header art by David Thomas

Truthtable's Cafe: VAIL

Sidewalk cafe....pull up a chair. Here, you can watch the canal boats drift by, the shadows lengthen. Feel free to stay silent, or to leave a message about a topic of importance to you. Later, when the sky grows purple, we can walk to the park. There, we will sit around an open fire, let the sparks drift skyward and speak our minds and hearts.

Sidewalk Cafes are one of Christopher Alexander's patterns in his book, A Pattern Language.

VAIL of course refers to a cool place in the rockies but it also stands for: "Virtual Artificial Intelligence Laboratory."

In 1986, I left IBM Research to start the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at NYNEX. By huge strokes of good fortune, I was able to hire an incredible array of really interesting, intelligent, knowledgeable, creative, hard-working people. They, along with other folks at NYNEX, performed world-class work (and produced lots of $$$$ for the company). Now, after various reorganizations and career changes, many have moved on to other worlds and the "Artificial Intelligence Laboratory" no longer exists on any official org chart. All this is quite okay and business as usual in the real world. But here in the Virtual Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, I'm wondering whether we can create a space that transcends the bounds of "Corporate America" -- a space where VAIL people keep in touch, post interesting ideas and questions, and figure out how to make the "real" world a better place.

Here is just a sample of the people I've had the pleasure to work with in the AI Lab.

Menno Aartsen (maartsen@attglobal.net) is now Director of Corporate Communications. http://pws.prserv.net/playspacl/

Zhigang An (zhigang.an@ey.com) was a nuclear physicist at Los Alamos before joining the machine vision project in the AI lab. He later helped build expert systems. Now, he's with Ernst and Young on Wall Street.

David Asano (dasano@mindspring.com) worked on robotics and the US First contest.

Mike Atwood (Michael.Atwood@cis.drexel.edu). I first met Mike when we were both on the small program committee for the "Gaithersburg Conference" -- the forerunner of ACM's CHI conference. Mike, like me, has studied human problem solving, Human Computer Interaction, and is now interested in Organizational Learning. He was instrumental in NYNEX Science and Technology efforts to move into greater maturity via the Capability Maturity Model and in getting our ISO 9001 registration. Mike has now left The New Bell Atlantic and has joined the faculty at Drexel University. College of Information Science and Technology, Rush Building, 33rd and Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104; Michael.Atwood@cis.drexel.edu

Sara Basson. (sbasson@us.ibm.com) Sara has so many degrees I lost track, but she has now finished her MBA as well. Sara was involved in the VOIS project -- the first time a speaker-independent voice recognition service was widely deployed in this country. Sara has now (re)-joined IBM Research. Buy stock! Sara is president of AVIOS and manager of product development in IBM for Special Needs.

Daphne Balick. (Dabalick@aol.com)< Daphne worked on Machine Vision in the early days of the group. She has a background in biology as well as computer science. BR>

Bart Burns (bart@burns-and-associates.net) Bart has probably thought more deeply about computer science and about organizational learning than most of the rest of the planet combined. He is amazed that so many of the deep ideas in LISP have still not made it into mainstream computer science. Bart is also a highly talented graphic artist.

Atul Chaabra (atul@basit.com). Atul continues to apply and extend the algorithms developed in the Machine Vision group in order to read engineering drawings.

Cynthia Chaplin (cfchaplin@hotmail.com).

Ben Chigier. (chigier@mediaone.net) A former student of Kai Fu Lee, Ben came to NYNEX and helped our speech effort tremendously before deciding to form his own (successful!) start up company, PureSpeech, (recently acquired by VCS for 14$ million!) Ben spent awhile advising VC's and is now involved in another start-up involving speech.

Shelly (Dews) Chigier. Shelly and I first met at an IBM conference on technical information where we shared the same weird idea -- that motivation was an important factor in how and whether people learned about computer systems. We worked together on a tutorial for an IBM Network Product (NETVIEW) and later I convinced her to come join the AI Lab at NYNEX. She helped design interfaces for a number of successful ventures before going back to graduate school to obtain her Ph.D. in Social Psychology. Shelly now works as a consultant in user interface design and we work together on a project to understand and support stories.

