Rare opportunity!

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On 8th Nov, I had an excellent opportunity to share the podium along with none other than Padmashree Dr. Deepak Phatak. It was a webinar hosted by the Government of India as a prelude to the forthcoming global conference. The topic of the webinar was: accessible ICT, and Prof. Pathak had requested me to share my experience of interventions we had created recently in this domain.

I have presented to projects which I have work recently on. The first one is an animated tutor for learning Indian Sign Language (ISL) called as Fingerspelling. Five Summer intern students (Romeo, Tejas, Bhuvanesh, Suchismita, and Nitin who mentored them) worked relentlessly to create this useful intervention. Apart from the animation and the interactivity which goes in the creation of the application the students also visited a school where hearing and speech impaired students tested our product and found it useful. Please use the following links to know more about this app:

Online version | Downloadable version | Report

I also spoke about another interesting project I’m part of. It is a science popularisation and adoption initiative using ICT. We have chosen the pioneering work by Prof. Arvind Gupta (IUCAA, Pune). The team at Kintel Inc, led by Ashay Sahasrabudhe has created 50 videos using ISL. Jidnyasa Trust (Thane) has designed workshops for the faculty members of the special schools explaining the process of adopting these videos in the classrooms. Since, the final production is underway, I will provide the links soon.

Please share these projects with others so that they can access them.

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Birthday gift

img_9459.jpgWhen I first heard about Amazon Echo, I wasn’t sure of it’s usability and utility. However, it struck me, when I realised that Kaumudi’s birthday coincides with the release date of Echo in India, and I knew, it could be the best gift for her.

I placed the pre-order in Diwali, and was waiting for it to arrive for Nov 4th. Amazon didn’t disappoint at all, and the Echo was delivered right on 2nd Nov. I unpacked and set it up so that it was fully functional on 4th!IMG_9475

Now, some review: Echo is an amazing piece of technology, which gives a glimpse of what is coming up in future! It is a audio controlled device, where almost all settings can be controlled without moving from your seat! Just say ‘Alexa’, and the lights on the top  ring will start illuminating, and settle down, exactly in your direction! You then say the command, and Echo will immediately follow it. I am pleasantly surprised by the audio sensitivity of the microphones, and the lexicon for the India specific words.

We tried to test it by using words such as, ‘Geet Ramayan, Kishori Amonkar, and Bhajan’, and Echo doesn’t disappoint you! It DOES NOT support Indian language per se, however it can understand almost all Indian words. What amazed me was the pronunciation of Indian words, which is very natural as compared to many other auto readers such as Siri, Google, or Cortana.

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Kaumudi is still in the experimental mode adjusting with her new companion: Alexa, however, I can see that they will make a good pair!

Kaumudi just cannot think of working without a music track playing in the background, and Echo will provide it, without disturbing her hands, involved in creating the drawings! Happy Birthday Kaumudi!

 

Uncommon feat of a Common man: Dr Vilas Padhye

A year back, I got a call from my cousin, that a filmmaker needs to talk to me about a film on the topic of ‘Save the Tigers’. It turns out to be Dr. Vilas Padhye, a professor of psychology who is a passionate wildlife lover. He had written, and composed a song explaining a story of a tiger cub: Bobby. Dr. Padhye’s daughter and his son recorded this poem, and the impact was touching!

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We were quite sure to use animation as a visual medium, however the question was to get a team for this project, who can devote the kind of time it requires. I was a big fan of the awesome trio from Weybec Studios: Pratik SolankiNita Ravalji, and Niyal Parmar. I asked them, and they jumped in with equal amount of passion for the film! Apart from the important cause of the film, I was extremely happy for another reason.

The technology platform was decided as Blender. Thus, this film is probably the first Indian 3D animated music video created using Blender.

As an evangelist of this software, I am proud to invite you all to have a look at the finished product to be released soon!

The production was at a slow pace, however, the team was constantly working on perfecting every look, motion, and angle to provide the finesse. This passion for perfection is evident in the final product, and I am sure you all will agree with me, that this is one of the best animated videos produced in India, by Indians. I am happy to see that the project is ready for the launch now, and the look seems promising! Have a look at the trailor released this week, and keep yourself updated by visiting their site: www.letssavebobby.com, and also on their Facebook page.

As mentioned in the promo, it is indeed:

An initiative by a common man,
and his family, and friends, and friends’ friends,
and their friends, and more friends…

Let us be their friends, and join hands to make this message reach to billions!!

ABC of Ph D

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Few years back, I was invited to speak to masters students at a college of Mumbai University. The college administration had communicated to me that the students were anxious to know the process, pitfalls, advantages, disadvantages, and many other aspects of PhD. Based on this user requirement, I designed a talk by curating few well known concepts. The talk went well (according to me), and the students were quite interactive during the talk. I was bombarded with many questions during and in the end, which was a good sign!

Unfortunately, this talk wasn’t recorded, however the slide presentation for the same is available for you to download. Please go through it, and let me know your views about it.

