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May 2015

How is a Researcher like an Octopus?

Autodesk Research is part of the Office of the CTO, or OCTO for short. So, we like things with octo in the name. Things like octopuses - octopi, if you like - and their parallels to members of the research world. Octopuses are:

  • quite intelligent (shown through maze and problem solving experiments)
  • good at learning with strong short and long term memory
  • behaviourally flexible
  • interested in play
  • good at photography

Good at photography?


When we saw this video from Sony we were impressed as we also like exposing ourselves to new experiences and documenting our learning. It's also just really cool.

The behind the scenes video is also fascinating. Before learning to take a picture the octopus decided to taste the camera, perhaps thinking it was a new type of clam.  

Data Visualization is Beautiful as a Wall Decoration

Citeology is an interactive tool for visualizing relationships across research papers created by Justin Matejka, Tovi Grossman and George Fitzmaurice of the UI Group. Selecting any one of the 11,000 plus publications from CHI and UIST will show you its geneology; its parents (papers that it cites) and its children (papers that site it).

Beyond being helpful to the user interface community these graphs are beautiful. We have a wall size version of one graph in the Toronto Autodesk office.

Autodesk Research Toronto Citeology

The layout of the information is simple and effective. Across the horizontal axis is a listing of all the papers by year. As time progresses more papers have been published, much like our growing human population. Parent, or past papers are connected by blue lines while children, or future papers, are connected by red lines.

Autodesk Research Citeology

The lines drawn between papers are semi-transparent add build up to show multiple connections.

Autodesk Research Citeology

Similar to a word cloud, all the titles are displayed with the connected papers being shown in darker colors to stand out.

Autodesk Research Citeology

The complete tool shows some additional information and controls for refining your search results including:

  • shortest path between papers
  • number of children and parents to show
  • details about the active paper

Autodesk Research Citeology UI

Citeology uses research papers and it's interesting to think about what other kinds of relationships a tool like this could help to visualize:

  • Building on geneology, things like family trees, band memberships, and sports teams are likely candidates
  • Historical figures and events along with their triggers
  • Connections and dependencies between things in the Internet of Things

Autodesk Research Citeology

What would you use it for? Try Citeology and let us know what you think!


Designing a Room for Björk from Sound

David Benjamin explains how his team at the Living worked on Björk's Black Lake display at the MoMA. The Living took on the challenge of using sound from the music to design the cinema room where the piece is playing. In this video you can hear him talk about it and see some of the tools he used including 3ds Max and Dynamo.

You can see the full piece at the MoMA in New York City - here's the trailer to whet your appetite.