Readers of the New Yorker encountered an unexpected name in its November 27 issue on "The Digital Age": that of Steve Feiner, Brown B.A. (Music) 1973, Ph.D. (Computer Science) 1987. In a leisurely article discussing the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the bemused layperson's tone typical of the magazine, the writer describes his search for some use for GPS -- something to justify its recent description as `a revolutionary tool of the digital world.' This search led him to the Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Laboratory at Columbia, where he talked at length to Steven K. Feiner, its director.
Steve described with great enthusiasm some systems that GPS will soon make possible. These include a gadget to steer you to the nearest restaurants as you tour, say, Paris's 19th Arrondissement, and, somewhat less frivolously, a system to give military personnel in the field such information as `Where are the power lines? Where are the underground tunnels? Who might lie beneath the spot where I am standing, ready to blow me up?' Here he envisions a display that `labels buildings with their names and shows full-size 3D models of underground tunnels as if they were being seen with X-ray vision.'
Incidentally, the writer describes Steve as `Walter Mitty with a government grant.' Eugene Charniak asked him in email his reaction to that description, ending his message with the (:-<) icon; Steve replied, `Well, it's not exactly my favorite quote from the article. However, the writer seemed to think it was a compliment. I guess they don't assign Thurber in high school anymore. :-)'.