What’s your research area?
I’m doing work related to computer vision, with the goal in mind that if you were to close your eyes and hold a device, you’d be able to walk from the parking lot to, say, a classroom in Baskin Engineering without any trouble. It’s essentially self-guided, indoor GPS.
How did you get into this area of research?
My family has a long history of being diagnosed with glaucoma, and so around age 40, many members of my family begin to develop signs of glaucoma. Once they get to around 60, they could literally lose their eyesight due to the condition. I wanted to approach treating the condition in some way other than through medicine, which motivated me to take this route instead. So far, we’re doing work to map entire indoor environments for the GPS, and we do this by gathering blueprints of buildings that then populate a 3D model. This will tell the program where the door is, where the chair is, where the table is; and the next step is to integrate this program into a mobile device to alert you of what is ahead of you in an environment.
Are there limitations to this solution?
Well, the problem is that those with eyesight can adapt to certain changes to stimuli. For example, if I were to put my hand under the table, someone who can see would be able to tell that my hand is not gone, but merely hidden from view. But computers struggle to grasp this kind of change, and they also struggle when an object begins to rotate or undergoes a similar change. So we must devise a way that the computer won’t forget what the object is when it is hidden, rotating and so on.
What do you want to do when the project is done?
I’ll probably take a year off to travel, and maybe pursue my post-doctorate to become a professor and pursue research. I’d stay in my same area, too, because I find it very interesting. We essentially work to mimic nature’s process of how humans function. I don’t think people fully understand how the brain works and how much it takes to accurately mimic it.
Anything you do for fun outside of school?
Building miniatures—like Legos, or structures, or a Christmas village. If you give me a block of wood, I’ll make something out of it. That’s how I like to relax outside of research.