The University of Kentucky Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments

Samson Cheung Awarded NSF Grant for Autism Therapy Research

Samson CheungVis Center faculty member Dr, Sen-Ching (Samson) Cheung has been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation for his research into autism therapies using a “virtual mirror”. The research will develop new display and image progressing technology for synthesizing self-modeling and mirror feedback imageries.

The goal of the project will be to enhance behavior therapy for individuals with autism and related disorders. Children with autism spectrum disorders typically lack interest in social interactions, but appear to be highly interested in their own image in mirrors and others imitating their actions. The system will provide a non-intrusive means to capture eye gaze, facial expression, body pose, body movement, and other human behavioral patterns. New multimedia processing algorithms will be developed that will transfer 2D and 3D physical appearances, as well as behaviors from a source individual to the virtual mirror. By combining visual feedback and real-time rendering of new behaviors, the virtual mirror is expected to deliver more effective behavioral modeling.

The research program is a collaborative effort of PIs from electrical engineering, psychology, medicine, and education. Cheung will be the primary investigator, with Lisa Ruble from the College of Education, Ramesh Bhatt from the Department of Psychology and Dr. Neelkamal Soares in Pediatrics at UCLA as co-PIs.

Dr. Ken Calvert to serve as Vis Center’s Interim Director

Ken Calvert, Ph. D., will serve as the Interim Director of the Vis Center.  Dr. Calvert currently is the Chairman of the Computer Science Department at the University of Kentucky.

He received his S.B. in 1979 from M.I.T. then earned his M.S. from Stanford University in 1980 before spending five years as a member of the technical staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, NJ.  In 1991, he earned his Ph. D. in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin.  For seven years he served as an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, then joined the University of Kentucky’s faculty in 1998 as an associate professor of computer science.  Since 2007, Dr. Calvert has been a professor of computer science and the Chair of the Computer Science Department.

Throughout his time at the University, he has been recognized for his commitment to teaching.  Twice, in 2000 and 2003, the University acknowledged him as an “Outstanding Computer Science Teacher.”  From 2002-2007, he was a Gill Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky.  At the IWAN 2003 Conference, he won the “Best Paper” award.

Brent Seales, Ph. D., is stepping down from his role as the director of the Vis Center.  He will spend the 2012-2013 school year in Paris, working at Google Paris over his sabbatical. Dr. Seales will return to the University of Kentucky as a professor of Computer Science when his sabbatical ends.

Au revoir to Dr. Seales

Paris, the most popular tourist destination in the world, and Google, the most popular website on the Internet, came together in 2011 when Google built a Googleplex in the city’s heart. The Googleplex functions as the technology giant’s headquarters for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Dr. Brent Seales, the former director of the Vis Center, will work there over his sabbatical next year. He sings its praises: “Google alone would be awesome. But you put Google in Paris and it’s doubly awesome.”

Dr. Seales will work at Google’s Cultural Institute, a group devoted to “enabling people to digitize and present interesting cultural materials in a way that is relevant for the 21st century,” he explained. Steve Crossan, head of the Cultural Institute, describes the Institute’s mission as gathering the, “history of everything, told by everyone.” The Institute acts like machine trolling through history, collecting artifacts, and storing digital piles in the world’s attic so anyone could climb up and find a trove of cultural heritage.

The Cultural Institute emerged from Google’s various cultural projects, such as the Google Book Library Project and the Google Art Project. For the Library Project, Google digitized over ten million books and made them publicly available online. Dr. Seales mentioned, “It’s a huge project to digitize page-by-page, so they’re interested in the kind of blue sky thinking researchers do, like can you scan large-scale stuff without ever opening the page?” Dr Seales’ research has focused on imaging and visualization, often on cultural heritage such as the digitization of manuscripts, libraries, and art. His EDUCE project (Enhanced Digital Unwrapping for Conservation and Exploration) scans texts and virtually unwraps them to image closed texts, such as the Herculaneum Scrolls. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius carbonized the scrolls, thus making them impossible to open. His experience digitally unrolling the Scrolls interested Steve Crossan.

Google encourages its researchers to explore, so Dr. Seales will choose his own projects. He hopes to learn more about how Google works and how they influence our world. After spending twenty years at the University of Kentucky, he treasures this chance to see the world beyond the University. “One of the risks of doing something a long time is that you start to feel comfortable, and the comfort takes away the creativity and can take away the urge to innovate.” This sabbatical forces him out of his comfort zone. “I would love to be inspired by their creativity and their can-do attitude…they just have this idea that no problem’s too big, no idea’s too far away, and that if you can think it you can make it happen. I love that.”

Dr. Seales looks forward to Parisian culture as well as his work at Google. He is already familiar with French culture because he completed a post-doctoral program in the South of France before coming to UK. Throughout his sabbatical, he will learn French and take advantage of all that Paris offers. “It’s the city of lights. It’s the city of love. It’s the city of culture. So, all of that wrapped together, it’s mind-blowing.” When the year ends, he will bring new ideas to the University of Kentucky; he plans to teach and spread his enthusiasm to his students.

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