  7. GamesUp | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  8. GentleReminders | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  9. GrupTack | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  10. IIIT Express | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  11. IIITD Mess App | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  12. Interacto | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  13. MayMayMe | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  14. noWhinge | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  15. Reche | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  16. Rove | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  17. Sportify | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  18. TechTinder | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  19. Trappic | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials
  20. TechTinder | Blog | Video | Flier and Promotional materials

It is super fun to see students like, enjoy, and learn from the course. I received 4.2 or more on 5 for all parameters of evaluation for the course. Parameters of evaluation were, Course Outcomes, Course Organization, Course Administration and Instruction. HUGE thanks to every student for your involvement and creative project work! This would not have been possible without the help of TAs (Simran, Sahar, Prerna, Twishi, Ojasvi, Khushboo). Special thanks to all project evaluators (Sneha, Aman, Nishtha, Rishabh, Nitendra, Ankita, Sachin, Mayank, Indira, Shubham, Divyansh, Kushagra, Niharika) and admin support (Pooja, ShEetu, Arun, Anshi, Ashutosh, Prachi, Priti)! Below is the traditional picture of the course! 100+ pics from the final poster presentation. 

Signing off #CSE501 #Spring2018

My enriching journey with Precog

It all started with a weekend I was free and saw a small opportunity to do something different. I saw a post on facebook for a hackathon organized by Precog. The challenge was to build a sentiment classifier in Hindi. We quickly googled the exact problem and found some solutions which could be implemented easily. Later we realized that everyone else is doing the exact same thing. That was the moment we realized, we need to do something different and out of the box to win. Before that, we used to stay in our comfort zone and rely on external sources for answers. That hackathon was the beginning when I got into machine learning. I am pretty much convinced my life would have been really different if I didn’t take part. After several hours of hacking, we put together a small working prototype and ended up winning the hackathon. During the hackathon, we got a gist of the people and the culture of Precog. Because of that, I ended up doing a summer internship and staying there till my end of my undergrads. Precog is the most selective research group in our college, which was all the more reason for me to be super thrilled to get in.

The internship was an amazing experience for me. It was the first time I started working as part of a team. I learned a lot of cool stuff from my peers. The thing that fascinated me the most was the freedom and trust of others. We used to have open discussions of ideas, where no idea was considered bad. At Precog everyone helps each other; whether it was reviewing a draft, debugging code or getting new ideas. I was with Indira and Kushagra working on solving NLP problems on Indian OSM data. I still recall the long discussions we used to have together. This was the first time I ever had access to massive compute resources. Precog has more servers than any other research group at IIITD, which was pretty cool to know (and still is)!. That enabled me to play with massively large data. I was also involved with Sonal in an image retrieval project. The research was published at SocInfo.  We used to have Whatsup sessions where we all would share our updates with the whole group. To the best of my knowledge, Precog is the only group which does that. We all used to learn a lot about new things from that session.

Precog Interns: Summer of 2016

Fascinated by the work at Precog, I decided to continue working with them after the internship as well. I started working on analyzing sensitive content with indira. We had several discussions with other teams on how to make our project better. Our system finally ended up getting deployed. The feeling of our research work helping others was quite satisfying. Together, we used to brainstorm ideas for several other projects. My experience with Precog changed my perspective. It is a fact that most of the research around the world goes unused, but this is not the case with Precog. The outings, cake cutting events and the dinners at PK’s residence bonded us together as a family.

I always used to be a “how” person, who focuses on the solutions rather than the problems. With Precog, I realized the importance of “what”. Figuring out the ‘what to do’ is much more crucial. We can easily find solutions once we understand the problem. The culture at Precog encourages us to believe in ourselves. My presentation skills improved drastically, thanks to the ‘Deep Dive’ sessions. Due to the absence of any kind of spoon feeding, we all became better at finding solutions. Rather than learning a particular skill, we mastered the skill of acquiring skills. Every Precog alum is extremely successful, and now I know why.

A group photo of our family!

As a machine learning geek, I believe we all are like reinforcement learning agents: trying to maximize our reward (for us fun and learning). For an agent to get an optimal reward, good feedback on its actions is really important. The complete group as a whole provides excellent feedback which results in us improving, being more adept to achieve our dreams and have fun on the way as well!

Looking back, I realize how these small events had such a huge impact in my life. From troubling others by crashing the servers to publishing papers, I realize what all I would have missed by not joining Precog. In my last semester, I interned at Microsoft Research doing research on unsupervised learning on video data.  If you have a desire to do something out of the box, I highly recommend you to should join Precog.

Sojourn of an introvert at PreCog

“The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts”

This was just another saying for me until the day I joined Precog. It all began when my friends convinced me into taking part in OSM-Palooza, a hackathon organized by PreCog in Spring 2016. The task was to perform sentiment analysis on Twitter code-mixed data. The experience was fun: learning basics of machine learning, text analysis, APIs, web scraping, automation, and what not. Finally, after working for several hours, our team made a submission that ended up winning the first prize!

While munching on pizza slices with the prize money, I started thinking about this experience, and how much I loved it. After a bit of research on what PreCog does and the people in it, my friend Divam and I decided to ask PK for a spot in the research group via a summer internship. After the friendliest interview with Prateek and Anupama, we were in. The summer started off with a lot of learning, reading research papers, watching video lectures, and exploring huge datasets. Frequent visits to Precog’s lab made me realize how it was different from other research labs.

One of several sessions of Precog; every single time walking out of the room with added knowledge :’)

Whatever research labs I had entered/visited as a college student, generally had students working in dead silence, consumed in their work and not looking anywhere around. Precog was much more lively. There is a fridge with chocolates that don’t usually last, bean bags for lazing around and the most amazing people to discuss your ideas with in a chillaxed surrounding. It has positive vibes coming out it. After working for that summer and submitting our work to ASONAM, an international conference (which ended up being published!), I made the decision to continue working with this awesome group of people.

As time passed by, I learned new things that I might have never stumbled across, shared with and by the lab members. Every email that would pop up in Precog’s mailing list would be brain food: I’d open the link and try to read everything in it. Doing this for quite some time helped me discover my passion for machine learning. It is this habit of reading these emails in depth that helped me start a project in machine learning in collaboration with IBM!

While PhDs from the lab and undergrads worked on my draft, submitting research work to a conference, I was reminded of the awesome group that I am a part of.

Apart from boosting my hunger for knowledge and helping me grow in my field and as a person in general, I owe whatever success I have to Precog. Being an introvert, I wasn’t too comfortable part of being such a close-knit research group. However, with encouraging mentors like PK, Prateek, and Anupama, I started opening up. From having a potluck lunch at PK’s residence to extempore plans to order ice-cream for lunch, I have come a long way in getting rid of my shyness.

From Natural’s ice cream in the fridge to hot pizza after data annotation sessions, from group sessions and constructive feedback to heart-to-heart talks, from the coolest PHDs in the lab to the coolest mentor and advisor I could have asked for, the memories I’ve made as part of PreCog are something I shall always cherish and carry with me 😀