Date: June 12-15, 2018
Place: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
General Chairs: Pablo Cesar
Author/Reporter: Gwendal Simon (IMT Atlantique - Adobe)
While I was attending the MMSys conference (last June in Amsterdam), I tweeted about my personal highlights of the conference, in the hope to share with those who did not have the opportunity to attend the conference. Fortunately, I have been chosen as “Best Social Media Reporter” of the conference, a new award given by ACM SIGMM chapter to promote the sharing among researchers on social networks. To celebrate this award, here is a more complete report on the conference!
When I first heard that this year’s edition of MMsys would be attended by around 200 people, I was a bit concerned whether the event would maintain its signature atmosphere. It was not long before I realized that fortunately it would. The core group of researchers who were instrumental in the take-off of the conference in the early 2010’s is still present, and these scientists keep on being sincerely happy to meet new researchers, to chat about the latest trends in the fast-evolving world of online multimedia, and to make sure everybody feels comfortable talking with each other.
I attended my first MMSys in 2012 in North Carolina. Although I did not even submit any paper to MMSys’12, I decided to attend because the short welcoming text on the website was astonishingly aligned with my own feeling of the academic research world. I rarely read the usually boring and unpassionate conference welcoming texts, but this particular day I took time to read this particular MMSys text changed my research career. Before 2012, I felt like one lost researcher among thousands of other researchers, whose only motivation is to publish more papers whatever at stake. I used to publish sometimes in networking venues, sometimes in system venues, sometimes in multimedia venues… My production was then quite inconsistent, and my experiences attending conferences were not especially exciting.
The MMsys community matches my expectations for several reasons:
- The size of a typical MMSys conference is human: when you meet someone the first day, you’ll surely meet this fellow again the next day.
- Informal chat groups are diverse. I’ve the feeling that anybody can feel comfortable enough to chat with any other attendee regardless of gender, nationality, and seniority.
- A responsible vision of what should be an academic event. The community is not into show-off in luxury resorts, but rather promotes decently cheap conferences in standard places while maximizing fun and interactions. It comes sometimes with the cost of organizing the conference in the facilities of the university (which necessarily means much more work for organizers and volunteers), but social events have never been neglected.
- People share a set of “values” into their research activities.
This last point is of course the most significant aspect of MMSys. The main idea behind this conference is that multimedia services are not only multimedia but also networks, systems, and experiences. This commitment to a holistic vision of multimedia systems has at least two consequences. First, the typical contributions that are discussed in this conference have both some theoretical and experimental parts, and, to be accepted, papers have to find the right balance between both sides of the problem. It is definitely challenging, but it brings passionate researchers to the conference. Second, the line between industry and academia is very porous. As a matter of facts, many core researchers of MMSys are either (past or current) employees of research centers in a company or involved into standard groups and industrial forums. The presence of people being involved in the design of products nurtures the academic debates.
While MMSys significantly grows, year after year, I was curious to see if these “values” remain. Fortunately, it does. The growing reputation has not changed the spirit.
The 2018 edition of the MMSys conference was held in the campus of CWI, near Downtown Amsterdam. Thanks to the impressive efforts of all volunteers and local organizers, the event went smoothly in the modern facilities near the Amsterdam University. As can be expected from a conference in the Netherlands, especially in June, biking to the conference was the obviously best solution to commute every morning from anywhere in Amsterdam.
The program contains a fairly high number of inspiring talks, which altogether reflected the “style” of MMsys. We got a mix of entertaining technological industry-oriented talks discussing state-of-the-art and beyond. The two main conference keynotes were given by stellar researchers (who unsurprisingly have a bright career in both academia and industry) on the two hottest topics of the conference. First Philip Chou (8i Labs) introduced holograms. Phil kind of lives in the future, somewhere five years later than now. And from there, Phil was kind enough to give us a glimpse of the anticipatory technologies that will be developed between our and his nows. Undoubtedly everybody will remember his flash-forwarding talk. Then Nuria Oliver (Vodafone) discussed the opportunities to combine IoT and multimedia in a talk that was powerful and energizing. The conference also featured so-called overview talks. The main idea is that expert researchers present the state-of-the-art in areas that have been especially under the spotlights in the past months. The topics this year were 360-degree videos, 5G networks, and per-title video encoding. The experts were from Tiledmedia, Netflix, Huawei and University of Illinois. With such a program, MMSys attendees had the opportunity to catch-up on everything they may have missed during the past couple of years.
The MMSys conference has also a long history of commitment for open-source and demonstration. This year’s conference was a peak with an astonishing ratio of 45% papers awarded by a reproducibility badge, which means that the authors of these papers have accepted to share their dataset, their code, and to make sure that their work can be reproduced by other researchers. I am not aware of any other conference reaching such a ratio of reproducible papers. MMSys is all about sharing, and this reproducibility ratio demonstrates that the MMSys researchers see their peers as cooperating researchers rather than competitors.
My personal highlights would go for two papers: the first one is a work from researchers from UT Dallas and Mobiweb. It shows a novel efficient approach to generate human models (skeletal poses) with regular Kinect. This paper is a sign that Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will soon be populated by user-generated content, not only synthetized 3D models but also digital captures of real humans. The road toward easy integration of avatars in multimedia scenes is paved and this work is a good example of it. The second work I would like to highlight in this column is a work from researchers from Université Cote d’Azur. The paper deals with head movement in 360-degree videos but instead of trying to predict movements, the authors propose to edit the content to guide user attention so that head movements are reduced. The approach, which is validated by a real prototype and code source sharing, comes from a multi-disciplinary collaboration with designers, engineers, and human interaction experts. Such multi-disciplinary work is also largely encouraged in MMSys conferences.
Finally, MMSys is also a full event with several associated workshops. This year, Packet Video (PV) was held with MMSys for the very first time and it was successful with regards to the number of people who attended it. Fortunately, PV has not interfered with Nossdav, which is still the main venue for high-quality innovative and provocative studies. In comparison, both MMVE and Netgames were less crowded, but the discussion in these events was intense and lively, as can be expected when so many experts sit in the same room. It is the purpose of workshops, isn’t it?
A very last word on the social events. The social events in the 2018 edition were at the reputation of MMSys: original and friendly. But I won’t say more about them: what happens in MMSys social events stays at MMSys.
The 2019 edition of MMSys will be held on the East Coast of US, hosted by University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The multimedia community is in a very exciting time of its history. The attention of researchers is shifting from video delivery to immersion, experience, and attention. More than ever, multimedia systems should be studied from multiple interplaying perspectives (network, computation, interfaces). MMSys is thus a perfect place to discuss research challenges and to present breakthrough proposals.
 This means that I also had my bunch of rejected papers at MMSys and affiliated workshops. Reviewer #3, whoever you are, you ruined my life (for a couple of hours)