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Ian Ozsvald picture

This is Ian Ozsvald's blog (@IanOzsvald), I'm an entrepreneurial geek, a Data Science/ML/NLP/AI consultant, founder of the Annotate.io social media mining API, author of O'Reilly's High Performance Python book, co-organiser of PyDataLondon, co-founder of the SocialTies App, author of the A.I.Cookbook, author of The Screencasting Handbook, a Pythonista, co-founder of ShowMeDo and FivePoundApps and also a Londoner. Here's a little more about me.

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14 April 2009 - 23:56Informatics Update: Graham McAllister and Video-game Usability (Invited post)

As a part of my efforts with Andy Philippedes at Sussex Uni to get information flowing between the Computer Science dept. and companies in town, Andy has asked Graham McAllister to introduce himself and his work (and new company) in usability design and research for video games.

Over to Graham…

I’m Graham McAllister, a Senior Lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction and a member of the Human-Centred Computing Technology (HCT) research group in the Informatics department at the University of Sussex.  My research is in the area of video games, in particular trying to ensure  that they can be understood and played just as the designers intended.

So if you have ever played a game only to find it frustrating, annoying or even plain boring, my research tries to ensure that this does not happen.

As the UK video game industry grows, and games become more expensive to design and develop, it is becoming even more important to attain the highest quality possible.  To help ensure that UK games studios remain among the best in the world, we have started a spin-out company which focusses on analyzing games from the viewpoint of the player, i.e. can they understand the game, are the goals clear, do they enjoy it?

We’re almost ready to launch Vertical Slice, the UK’s first company to focus entirely on the area of video games usability and user experience.  Our studios are based at the Sussex Innovation Centre on Sussex University Campus, and feature facilities in which the interaction between players and video games can be observed, captured and analyzed.

For further details, please contact me at g.mcallister@sussex.ac.uk


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: Academic Stuff, projectbrightonblogs, sussexdigital, SussexUniversity

23 February 2009 - 19:23Informatics Update (invited post from Sussex University’s Computer Science dept.)

I asked Andy Philippides of Sussex University (Research Fellow and liaison for MSc projects) to start feeding me some news from the Informatics dept. after my presentation there before Christmas.

Here’s his first post – they’re especially interested in chatting to anyone who has an MSc or undergrad project to submit.  They’ll be along at the WiredSussex Jobs Fair on Thursday if you want to chat in person. 

Over to Andy…


I’m Andy Philippides, a lecturer at Sussex Uni where I study insect navigation. Ian asked me to write a few lines from time to time about goings-on in Informatics that might be of interest to the wider technological world, to let you know a bit more of what we’re getting up to in our ivory towers.

One of the main happenings for me this month is to begin organising dissertation projects for the Master’s students. These are 4 month research-based projects which run over Summer and are the major piece of work for the students.

The topics vary widely – as wide as the range of MSc courses on offer – from robotics, E-commerce, databases to data mining, not to mention web-design and virtual environments. Topics are proposed by both faculty and students and the topic agreed between the student and their selected supervisor.

In the past, we have also had projects suggested by – and run in collaboration with – industrial partners. The level of industry engagement can vary from simply suggesting an interesting project area to having the student work on-site, and there’s often some level of financial incentive (which unsurprisingly helps to attract students).

The arrangement has been beneficial to both parties on a number of levels, resulting in job offers and even a highly successful spin-out (NaturalMotion). As the MSc project organiser, I’m therefore keen to foster any links I can, so if anyone is interested in offering a project – with any level of input – please get in touch.

Email me (andrewop AT sussex.ac.uk)  or stop by for a chat at WiredSussex’s Job Fair on Thursday where I’ll be manning the Sussex stall from 4-6pm (look out for the robots).


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: Academic Stuff, projectbrightonblogs, sussexdigital, SussexUniversity

17 December 2008 - 23:50Presenting at Sussex Uni Research Day

Last week I was kindly invited to speak at a Research Day for the Infomatics dept at Sussex Uni. by Inman Harvey and Anil Seth.  The plan was to talk about ‘life after my MSc [10 years back]’ and to figure out if and how we could get more students involved with tech companies in Brighton.

Of the 30 attendees it was lovely to spot 10 old faces including my evolutionary-hardware thesis supervisor Adrian and old-drinking-buddy Andy who is now involved with the MSc programme.

The first part of the morning was spent looking through a set of research proposals from members of the dept. who were presenting short, low-cost projects.  The projects were vying for funding from a limited pot, in part the exercise was to present the wide range of research to everyone in the room.  Projects included:

  • “Using Motion Capture to learn geometric transformations” (using Animazoo‘s motion-capture systems)
  • “Music Interfaces for Mobiles” (involving novel iPhone development…I wish we’d had tech like iPhones back during my MSc)
  • “Further experiments in perceptual crossing”
  • “Optimal Computation meets Compiler Optimisation”
  • “Towards an earlier diagnosis of infants with, or at risk of, cerebral palsy” (most voted for – a clear contender for using the funds to prime the pump for a larger project)
  • “Network formations: from neural development to epidemiology, through ant foraging”
  • “Prototype interface for pilot studies of visual attention research around ‘design for attention'”

Three of the talks received full funding, two part funding and one required further work.  The range of the topics was wide, I was particularly interested to see iPhones making an entry and the visual tracking system applied to cerebral palsy detection was darned cool.

Later I got to speak on my past and the local industry.  I explained how I’d worked in MASA, started Mor Consulting and co-founded ShowMeDo and FivePoundApp and was heavily involved with the local tech scene.  Outlining the range of high-tech companies was fun (from NCsoft through FuturePlatforms and Madgex and out to Ambiental).

