The earthquakes this year in Haiti, Chile and China, and man-made disasters like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are prime examples of disasters that exact a terrible toll on people around the world.
In all these cases, new technology has played a key role in saving lives and reducing misery. New approaches to disaster response are currently under development by several organisations, including Google.
Google’s New York-based engineering director and University of Waikato alumnus, Dr Craig Nevill-Manning, will give a public lecture during a visit to the University on August 26 on how these new systems are being used on the ground in disaster areas.
He says in the last decade, pervasive cellular data and internet access have provided new tools to help disaster responders and people affected by a disaster.
“For disaster responders, detailed aerial and satellite imagery is accelerating disaster response and rebuilding, and new cloud-based tools can improve communication and collaboration. SMS- and internet-based systems allow victims of a disaster to request help and provide on-the-ground status reports.”
Dr Nevill-Manning will deliver his lecture “Nerds in Crisis: Using Technology to Respond to Disasters” at 6.30 pm on Thursday August 26 at the WEL Academy of Performing Arts on the University campus.
On the August 27 Dr Nevill-Manning will give another lecture, on how researchers at Google are currently exploring new search formats, and innovative ways to identify and deliver answers to complex search questions.
“Some queries, however, are difficult to express in text: an image is worth a thousand query terms, and you can use your cell phone camera to take that image. At other times, a textual query is sufficient, but it's difficult to type when you're walking or driving.
“And some research tasks don't have a simple answer already computed: it's necessary to synthesize an answer from multiple sources.”
In his talk, Dr Nevill-Manning will introduce Google research projects including Google Goggles, Search by Voice and Google Squared, and discuss some of the other challenges Google is currently tackling.
Dr Nevill-Manning is being honoured this year with a University of Waikato Distinguished Alumni Award.