Review: Virtually News

Pint of Science festival continues with two tech bent talks in DRAM! Presented by two researchers at the University of Glasgow, talks highlighted new advances in news monitoring and virtual reality.

Dr Phil McParlane spoke first about his algorithm which analyses 2,000 tweets per second from around the world to identify news as it happens. Using his research, he developed a dashboard of current news and now sells this to financial brokers to access pre-breaking stories. Financial brokers require top speed news to identify bonds to buy cheap and sell fast. An example Dr McParlane used in his talk was the crash of oil prices immediately after the announcement of King Abudah’s death; news of his death reached twitter 6 hours before hitting the wider media. Being able to anticipate the financial fluctuations can save millions in trade. Dr McParlane discussed the technicalities of recognising news through twitter and identified the weaknesses in his model, specifically the confusion sarcasm can cause. Further obstacles are recognising reliable sources through other means than just re-tweets. For example, a man near bombings may be re-tweeted by few people, whereas a cat in a sombrero could get hundreds of thousands, but that’s not exactly the hard-hitting news content brokers are looking for.

After a short interval for a quiz and more pints, Dr Julie Williamson ushered in the next talk discussing her research on virtual reality. Dr Williamson’s research involves field work testing the public reaction to interactive and virtual reality installations in the street. Using various interactive VR games or exhibitions, her research hopes to shed light on the possible addition of VR in everyday life. Her field work included an odd light-box circle on the streets outside the QMU, and a jellyfish show controlled by the audience at the Glasgow Film Festival. Specifically, Dr Williamson wishes to bring VR installations to under-used areas of the city or streets that need revitalised in the hopes that these areas will increase public traffic through these locations. This research could be particularly beneficial in keeping streets safe, as unlit streets will now be the hub of positive interaction.

Both talks demonstrated ingenuity in their fields as well as bridging the gap between general scientific curiosity and practical applications of their work. Cheers to them.

[Michaela Barton – @lowkeypigeon]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: