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UIUC Unveils the Worlds Most Advanced Building 319

Eagle5596 writes "The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, one of the top Computer Science programs in the world has just officially opened their new $80 million Siebel Center. The department head describes the building as a single computing entity, meant to be programmed and to interact with those in the building via RFID tags in their ID cards. This is probably one of the biggest and most expensive projects in ubiquitous computing ever launched, touching on all the important issues in this field, from privacy to the ultimate question about the usefulness of such a system. Several papers are covering this including the Chicago Sun Times, and the Chicago Business"
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UIUC Unveils the Worlds Most Advanced Building

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  • by FrYGuY101 ( 770432 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:24PM (#9013861) Journal
    I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you in. Your GPA is too low this semester.
    • Blue hair (Score:3, Funny)

      by antic ( 29198 )
      Where is a link to pictures? If there aren't pictures of gadgets, no one cares.

      Nice to know that the welcoming avatar has blue hair. Because that's the future, apparently.

      I bet they'd fire the receptionist of he/she dyed their hair blue, or they'd refuse to hire the same, but as soon as you need to represent the future, it has blue hair.

      Just like Strong Bad has a Japanese cartoon character:
    • by YoJ ( 20860 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:43PM (#9014472) Journal
      This is doubly funny because in the movie 2001, HAL is actually designed at UIUC...
  • by el-spectre ( 668104 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:25PM (#9013868) Journal
    keeping the soda machines near me full of Dew, it's a good thing.
  • I'm not sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by odano ( 735445 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:25PM (#9013871)
    I'm not sure if I like the idea that anything between me and these 4 walls is now between me and some sort of ubiquitous building-computer.
  • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:25PM (#9013872) Journal
    Does that mean the building is wildly overpriced and requires expensive consultants in suits to do anything right?
  • by dickiedoodles ( 728410 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:25PM (#9013876)
    ...Imagine a beowulf cluster of those

  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:26PM (#9013883) Homepage Journal
    The old TWA terminal at JFK (round, swoopy curvy thing) and terminal 1 at CDG (aka the habitrail) both looked incredibly modern and futuristic when first opened.

    The UIUC bldg sounds extremely cool, but in 5 yrs folks will be smiling politely at the "hokey-ness" of the place.

    • by MoTec ( 23112 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:38PM (#9013980)
      I have to disagree... I just visited Bartlesville, OK on business and saw an amazing looking building, a true work of art. Frank Lloyd Wright's only "skyscraper" Price Tower [].

      It was built in the late 50's and looks good today. Of course, Frank Lloyd Wright is considered by many to be one of the great architects of all time and the Siebel Center isn't really of the same class.
    • by epanastasi ( 748107 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:44PM (#9014037)
      Well, I being a current inhabitant of this "amazing" building... have yet to see this wonderful technology. Sure, I didn't really read what's been said in the papers about it, cus I know what's actually happening here. It's really stupid, the whole building. When I first walked in, my inital reaction was that the 70's threw up on it. They still haven't finished building the damn thing. And it's got way too many bugs (just like a CS building should....) like the pretty light fixtures that hang in the conference rooms cast a lovely shadow onto the projector screen. Plus, the screen in my conference room doesn't have a switch to lower it. But it's nice to know that a screen should exist. They've just installed all this RFID stuff and touch screen kiosks today... so it doesn't look like crap for the Grand Opening.

      I wouldn't believe all the hype if I were you. Just like everything else, including the project I'm supposed to present at this Siebel Center Open House, it's a lot of buzzwords and catch doesn't really do what I say it does... But a man can dream can't he?

      But on another note, the elevator shafts provided a lovely rappelling trip... to bad they had to install elevators in them. (Which I mananged to crash and get stuck on the 3rd software-wise not bloody death crash)

      But I'm stuck here until I graduate... what fun it will be to break the rest of it. It is however nicer than our old building... Thank you Mr. Siebel for giving us a lot of money before your company started to fail, and thanks for not asking for it back.
      • But on another note, the elevator shafts provided a lovely rappelling trip... to bad they had to install elevators in them. (Which I mananged to crash and get stuck on the 3rd software-wise not bloody death crash)

        How do you manage to do that. First of all, since elevator controls are a pure hardware implementation (at least the one in my building), it would be impossible to have a software error. Second, an elevator uses perhaps a dozen flip-flops and a few hundred transistors, diodes, and ca
    • I'm a fan of the FIAT 124 Spider. When it was first introduced Road & Track called it's syling "Classic, but slightly dated."

      20 years later when they featured it as used classic they called its styling "Classic, but slightly dated."

