UbiComp 2013 Social Media ChairAs you might have seen when you registered for UbiComp 2013, you’re getting a “two-for-one” deal this year: All UbiComp attendees will have free access to the the 17th International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC 2013), and vice versa. Reason enough for me to go and meet with ISWC’s General Chair  – Kristof Van Laerhoven – and ask him a few questions on the symposium in general, as well as about its  collocation with UbiComp.

Kristof, for those UbiComp researchers out there that are not yet aware of ISWC: What should they know?

ISWC 2013 General ChairISWC is the worldwide premier forum to present cutting-edge research results in the fields of wearable computing and on-body and worn mobile technologies. But ISWC is more than a wearables-themed scientific event: it also includes satellites events like the Design Exhibition where clothes designers show off their latest wearables creations, and the Gadget Show where anyone can present their latest gadget in front of the whole audience. Also, lots of ISWC attendees are wearing and demoing their systems themselves in person during the conference. ISWC is a community with quite a few very active and eclectic researchers that have been coming back to meet yearly at the conference since 1997.

One of the expectations from both UbiComp’s and ISWC’s steering committees was that they both would mutually benefit from each other, just like Pervasive and ISWC had in the past. Do you see this happening?

ISWC 2013 General ChairOh yes, absolutely! Kent Lyons decided in 2011 to collocate the Pervasive and ISWC conferences since they had quite an overlap in themes and attendance, and this has proven to be very successful indeed. For ISWC, the benefits of collocating with UbiComp are huge: The 2013 edition is almost ready to take off as we speak, and even UbiComp/ISWC 2014 is already being sketched out. This amount of momentum is extremely important and I think the organisers of past ISWCs will agree that this is not just a luxury: a great conference needs a lot of time to prepare, as well as a successful edition in the year before. I expect that the next years will see an ISWC that continues to grow, together with UbiComp, and I hope that both conferences will cross-fertilise and enrich each other immensely.

Were there any big changes this year for ISWC?

ISWC 2013 General Chair[Whistles] Oh yes, plenty! First of all, the proceedings will be for the first time published by ACM, after having 16 years of IEEE proceedings. This represents a major change for the ISWC community and it took a lot of goodwill, nerves of steel, and willingness to cooperate between the two steering committees and the respective professional organizations – ACM and IEEE – to make this happen. You cannot imagine how many emails were sent to achieve this! Still, IEEE remains our partner as Technical Co-sponsor and we plan to have both ISWC and UbiComp proceedings cross-listed in IEEE Xplore, too.

Another decision we made early on was to join the demo sessions, workshops, and doctoral colloquium: It was from the start clear that attendance would probably be really high this year, and having even more parallel tracks would have been a logistical nightmare for organizing space, food and permissions from the various instances involved. More importantly, this single adjunct program gives authors of both venues more visibility for their work and provides them with more opportunities for discussion with researchers from different communities.

Oh, and ISWC 2013 also had three Program Committee Co-Chairs and a much larger Program Committee than in previous years. That was also a big change!

You said the proceedings of ISWC are now published by ACM. Why was this change necessary?

ISWC 2013 General ChairHow much time do you have (laughs)? Let me try and make a long story short. When we started discussing the collocation of UbiComp and ISWC, what we all wanted was to have UbiComp and ISWC attendees to be able to attend both conferences at the same time and place, without having to pay two registration fees. We, the ISWC and UbiComp organizers, discussed many different options together with IEEE and ACM on how to make this possible from an organizational – and especially financial – perspective. The outcome was that the only way to achieve our goal – two events, one place, one time, one registration fee — was to have completely joint finances. So: As UbiComp is an ACM-sponsored event (see also this blog post on UbiComp finances), any collocated event needed to run under the ACM umbrella, too, hence the ACM proceedings. So that was the short story, but the long story would probably involve a couple of hundred emails on the topic (laughs)!

Wow, I didn’t know that it would be that complicated to simply have two conferences held as a single event. Who would have thought?! 

ISWC 2013 General ChairIndeed, we certainly didn’t think ourselves that it would be that difficult 🙂 But I’m glad we got this sorted out (just) in time for 2013 – hopefully it will be a much smoother process for next year!

Changing topic: Big companies like Apple, Google, Samsung and Sony are all planning to bring out wearable devices in the near future, I assume this had a positive effect as well? 

ISWC 2013 General ChairFor quite a while, attention from the media on ISWC and wearable computing in general was moderate. Until a month ago, we had the usual handful of local radio stations and online news sites from Germany and Switzerland. But as soon as the papers program came out online, a lot of international press sites noticed and started writing articles about upcoming ISWC papers, or about “the next big thing” in wearable computing. This wave is still going strong, and the ISWC Publicity Chair Ulf Blanke and myself are contacted several times a week by journalists to give interviews on ISWC. Don’t get surprised when you see or hear us on your news feed soon, if you haven’t already, and expect to see quite a few journalists in Zurich. Also, quite a lot of these companies you speak of are represented at ISWC and I expect they will be wearing their prototypes.

Speaking of the program track: which ISWC 2013 papers should we definitely check out?

ISWC 2013 General Chair(Laughs) How about ALL of them!? In fact, I think you can write quite a compelling Sci-Fi series based on the paper material from this year’s ISWC proceedings: wearables to interact with dolphins, teeth with embedded sensors, clip-on magnets that attach devices to textiles, fabric-integrated gas sensors, glasses that enable hands-free video calls, wearable dog interfaces, a thermal sound system, an arm-hugging teddy bear… Should I go on?

All right, all right, I’m convinced! That sounds indeed like I have to check out all of them 🙂 Thanks for sharing this with us, Kristof! And best of luck with the symposium!