Saturday, November 15, 2008

A week teaching at Instituto Superior Técnico

Porto Salvo, Portugal

IST logoA couple of years back I met a cool professor named Katherine Isbister, who was studying social interfaces at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. At some point, Katherine got a chance to go teach at in Portugal for a week at the prestigious Instituto Superior Técnico which is sort of the MIT of Portugal. When they were looking around for another guest lecturer, she kindly recommended me. After some discussions with Rui Prada, the guy in charge, we fixed a date and off I went. Rui works on human interactions with autonomous virtual characters -- definitely a useful research subject for video games.

IST building from the end

I've only been to Portugal once before, when I went to Lisbon to teach for Universidade Lusófona. I had a good time and went to Lisbon castle, which is extremely cool, but I didn't get to move around much. This time I rented a car. The IST campus where I was teaching was in Porto Salvo, outside Lisbon, but I stayed in a seaside resort town called Estoril. As you can see, it's gorgeous:

Estoril from my hotel

I didn't do anything very touristy, just cruised around in the car, but I noticed how much the landscape reminds me of California -- warm, dry and rather dusty, but with the ocean nearby

I did a variety of events with the students, including giving them my character design workshop.

Character design workshopCharacter design workshop

The faculty were all great and one evening I went and played a German board game about colonizing the West Indies with them. Interesting game -- there was very little element of chance, but enough different kinds of strategies that you couldn't easily predict what was going to happen. Unfortunately, I've forgotten its name.