The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | March 24, 2006

Robotics Institute Seminar, March 24, 2006
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Global Connection: National Geographic, Google Earth and Carnegie Mellon

Valerie May
Senior Editor, New Media
National Geographic

Michael Jones
Chief Scientist, Google Earth
Google Inc.

Randy Sargent
Project Scientist, Global Connection project
Carnegie Mellon University

Time and Place

Mauldin Auditorium (NSH 1305)
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm


Technology can be used to humanize cultures around the world, and the Global Connection Project has brought together three major institutions to surmount the challenge of making far-away locales and cultures more richly explored and shared by communities of explorers.  The technologies of image manipulation and panoramic imaging, using both spatial and temporal browsing, help make far-away places alive by enabling software-based exploration and discovery of those locales.  The technologies developed by the Global Connection effort have expanded in application from cultural understanding to disaster recovery imaging, hinting at significant future growth opportunities in community-based and real-time spatial browsing.  This symposium presents the perspectives of National Geographic, Google Earth and Carnegie Mellon in pursuit of our goals, including technologies and services in the Global Connection pipeline for community-based, gigapixel panoramic imaging.

Speaker Biography

Valerie May
Valerie May is Senior Editor of New Media at National Geographic.  Valerie has spearheaded the magazine’s new media efforts since 2000 when she conceptualized and launched The award-winning site focuses on presenting the magazine’s material in Web-specific ways with integrated multimedia, interactive features, blogs, and cutting-edge technologies that showcase the magazine’s traditional narrative mission. Under May’s leadership, the Web site has scored several industry firsts. Those include live, streaming video and audio via satellite from a remote African watering hole. Another achievement was the use of a Webcam to document – in real-time – the migration of sandhill cranes as they rest from their travels in an ages-old sanctuary along the Platte River in Nebraska. Such features have produced growing numbers of online visitors—and magazine subscriptions sold from the site, more than doubling in the last year alone. Other responsibilities include the launch of an NGM e-edition and a geo-spatial map collaboration with Google Earth and Carnegie-Mellon University.   NGM’s site received the National Press Foundation Award for Best Online Journalism in 2005, Folio’s Golden Eddie for Best Online Consumer Magazine 2005 and 2004, International Web Pages Best of Festival for 2004, ASME’s Ellie for General Excellence Online, 2002, finalist 2003, 2005.  May has been associated with National Geographic’s Internet and new media efforts since 1996 when she helped launch the National Geographic Society’s Website , where she stayed on as Managing Editor and then Director of News and Editorial Programming. Her accomplishments there included a trip to the Amazon River where she documented an expedition’s attempt to contact a mysterious, long-hidden tribe. She also lead the launching of—the Society’s news site.  Folio Magazine named May as one of the Folio 40: Industry Innovators with Impact in 2005.  She is a member of the National Press Club and the Duke University Editorial Advisory Board. May lives in Washington, D.C. with a houseful of mammals—both two- and four-footed.

Michael Jones
Michael Jones is Chief Scientist of Google Earth at Google Inc.  Michael is perhaps best known in connection with IRIS Performer. He was Director of Engineering at Silicon Graphics Inc. and responsible for the entire array of graphics software such as OpenGL and IRIS Performer. Active in technical conferences, he has represented industry concerns at SIGGRAPH Executive Committee sessions and has published numerous technical papers in the fields of mathematics and computer graphics. His patent work ranges from high-quality texture filtering to interactive lighting and shadow techniques.

Randy Sargent
Randy Sargent is Project Scientist for the Global Connection project at Carnegie Mellon University.  Prior to joining CMU, he held the title of Computer Scientist at NASA Ames, working on prototype technologies for future Mars missions, as well as visualization and image analysis software used by the current twin Mars Exploration Rover mission.  Randy holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT, and a masters degree from the MIT Media Lab, where he was funded by the LEGO company to develop an early prototype for the popular LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit. In 1989, Randy led technology development for the MIT LEGO Robot Contest, which has spread to many thousands of schools worldwide.  In 1994, Randy co-founded Newton Research Labs, a machine vision company in Renton, Washington, and led Newton teams to first-place victories in three robot contests:  the International Micro Robot World Cup Soccer Tournament in South Korea 1996 and 1997, and the 1996 AAAI national robot contests.

Speaker Appointments

For appointments, please contact Illah Nourbakhsh (

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.