Report from ACM Multimedia Systems 2021 by Neha Sharma

Date: Sept 28 - Oct 1
, 2021
Place: Istanbul, Turkey (Hybrid Conference)
General Chairs: Özgü Alay 
(Simula Metropolitan and University of Oslo, Norway), Cheng-Hsin Hsu (National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan), Ali C. Begen (Ozyegin University and Networked Media, Turkey)

Editor: Mylene Farias (University of Brasilia, Brazil)

Neha Sharma (@NehaSharma) is a PhD student working with Dr Mohamed Hefeeda in Network and Multimedia Systems Lab at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests are in computer vision and machine learning with a focus on next-generation multimedia systems and applications. Her current work focuses on designing an inexpensive hyperspectral camera using a hybrid approach by leveraging both hardware and software solutions. She has been awarded as Best Social Media Reporter of the conference to promote the sharing among researchers on social networks. To celebrate this award, here is a more complete report on the conference.

Being a junior researcher in multimedia systems, I must say I feel proud to be part of this amazing community. I became part of ACM Multimedia Systems Conference (MMSys) last year in 2020, where I published my first research work. I was excited to attend MMSys ’20 in Istanbul, which unfortunately shifted online due to COVID-19. I presented my first work online and got to learn about other researchers in the community. This year I was able to publish another work with my team and got selected to present my ideas and research plans in Doctoral Symposium (thanks to reviewers). MMSys’21 gave me hope to have a full conference experience, as we all were hoping to start our lives back to normal. But, as the conference date was approaching, things were still not clear and travel restrictions were still in place. But on the good note, MMSys ’21 became hybrid to provide an opportunity to the people who can travel. It was at the very end I decided to travel and attend MMSys’21 in person. And I am glad I made that decision. My experience was overwhelmingly rich in terms of learning interesting research findings and making inspiring connections in the community. As the recipient of the “Best Social Media Reporter” award, enjoy the highlights of MMSys’ 21 through my lens. 

In the light of the ongoing global pandemic, ACM MMSys ’21 was held in hybrid mode – onsite in Istanbul, Turkey and online jointly on September 28 – October 1, 2021. Ali C. Begen (Ozyegin University and Networked Media, Turkey) opened the conference onsite with a warm welcome. MMSys’21 became the first-ever hybrid conference where participants presented onsite as well as remotely in real-time. There were participants joining from 38 different countries. The organizing team did an amazing job in pulling off this complex event. This year the research track implemented a two-round submission system, and accepted papers included public reviews in the proceedings. This, however, was not the only first, MMSys ’21 had its first Doctoral Symposium targeting the PhD students and aiming to find their mentors. In addition, there were postponed celebrations for the 30th anniversary of NOSSDAV and the 25th anniversary of Packet Video.

The conference program was very well scheduled. Each day of the conference started with a keynote. There were four insightful and inspiring keynotes from researchers working in cutting edge multimedia technologies. The first day started with a talk titled “AI-Driven Solutions throughout Games’ Lifecycles Leveraging Big Data” by Qiaolin Chen from Tencent IEG Global. Chen discussed how AI and big data are evolving the gaming industry, from intelligent market decisions to data-driven game development. On the second day, Caitlin Kalinowski presented an interesting keynote “Making Impossible Products: How to Get 0-to-1 Products Right”. Caitlin heads the VR Hardware team at Facebook Reality Labs. She shared insights about Oculus and zero-to-one products. The next day, Chris Bregler (Google) talked about “Synthetic Media: New Opportunities and New Challenges”. He discussed recent trends in generative media creation techniques that have opened new possibilities for societally beneficial uses but have also raised concerns about misuse. Last day, Sriram Sethuraman and Deepthi Nandakumar (Amazon) provided insights about “Role of ML in the Prediction of Perceptual Video Quality”. Keynotes are available on youtube to watch on-demand.

This year the conference attracted paper submissions from a range of multimedia topics including immersive media, live video, content preparation, cloud-based and mobile media processing and computer vision systems. Apart from the main research track, MMSys ’21 hosted three workshops:

  • NOSSDAV – Network and Operating System Support for Digital Audio and Video
  • MMVE – Immersive Mixed and Virtual Environment Systems
  • GameSys – Game Systems

These workshops provided an opportunity to meet those who are working in focused areas of multimedia research. This year MMSys conducted the inaugural ACM workshop on Game Systems (GameSys ’21). This workshop attracted research on all aspects of computer/digital games, emphasizing networks, systems, interaction, and applications. Highlights include the work presented by Mark Claypool et. Al (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) which conducts a user study measuring attribute scaling for cloud-based games. 

In addition to area focussed workshops, MMSys’21 also conducted two grand challenges:

Another main highlight of the conference is the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) workshop. The workshop was tailored towards PhD students, assistant professors and starting researchers in various research organizations. The event openly discussed core topics about parenthood, work-family policies, career paths and EDI aspects at large. Laura Toni, Mea Wang and Ozgu Alay opened the workshop on the third day of the conference. Miriam Redi shared goals to achieve an equitable and inclusive multimedia community. Susanne Boll talked about the target strategy “25 in 25” to increase the participation of women in SIGMM to at least 25% by 2025. Other guest speakers also highlighted some strategies to achieve target diversity and inclusion in MMSys.

Last but not the least, amazing social events. Each day of the conference ended with a well-planned social event providing a great opportunity to the in-person attendees to meet, discuss, and develop professional and social links throughout the community in a more relaxed setting. We had visited some historical venues like Galata Tower and Adile Sultan Palace and enjoyed a Bosphorus boat tour with a live music band. This year MMSys planned the first inter-continental socials. We travelled from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul (by bus and by boat). As a token of appreciation, in-person participants received Turkish delights and coffee, a set of traditional towels (peştemal), Istanbul-themed puzzles and a hand-made Kütahya Porcelain vase/coffee set as souvenirs. For me, the best part was sitting together and dining with peers, discussing prospects of your own research or multimedia systems research, in general.

Closing the conference, Ali C. Begen opened with the announcement of the awards. The Best Paper Award was presented to Xiao Zhu et. Al for the paper “Livelyzer: Analyzing the First-Mile Ingest Performance of Live Video Streaming”. See the full list of awards here. The conference closed with the announcement of ACM Multimedia Systems 2022, which will be happening in Athlone, Ireland. Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.

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