Shanmugali Easwaran (Seaswar@aol.com; seaswara@xula.edu) at NYNEX built a set of tools to help us collect and analyze speech data over the network. He is now an assistant professor in the department of Computer Sciences and Computer Engineering at Xavier University. He has also made us more aware of widespread and pretty much unpublicized human rights abuses in his native land.

Jim Euchner. (euchnja@pb.com). Jim was the first person I hired in the NYNEX AI Lab. He is now head of R&D for Pitney Bowes. Jim is also an excellent long-ball hitter and fielder. One season, while I was pitching, I saw him race across left field toward the foul line on a sinking liner. He dove, sumersaulted into a blackberry bush but held on to the ball to make the final out of the game and clinch the intramural title for NYNEX Science and Technology. He shows the same combination of dedication and skill in his work.

Jack Flamholtz (jack.s.flamholtz@verizon.com) spearheaded our first successful Expert Systems effort. Elissa Gilbert (elissa.gilbert@citicorp.com).

Andreas Girgensohn. (andreasg@pal.xerox.com). An awesome computer scientist, former student of Gerhart Fischer, and a great game-player as well. Andreas has now joined Fuji Xerox and will be serving as Technical Co-Chair for CSCW 2002.

David Goblirsch (dmgob@cyburb.com) accepted a position at Timberline in Stamford.

Afshin Goodarzi (afshin@optonline.net) An Expert Systems Expert!

Wayne Gray. Wayne helped save millions for Operator Services and helped develop an effective Intelligent Tutoring System for COBOL before moving on to Fordham. Now he is on the faculty at George Mason Univeristy. See Wayne's Home Page

Charles Jankowski, who worked in the speech lab, is now at Nuance.

Ashok Kalamanswamy (akalyanswamy@yahoo.com) Ashok helped develop a pre-processor for converting names and addresses to demonstrably better spoken output.

Phyllis Kurtenbach (phyllis@invision.net).

Debbie Lawrence (DebLawren@aol.com). An experimental psychologist, with a Ph.D. in psychology "With Distinction" from Columbia, Debbie has also worked in finance, art, and advertising. She is an independent consultant and currently we're working on a project to support the use of stories in business.

Alison Lee (alison@us.ibm.com) has an interest in using video to help a distributed workgroup keep a sense of community and implemented a NYNEX version of portholes. She is now on the staff at IBM T. J. Watson Research and will be serving as technical Co-Chair for CSCW 2002.

Hong Leung. () A former student of Victor Zue at MIT, Hong worked in and then led a speech group at NYNEX Science and Technology for several years before moving to Hong Kong where he started up a major effort at the University of Hong Kong in Speech Technology. He is now CEO of InfoTalk. http://www.infotalk.com/

Keith Loris (kloris@softlock.com) is now CEO of Softlock at 15 Oxbow Rd., Concord MA 01742.

Dave Lubensky (dav@watson.ibm.com) is a manager in the speech recognition area at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center.

Vasa Miladinov (vasawally@netscape.net). Vasa is an extremely hard-working, reliable, organized hardware engineer with broad experience at Bell Labs, NYNEX, and Philips.
Ed Man (edman@airmail.hobl.lucent.com) is at Lucent.

Greg March. (march@gfm.net). Outstanding programmer as well as softball player, table tennis player, new father, and -- well, pretty much everything else. I guess, just blessed with a great nervous system. Visit Greg at http://www.gfm.net
Greg's Home Page

John Martin (martin@basit.com) John worked at Philips before joining NYNEX. He's now a Technical Director at NYNEX.

