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My hats off to the ICC4 for taking a risk—one that in retrospect was clearly worth it—to offer and hold two opportunities for 25 participants each to enter an “interactive technology presentation,” which is a fancy way of describing a nontraditional poster session that offered entrants the opportunity to extend the boundaries of the traditional two-dimensional posters (and open up unlimited new ways of interacting with the presenters’ audiences).

The 25 entrants that signed up for either of the two nights had the opportunity to use Samsung-provided large screen video displays to use along with, should they choose, a traditional poster-on-display board. The idea was to allow researchers the opportunity to drill deeper into their work and offer observers more detailed information, simulations, videos of observations and test rigs, libraries of SEM and TEM images, live links to other references, etc.—all while retaining the quick, nonlinear learning and networking experience that one can get from traditional poster sessions.

Most participants made heavy use of their Samsung monitors to display videos, PowerPoint slides and Adobe Flash presentations. Many supplemented their electronic and poster offerings with samples of prepared materials and prototype units. I found at least one participant who eschewed the Samsung monitor in favor of a presentation developed entirely on his iPad.

As someone who has bemoaned the lack of innovation in poster sessions, I was totally impressed with the creativity and energy brought by the participants, and I tried to capture in the above video some of the examples and varieties I found. In many ways, the idea was to “raise the bar” for excellence in poster sessions, and I think the organizers and participants really exceeded my expectations in this regard.

Participating in the event and seeing the examples of what others had done triggered new ideas: nearly every entrant I talked with had lots of new ideas for how they might modify and elaborate on what they presented, and, with one lone exception, felt the extra time it took to develop the interactive components was well worth the effort. Along these lines, my sense is that the Interactive Technology session was a learning experience for the organizers, too, but they deserve an unbelievable amount of credit for creating the opportunity, minimizing the rules and encourage participants to take chances, arranging for the monitors and technical support, plus a hundred other small things that went into making this aspect of ICC4 a great success.

Moreover, I’d like to thank everyone involved with this session for blazing a new trail. I considered this the “beta” test of the concept. We haven’t begun to explore, for example, the use of live Internet connections, smartphones and touchscreen displays (which, unfortunately, are still quite expensive and complicated to offer in these settings), but I definitely get the sense that ideas for the 1.0 and 2.0 versions of such interactive sessions are already in the works among the organizers for future materials-oriented meetings.

Everyone connected with ICC4, ICF, ACerS, NSF, Samsung and the other supporting organizations deserves thanks for making it possible for the ceramics and glass community to be among the first—perhaps the very first—science and technology group to attempt to pull off such a feat, and to accomplish it so well is just icing on the cake.