Blending computing with other fields

October 10, 2013 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

In the last few years, I’ve noticed that many creative people who are not professional computer scientists or information technology specialists are adapting computer science techniques to produce new things in their own fields of interest. A simple example in Bloomington was reported a few months ago in the local paper: the owner of a drive-through car wash wrote an app that his customers could download onto their phones that would allow them to make car wash choices and pay for washes from their phones when they drove up to his car wash. This bit of extra convenience for the customer might just give his car wash a little competitive edge, and the fact that he could figure out how to write his own app meant that he didn’t have to pay someone else to do it–someone who would be unfamiliar with the car wash controls.

OK, so maybe the car wash example doesn’t have a lot of flash to it, and you are yawning. How about this, for a totally different example: blending computing with the arts. The special effects in movies and concerts are easy examples — all are completely dependent on computers. How about music: I know a musically talented ISU alum who works as a software architect for State Farm Insurance company–his major was Accounting and he had only a minor in computing. He creates music in his off-time, and he has often worked on the computerized control work for Usher concerts set up.

Here’s another artsy example that I find really fascinating: an artist programming a computer, using the computer “language” called “C”,  to generate an artistic light show of gigantic proportions on the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Check out the video here!

This is not something the artist could have simply hired out to some programmer — the art is created by the programming. Maybe he had help from a professional programmer — or maybe he took some computer programming courses. But for this artist, programming was the tool used to create the art project, much like a set of brushes might be used by a painter.

A few weeks ago I wrote about using machine learning to help premature babies in the hospital. That’s another example of blending computing with another field–in this case, medicine. That example involved a computer scientist, but that system could not have been developed without involving medical professionals who knew enough about computing to be able to contribute intelligently to the project. Many projects that blend computing with some other field are like that — they involve teams of people with different backgrounds and differing levels of computing knowledge, working together. My own first job in graduate school was like that–I was a member of a team working on computer translation of Russian into English. I was not then, nor am I now, a computer scientist. But I knew enough about computing and about linguistics to be a member of the team. Maybe this sort of thing will be an opportunity for you in your own future if you get at least a little background in computing. Not everyone wants to be or is cut out to be a professional, full-time computer programmer, but more and more there seem to be opportunities for non-professionals with some computer skills.

Comments? Maybe you know some other stories you want to tell in the comment section below.

Kenton Machina

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

On the path to Artificial Intelligence The Thing About the Internet of Things and Other Things

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