      Today I would, myself, call its styling "Classic, but slightly dated," and rather imagine that's the way my grandchildren will describe in in another 50 years.

      On the other hand when my first gen Capri was only 5 years old it looked old. Old and stupid.

      My brother's 64 1/2
      • O/T but I own a Fiat Spider, by the way. It's a great little car.

        On a more on topic note, I believe that designs tend to go in cycles. Today, modern tends to be the "in-thing" while tommorrow what was cool 30 years ago might be cool again. It's a never ending cycle. It's the reason people buy old cars, old houses, futuristic cars, houses, etc. One moment it's in, the next it's not.
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:21PM (#9014317)
          Come to Kenya, we've got lions.

          And also Masai. The lions don't impress me as being terribly crazy about that arrangement. There's just no pleasing some people.

          Coincidentally I happen to be dressed as a Masai right now, right down to the traditional trapazoidal sandals (but when I track down a good bad tire I'll do up a pair of Ho Chi Maas). Very simple, but elegant mode of dress. One might well describe it as "Classic, but slightly dated." In fact, it's basically Classical Greek. I don't know why most northern writers refer to it as "Roman." Classical Greek dress doesn't look anything like Roman and is the very antithesis of the toga, which now just looks old. Old and stupid.

          I'm not at all sure how a Masai would react to a white American dressed like a Masai, but it seems that here in upstate NY people either look at you funny or pretend they're not looking at all. In NYC, of course, nobody looks at anything anymore.

          I'll match my walking ability with any man, anywhere, including Masai, but admit I can't jump for shit.

    • I'll have class in there every day next fall, and, honestly, I find the place spectacular. I find the architecture is modern yet not gaudy. Most of the architectural metal is muted, and the exterior blends well with the older buildings, even if it dominates the small high school across the street.

      The place still has the most excellent smells of new computer/networking gear, and you can go around and sometimes see the MDF's still under construction.

      Its a fun place.
  • by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:28PM (#9013900)
    I guess they had to go and install "Microsoft Office... that is, REAL Office".

    Now, when you go down the hall, the "Buildy" mascot asks things like. "You appear to be walking to the bathroom. Would you like some help?"

    • That'd be fantastic. What about a MS Exercise Drone?

      "You appear to be walking like an obese person."

      And before you can say "I am an ob..." it starts shooting at your feet, "Would you like some help? Run fat boy, run!".

      Yeh, I'm all for this. It'd be hilarious.
    • Oh GOD.. Imagaine Bonzai Buddy.. all the purple, and fur, and.. little gnomes running through the building carrying out your credit card bills..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:28PM (#9013902)
    Clap on. Clap off. What else is there?
  • security issues? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eisenbud ( 708663 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:29PM (#9013905)
    Apparently RFID tags (and anything that doesn't have its own power source) don't have enough power to do real crypto. So this will be great until someone builds a device to read people's tags as they walk down the hall, and then impersonate any of them to the building. At least with keys or magnetic striped cards you have to get physical access to them before you can copy them.
    • The doors are locked with traditional magnetic striped cards, it's only inside the rooms that RFID tags are used help configure the room. It's amazingly secure, so secure that I cannot enter the rooms I need to do my project in, and if I step out for some fresh air on the fourth floor balcony I will not be able to get back in.
  • Regression (Score:5, Funny)

    by The_Mystic_For_Real ( 766020 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:31PM (#9013915)
    This proves the point that all things human go in cycles. First computers were the size of buildings, then they shrunk down to fit in the palm, now they are becoming the size of buildings again.
  • Dangerous? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by glpierce ( 731733 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:31PM (#9013916)
    I saw the nearly-completed building a few months ago when visiting the campus. My immediate reaction: this can't be healthy. With that many wires and that many radio signals (RFID, wireless network, etc), I can't help but think that it will increase your risk of developing cancer. Normal offices are bad enough, but this place has significantly more in the air.
  • Am I the only one... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:33PM (#9013929)
    .. who expects that the brutal hacks done to Gaia are going to be much better 'learning experiences' for everyone than the official software itself?

    Gotta wonder what kind of security they've got on her. If I had my face scanned everytime I entered a room, and had some stupid voice asking me questions when I just wanted to finish my assignment back when I was in school, the system would have been modified drastically during finals week.....

    Not that I would condone such now, of course. Probably get you labeled a terrorist and thrown under the jail.

