Where are you from and where did you complete your undergraduate studies?
I grew up on a horse ranch in the Arizona desert. Feeding, riding, and/or cleaning up after dozens of horses were part of my daily routine. After high school, I went on to take majors in computer science and mathematics at Arizona State University.
What is your research about and why are you excited about your project?
My interests are in wearable computers that help people engage with the physical world (and the people in it). In particular, I’m working on a person-recognition jacket in which cameras, microphones, and processing are discreetly sewn within. Once the engineering aspects of this are complete, the real work of developing vision and learning algorithms that’re more robust to wearable data begins. This is tricky as, for video, pose and lighting are unconstrained, severe motion blur is the norm, and our options for fast lenses are restricted. I’ve found that even algorithms so renowned as Viola-Jones face detection doesn’t exceed 30% precision or recall on wearable data. Beyond the learning and vision, there are interesting HCI challenges: how can information be passed to and from the wearer, even while they’re in the middle of a conversation (without the other party being aware of the interaction)?
If sufficiently discreet, reliable, and non-distracting, such a system would have immense benefit to individuals with visual disabilities, such as myself as, currently, we are rarely able to initiate or take advantage of serendipitous social encounters. I’d like to think that it could eventually be of value to non-disabled people as well. After all, everyone has been approached by people they’ve met before, but who’s names escape them.
What do you like to do outside of research and academics?
I exercise (dancing to 8-bit Donkey Kong music on the elliptical is good times), read short stories, and am always on the lookout for cullinary adventures. Though, admittedly, I’ve been a bit disappointed with the food in Cambridge. Looks like I’ll need to branch out further, or (gasp!) learn to cook good food, myself.
What are your career goals and future plans?
If wearable technologies that can meaningfully augment human interaction are ready to be commercialized by the time I finish my PhD, then I’d like to either start a company or be part of one that works in that space. If not, then I plan to remain in academia, to develop them further.