Sandeep Mehta (Sandeep.Mehta@gs.com) Sandeep worked on both handwriting and speech recognition. He also helped wake us up to the power of the Internet. At Lehman Brothers, he worked on building distributed middleware (Object-Oriented) as well as doing Web Software, Java, and a relational OO database caching toolkit. His home page should be available soon at http://idt.net/~ksm/smhome.htm
Sandeep's Home Page

Anders Morch finished his Ph. D. and is now at the Department of Information Sciences, University of Bergen. Contact: anders@ifi.uib.no; http://www.ifi.uib.no/staff/anders

John Pitrelli. (pitrelli@watson.ibm.com). A former student of Victor Zue at MIT, John focussed on improving rejection schemes for our speech recognition technology. He now works at IBM T. J. Watson on handwriting recognition and is the proud father of a beautiful baby girl.

Rangu Salgame (NOTES.RSALGAME@nynexst.com) Rangu worked on and managed several expert systems projects before moving on to higher management in NYNEX Marketing. He current heads a unit looking at Internet business but has announced that he will leave Bell Atlantic at year's end.

Sanjeev Sardana (sanjeev.sardana@capitalone.com) Sanjeev developed much of the intelligence in "Arachne" -- an expert system program to help NYNEX's huge capital improvement program more efficient and effective.

Pat Sheppard (patrick@mda.ca) Pat was part of our world-class handwriting recognition team. He worked at MDA in the UK on remote sensing devices for a year and is now back in Vancouver. patrick@mda.ca or patrick@eos.co.uk

Kim Silverman, (kimsilv@apple.com) musician, magician, and story-teller, is surely one of the world's experts in prosody. At NYNEX, he helped develop better prosody algorithms for a name and address pronouncer before moving on. He now heads up Apple's efforts in speech research.

Alan Smith worked in the speech group and can be contacted at alansmith@comcast.net

Rich Smith works for Ben Wittner (see below) at Xerox in OCR and recently won the President's Award for his contributions.

Judith Spitz. (jrs@basit.com). An excellent manager, Judith first managed a small four-person speech group and moved on to manage some of the most successful money-saving and productivity-enhancing projects at NYNEX Science and Technology. She is now a Vice President at Bell Atlantic Information Systems.

Stephen Springer has now moved to Boston and has a position at ALTech.

Rory Stuart. (rory@rorystuart.com; stuart@basit.com) A winner in one year of NYNEX Science and Technology's "Recognition of Excellence Award" and winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for his Jazz. Rory is also a tri-althlete and author of "Virtual Environments." In his spare time....

Thea Turner (thea@acm.org), Co-Chair of CHI 2000 now works at Motorola in their R&D lab near Chicago.

Lien Tran (lien@attmail.com) worked on Expert Systems at NYNEX. Now, as you can see from her address, she's with AT&T, having just returned from maternity leave.

Erik Urdang (erik@bhi.com) is not only a super software developer; he is one of the fastest, funniest wits I ever met. Faced with a totally novel situation, Erik makes a comment that is so perfectly novel and yet totally apropos, you would swear he must have been thinking about it all night -- only there's no way he could have known. Unless, of course, he has developed a time machine ...hmmmm.....

George Vysotsky (gevyscom@myexcel.com) 718-601-6306, original project manager for Voice Dialing. Working for Excel Communications. He may save you on your long distance bill.

Kuansan Wang (kuansanw@microsoft.com) -- an expert in speech but also extremely clever in thinking up new business ideas. As you can see from the address, Kuansan is now at Microsoft.

Ben Wittner (benw@xis.xerox.com) pushed the state of the art in handprinted character recognition at NYNEX before joining Xerox. He now manages the group that ships the greatest market share of retail OCR. Their product recently won the Editor's Choice award at PC Magazine. Check out.

Dina Yashchin (dina.yashchin@citicorp.com) is in charge of new technologies at Citicorp in New York City. The one true rocket scientist we had at NYNEX.

Bea Zimmerman (bz@basit.com) Bea has a background in speech synthesis as well as software development. She is also interested in Organizational Learning and has helped provide NYNEX with computer support for the NYNEX University.

Liliane Zreik (Liliane_Zreik@TechSol.com) now works as a consultant.

If you have any further ideas on how VAIL might operate, or if you know how to contact any other former AIL members, please send e-mail. Home

To contact the author: truthtable@aol.com

Last modified: Tuesday, December 10, 2002.