Slides can be downloaded from here: ABCofPhD

Kaumudi’s Creations

Kaumudi has been exploring the 2D animation feature of Blender called as Grease Pencil. She has picked up this task of creating an introductory animation for the homepage of the language learning website: http://www.dwibhashi.org. This website helps learning a new language with the help of the language you know already! Kaumudi has done most of the reference images for the site already, however, to give a relevant graphic look, the site team decided to have a small animated GIF to be displayed on the home page. The decision was to have a festival depicted in the animation.

Kaumudi started off last year around the same time last year to explore Blender Grease Pencil. As an added attraction, she also finalised two characters a boy (Dwi), and a girl (Bhashi) to be shown in each of the animation. The task was quite difficult, since there were not many resources available to learn this on your own. However, Kaumudi persisted, and tried various methods to bring Santa to life in the month of December.

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Next month was January, and the topic was the Makar sankranti! Kaumdi tried the kite flying animation. The Grease pencil features of 2D animation were helpful, however, it was a uphill task to achieve a finished look for the animation.

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She also added one more animation in a record time, on the eve of the Republic Day. I chipped in with a 3D animation of the fluttering flag as a background for this animation!

26Jan_Final_Watermark-giff.gifFebruary was for the Holi! The biggest challenge in all these animation is its requirement of playing in a loop. It was a new challenge to animate the colours on the clothes  in a loop! Kaumidi used a tree as a prop to hide Dwi, in this short gag she animated!

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In March, since not a particular festival was to be depicted, she created a generic animation of the children (Dwi and Bhashi) playing the skipping over the rope game! This has been used as a filler, in case a new animation is not available.

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Come April, and Kaumudi moved Northwards, and animated the famous dance moves for the Baisakhi!! The characters were shown in the traditional Punjabi costumes in the green fields!!

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Month of May was a holiday, when we were traveling, and Kaumudi had to ask for the repeat of the rope skipping animation to be displayed once again. During our trip to Barcelona, we met one of the gods of Grease Pencil: Daniel Larra! Kaumudi shared her experience of using Grease Pencil, and got some interesting tips from the grandmaster!

June was showing the Eid-E-Milad animation after rejuvenating trip of Europe! Kaumudi had also learnt about a new software: Krita, which is an excellent option for Photoshop (especially for drawing and painting).

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July month was reserved for the Rakhi-pournima! A huge backdrop of the full Moon, made both characters look pretty! The animation of the flame was interesting.

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August was hectic, since Kaumudi was also playing a host to Lord Ganapati at our house! The animation had more motion than ever, and she tried to depict the new craze of the girls playing the big size drums in the Ganapati processions! We released the GIFs as a teaser, by adding one character at a time, and soon it was an instant hit!

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Since the calendar shifted this year, we had the Navaratri in September. Kaumudi picked the Raavan Dahan as the topic, and Dwi-Bhashi were shown hitting the Raavan with their arrows!

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October has Diwali this year, and Kaumudi is ready with yet another animation. The speciality of this animation is that it is created entirely using the free drawing software: Krita!

 

 

Teaching-Learning at scale

Red leafJust checked the course enrollment page on http://www.iitbombayx.in, and was pleasantly surprised to see that 3000 participants have enrolled for the course. It is NOT a big deal anymore to have thousands of students. Well known fact that merely 8-10% of the MOOC participants actually complete the course, has made me think about two important issues:

  1. What will be the components of the course, which these large number of participants (from various parts of the country) will find interesting enough to complete the course?
  2. What are those components (present or absent) which will refrain the participants from completing the course?

I would seek your comments on the same, in order to address this important problem faced internationally! I would wait for your comments. Later I will edit this blog post (by referring your comments), to complete this thread, that I have started!

Keep those comments coming in…

Chennai express-ions 2.0: The food

img_8966.jpgChennai  food was great from the time I landed. Early morning when I visited Anna University the first couple of nice filter coffee really set the tone.  My next stop was Loyola College. After the interactive session I was terribly hungry and the Principal Prof. Jose  took his car out so that we can go to the most famous Chennai restaurant: Saravana Bhavan. It took some courage to order the South-Indian full Thali, however I was pretty sure of the taste and the variety. And it did not disappoint at all.

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With numerous items seen here (and some not seen like: the starters and the deserts) in the picture, you can imagine the task of finishing this gigantic thali! My student, Romey (extreme right) gave the much necessary helping ‘hand’ to finish it, and had a ALL VEG meal after a long time!

After couple of sessions and many more meetings at the end of the day, the team at Loyola took me to another famous restaurant Murugan’s idli! Restaurant greeted us with a very basic but clean atmosphere, nice banana leaves, and minimalist but functional menu which was really tempting. I was extremely happy to see the range of chutneys served, irrespective of the main course you order!

 

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The only person who knew what all we had that day was the waiter, who kept on getting various forms of Vadai and Dosai, until we all said ‘enough’! As per the custom, I folded the leaf to half, and indicated the end of my battle! However, it was not possible to say no to the excellent aroma of filter kaapi!!!

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Only words I could utter were: अन्नदाता सुखी भव ||