  • by Eagle5596 ( 575899 ) <slashUser AT 5596 DOT org> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:35PM (#9013948)
    The real issue with privacy of course is turning off the location function when you don't want something embarressing happening. I present the following situation as evidence:

    Johnny wanted to find Professor X to ask a question about his research paper, approaching the wall he intoned, "Computer, please locate Professor X."

    In a booming voice the wall responded, "Professor X is currently in Stall 5 of the Bathroom on the second floor, logging in."
  • Salaryman [] is playing at the grand opening tomorrow afternoon.

    Oh... and sure, the building's nice, too.

    "It's better to have an attention span and not need it, than to need whatever it is we were just talking about."
    - Mayor {Powerpuff Girls}

  • I can't believe on the eve of the night when my school's unveiling the most technologically advanced building in the world, the campus mail is down >=( Prioritize, much?
  • BFG Competition? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by uujjj ( 752925 )
    The web site for the opening lists one of the events as a BFG Competition []. Apparently, they will be broadcasting the thing around the world. Also, they will record the competition for future viewings. Hmmm . . . only in computer science could they be proud.
  • 1000 Words (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone able to find a neat photo gallery on the site? I looked, but could only find some movies of the grand opening. The itty bitty pictures make the place look nice, but I'd love to see more details. Wonder what their sever room(s) look like...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    2 hours later the building was declared obsolete by new technologies...
  • by Black Art ( 3335 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:06PM (#9014203)
    I am waiting for the first time they blow the breakers on the circuit that handles their security computer.

    What happens? Does the system fail to "everything is locked"?

    This sounds like a RISKS article waiting to happen.
    • Actually, there has already been a power outtage here... everything turns off except a few mood lights? were on... makes everything look really creepy. The door locks still worked... but it was a pain to find my server in the dark
    • by Ironsides ( 739422 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:15PM (#9014272) Homepage Journal
      All electronic locks I have ever seen default to unlocked when the power goes off. This is the way they are built, not wired. So if the power goes out, they WILL unlock (and they did unlock too, when the power went out). This is probably required by the fire code so that people are not trapped in a burning building.
      • I thought I read that during NY's blackout awhile back hotels that had electronic locks (card swipes) were locked... and guests couldn't get in... which wouldn't be a problem unless your 2 year old was inside I guess...
      • All electronic locks I have ever seen default to unlocked when the power goes off.

        Someone will undoubtedly call me on terminology, but this is "fail-safe" design. I.E., instrument air/pneumatics/electricity failure defaults the device to a "safe" condition. The trick is in evaluating *the whole system* as an entity in itself. The law of unintended consequences applies here, and with more design being automated, there is often a disconnect between the designers of different systems (worst case is inexperi
      • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @09:05PM (#9014648)
        Even big safes full of bonds and stuff do that, as I learned watching "Die Hard."
      • This is probably required by the fire code so that people are not trapped in a burning building.

        Ah yes, yet another example of how high tech inventions are modeled after comfortable and familiar low tech versions.

        We interface with our computers using comprehensible "desktop" metaphors. We implement our electronic locks to behave like steel locks - that is, in case of a fire, they default to unlocked status to prevent people from dying in fires. Um, wait a minute. Nevermind, that's merely totally farkin

      • All electronic locks I have ever seen default to unlocked when the power goes off.

        Smarthome sells deadbolts in either fail-safe or fail-secure. I would guess they probably sell more fail-safe ones.
      • Usually when you purchase an electronic lock you can choose between a Fail-Safe and Fail-Secure variant. With Fail-Safe the lock unlocks when electricity is remove, and you can get what Fail-Secure does.
  • When it crashes does it become the BBOD (Blue Building of Death)?
  • I can't wait for next year's Mechmania. The building they had before was larger than anything at NDSU (with a lot more wasted space). Now I have all-new nooks and hallways to explore!
  • by sklib ( 26440 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:11PM (#9014242)
    Now all you need to get back at a professor you don't like is hack into the building's computer, and turn off the air conditioning in whatever room he goes into.

    Sweet revenge!
  • Salary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GrEp ( 89884 ) <crb002&gmail,com> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:12PM (#9014261) Homepage Journal
    $80000000/$100000=800. Hmm...
    800 faculty years of almost anyone in the world, or one building. Good going UIUC.
    • Re:Salary (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tsangc ( 177574 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:36PM (#9014425)
      800 faculty years of almost anyone in the world, or one building. Good going UIUC

      I can't see how this comment was modded interesting.

      First, faculty and students need buildings to work and learn in. You can hire all the people in the world, but if they don't have a place to run their labs, teach classes etc in, what's the point?

