The Nineteenth International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences was held in Melbourne from August 5-9, 2019. It was an amazing success with over 950 delegates, and a nearly unlimited opportunities to forge new collaborations and improve the quality of phonetic science research worldwide.
I was especially impressed with the entire science committee who organized over 400 reviewers for the conference, dealt with difficult-to-administer programme software, and kept every talk and poster well coordinated despite the inevitable last-minute changes. Paola Escudero, Sasha Calhoun, and Paul Warren are to be commended!
I also commend Rosey Billington of the social media liaison. Social media was the knife’s edge between success and failure. I’m not good at the stuff to the point of having to effectively leave facebook of late, but I admire those who can bend social media to their will – especially when their will is goodwill.
I also commend the keynote speakers. My former PhD supervisor Bryan Gick made an amazing presentation on how bodies talk. I really enjoyed seeing the old research, and seeing the new stuff I haven’t been involved with as much. It was great to see Connor Meyer is joining in on writing a new book on that same topic – I await it with great anticipation!
Lucie Menard presented on “Production-perception relationships in sensory deprived populations: the case of visual impairment”. Her talk really helped me see how seeing helps with speaking. I cannot recommend reading her papers enough.
And of course the media darling of the event was Jonas Beskow on “On talking heads, social robots and what they can teach us”.
His talk shows us some of the state-of-the-art on human-robot interactive systems, which while super-interesting, also strongly points out to me how much we can still do to improve human/computer interaction. We have only just begun to exploit such opportunities.
I also really enjoyed the visual prosody contest – the poster on the left showed a method of highlighting both pitch and intensity at the same time. Visual prosody requires innovative techniques for showing multi-dimensional information in an intuitive way that people can grasp using the built-in abilities of their visual systems. I intend to write a blog post on this topic, highlighting the incredible multidimensionality of some of the greatest visualizations used in data presentation today – weather maps. The best of these present rain, wind, maps, and pressure systems all at the same time, and in a manner nearly anyone can decipher instantly with but a little training.
The conference dinner was also fun, with really good food and a spectrogram contest with participants who were insanely fast. The winners of two of the contests had answers before I could even finish a draft segmentation. I’m not sure who taught them to read spectrograms faster than I read text, but someone did, and I was impressed!
I was glad to be a member of the organizing committee, despite being quite bad at getting corporate sponsors. I contacted over 200 companies, and got 0 sponsors. We had only a couple, mostly publishers, and mostly organized by other committee members. Only one company contacted us on their own. If I were to do it again, I would have contacted the previous delegates from 4 years before, and asked each three questions: “What research tools do you use that you like? What have you bought in the last year? What is the contact information for the salesperson who sold you those items.” With this information, it becomes possible to build a database of exactly how we as phonetics researchers can benefit companies, with contacts to those who would care the most.