During discussion there and later in the pub it is clear that there is interest in encouraging links between the dept. and local high-tech companies.  A possible way forward might be to encourage companies to propose MSc and 3rd year projects (talk to me if you’re curious).

I’ll also be posting research news about the dept. here (getting news out) and posting some of our events into the Alergic mail list (sending news in).  It was great seeing some ex-MScs at the last FivePoundApp, hopefully we’ll see more students out at our events in 2009.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: Academic Stuff, Entrepreneur, projectbrightonblogs, ShowMeDo, sussexdigital, £5 App Meet

1 October 2007 - 13:38Artificial Intelligence problems in Industry (things I’ve worked on)

A few days back Mihai commented an interest in the Artificial Intelligence work that I’ve undertaken in the past. I figure that a short run-down of the kinds of problems I’ve tackled might be interesting.

Since 2004 I have run my own A.I. research consultancy – I’m blogging about the experience of becoming a freelance programmer and researcher at the moment (part 2, part 3, several more to come).

Currently I’m working with PANalytical in the UK R&D lab (under Professor. Paul Fewster) to apply evolutionary search algorithms and statistical analysis to multi-dimensional search problems along with an old colleague from MASA (John Anderson).

We’re looking at improving their highly-regarded Epitaxy and Reflectivity X-Ray analysis tools so that they can solve more complex problems more quickly and reliably.

Techniques include evolutionary algorithms, pattern matching, statistical signal processing and a lot of lateral thinking. I won’t say any more as the details are confidential and my work is on-going.

I enjoyed some ad-hoc work at Ambiental previously on their flood-modelling software. The interesting side of things is thinking about what you can when you can accurately model floods – can you predict the best place for flood defences? Can you apply the same techniques to crowds or gas dispersal (e.g. bombs)?

During 2003 and 2004 I worked at Algorithmix on Natural Language Processing problems under Nick Jakobi (now at Google). Up until Corpora acquired Algorithmix I worked on cutting-edge approaches to sentiment analysis and for new-news ‘burst’ reporting.

During that time I also did my own work looking at the use of Bayesian Algorithms (which were becoming rather hot for personal spam filtering) for network-based spam filtering. I worked on the assumption that ISPs saw lots of the same spam so training a filter would be much more efficient at the ISP than on the end-user’s machine.

Algorithmix was spun out of the French MASA Group where I was Senior Programmer for 5 years. I worked on the logistics optimisation side of the business (competing with iLog) into what is now the Blue Kaizen division.

The general work was to use evolutionary search algorithms on heavily-constrained logistics problems to e.g.

  • Route postmen efficiently in vans to collect mail
  • Route petrol tankers to deliver fuel to many cities on complex road networks with varying traffic levels
  • Route waste-collection trucks which handle different types of waste to the appropriate management facility whilst respecting French hours-worked rules and road systems.

These problems were reasonably representative of the hardest logistics problems that high-end desktop computers could solve at the time, given the constraints of the problems.

I’ve always had an interest in electronic circuit design and in my early days at MASA I did some of my own research into floor planning, routing and device placement. Each of these are hard problems which will only get harder as e.g. our CPUs become more complex.

Another area of research at MASA was in the world of financial trading. I was involved in a long project on straight-forward stock market prediction (and no, it wasn’t successful and don’t get me started).

Later, separate from MASA, I was involved in a short piece of work looking at baskets of tradable financial instruments for statistical arbitrage which was fun.

Is AI alive and well? Yes, of course it is. It isn’t necessarily GOFAI and robots don’t clean our houses but there’s a heck of a lot that AI offers us.

One of the big reasons that I like AI is that it can be used to relieve humans of a lot of the tedium of analysing large amounts of data:

  • Spam classifiers will have to get more-AI-ish to deal with the visual and language elements that spammers keep bringing to the party
  • Logistics optimisation will get more complex as we have more constraints, more things to do and less time for planning
  • Circuit designs continue to follow Moore’s law and get more complex at a frightening rate.
  • As physics analysis machines become more complex the wealth of data becomes un-navigable unless you have the appropriate analysis tools.

What to get involved? If you don’t have a background in the area then find a subject that interests you, do some reading and choose a flexible dynamic language so that you can iterate quickly (I favour Python for all my AI work with number crunching in C++).

[I shall quickly plug our ShowMeDo’s Python tutorial videos, there is nothing directly for A.I. in the list but there are videos for programming, physics, graphics and useful utilities that are associated with the domain.]

Search Amazon for terms like ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘evolutionary algorithms’ and ‘natural language processing’. I like ‘New ideas in Optimisation‘ by Corne, Dorigo and Glover (click the link and click the author’s names to see the AI books they published themselves).

You’ll find plenty of resources on the web and feel free to leave a comment if you’d like a bit of guidance on how to get started.

7 Comments | Tags: Academic Stuff, ArtificialIntelligence, Entrepreneur, Life, Programming

18 May 2005 - 19:30Selling Time to Spammers

I like it – cost spammers some money if you don’t like what they’re selling. The model is nice, can be applied to any sort of contact – you attach a ‘bounty’ to your mail, and if the recipient feels you’re wasting their time then they can claim the bounty, else they leave it. If you don’t trust your audience, you’d give a small bounty if they might claim it, but then as a recipient I see that you think I might take your bounty so I might choose to ignore your mail. You’d have to get it right to make money…spam squashed.

No Comments | Tags: Academic Stuff