      Second, having the best facilities in the world is a draw for leading researchers and students. You can't expect to attract the best with some beat up old building from 1970, can you? This is an investment in the staff and students as much as hiring more TA's or buying new lab equipment.

      Third, do you know much UIUC spends overall on their budget for professors salaries? We don't know if this is a fraction of their budget or half of it.

      Finally, $80 million is not a lot of money for a university building. It's about average.

      • You've never seen UIUC's engineering campus's main building, have you? It's about a million years old and the front doors weigh about a half-ton each, so if you manage to make your way up the wavy, deeply worn out stone stairs out front, you'll probably collapse just trying to enter the building. Then, when you're inside, it's 1963 decorations all around. Or, that's how it was when I was there 5 years ago. Supposedly it was due for a remodel, but that money probably went to finance some fruitcake group
    • 800 faculty years of almost anyone in the world, or one building. Good going UIUC.

      That's not quite an accurate assessment I gather. A university does need a decent-sized networked building and good computer equipment. You have to subtract what an average configuration would run from the cost of the building, THEN divide that by $100,000. You might also want to account for the value of the publicity the building generates. The more good students that are attracted by something advanced and flashy, the mor

  • by Uninen ( 746304 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:18PM (#9014299) Homepage
    ...when caught from a bar near by:
    "Nooo. Can't go to school, they're running critical updates on our building today!"
  • There will be war between computers and all of humanity until Keanu Reeves shows up in the building to negotiate terms!
  • by Malc ( 1751 )
    "The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, one of the top Computer Science programs in the world "

    Who? Can't say that I've ever heard of them. Where do they appear on the list of other top western universities like MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford, etc? Is this some kind of in-place advertizing thing?
    • Re:UIUC (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hackman ( 18896 )
      If you haven't heard of UIUC for computing you probably haven't been around computing or academic circles very long. They have a very strong reputation in the field.
      • by Malc ( 1751 )
        You're right, I haven't been around academia for a while. I graduated with a BSc. (Hons) Computer Science just after Mosaic came along. I always thought it was shit and considered the web no more usable than Gopher until Netscape exploded on to the scene with its pulsing N. Mosaic was nothing more really than a logical evolution of earlier work from other places.

        I think somebody else in the thread got it right when they said: "For most US students"...
    • Re:UIUC (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:42PM (#9014465)
      I'll let you know before you read the rest of my post that I'm a current student at UIUC.

      I got into the PhD programs at Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, and UIUC--and UIUC compares very well with the rest of these schools. The only thing UIUC lacks is the publicity to go with the quality of research that happens here. On the other hand, this is a good thing since the students here can concentrate more on research instead of just working very hard at appearing smart like some other schools promote.

      At UIUC, the professors are generally fairly young, which I view as a good thing. At the 'bigger' name schools you end up with a bunch of dinosaurs who may have contributed to the field in the past but are simply living off the legacy insteading doing new research. If you actually care about this, check out the UIUC research page at: []

      I have personally found the AI, Databases, and Theory groups to be very impressive and have had experience working with them.

      If you want an interesting comparison, check out MIT's new building. [] I took a tour of it, and the impression it gave me was, "Look at us, we're MIT! This building looks so crazy, we must be geniuses to work here!"

      UIUC has a much more honest and less flashy style, which I find rather refreshing.
      I do agree that most of the ubiquitous computing features of the building seem a little silly, but why not make your new computer science building a functional experiment in computer science itself?
      • "The Stata Center... is composed of The William H. Gates Building and the Alexander W. Dreyfoos Building."

        Looking at the GIF slideshow here [], it appears that Bill's building has already crashed.

        Suprised? No. Amused? Yes.

        - sm
    • Re:UIUC (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SnoopyZ ( 775743 )
      What you need to do is observe your surroundings a little more. To teach you a little more about UIUC, go ahead and follow the steps below in Internet Explorer. Click on Help --> About Internet Explorer Then read the textbox that comes up. "Based on NCSA Mosaic. NCSA Mosaic(TM); was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign." The original web browser started there.
    • Re:UIUC (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kyn ( 539206 )
      HAL 9000 is from hereabouts. Perhaps you've heard of him. Granted, he did kill a few people, but no one is perfect...
  • by Missionary Man ( 740863 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:48PM (#9014511)
    Nice building.

    Shame they didn't get a spell-checker with it. I believe the reference to "Accomodations" on the main page of their website should read "Accommodations".

    Ho hum. Am I being too picky?
  • by jcuervo ( 715139 )
    They failed to mention whether caffeine was gratis or not.

    If it's free, I'm going to college.

  • So now I know why they bought and knocked down my old apartment building!

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux