Interview with Glen Low, Creator of Instaviz

On January 5, 2009


This episode of the Mobile Orchard Podcast features Glen Low, the creator of Instaviz. Instaviz is a graphing and mind-mapping application with a novel, Newton-like shape drawing interface.

Glen won the 2004 Apple Design award for his porting Graphviz, the OSS graph layout software, to OS-X. Instaviz uses Graphviz — normally a techie’s tool — and some clever shape recognition to create an easy to use app with broad appeal.

In this interview, he talks about developing shape recognition using Bayesian classification (the same approach system commonly used for spam filters), endpoint/edge connection algorithms, developing for/with Graphviz on the iPhone, and trying to use the mailto-protocol handler to send email attachments.

For easy scanning of the interview, the following indexes shows what was covered and when:

  • 0:30 – What is Instaviz
  • 1:30 – Newton-like shape recognition with Naive Bayesian Classification
  • 4:45 – Connecting objects: endpoint detection
  • 7:00 – Sketch recognition algorithms
  • 9:00 – Porting GraphViz to iPhone (via OS-X)
  • 11:00 – Layout engines (DOT, Neato – spring-load/Mind-maps)
  • 14:30 – No attachments via mailto protocol handlers

During the interview, Glen mentions starting with adapting/enhancing some shape-recognition research done by a Portuguese computer scientist. That scientist, Joaquim Jorge, has a short paper called A Simple Approach to Recognise
Geometric Shapes Interactively
on the topic.

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