Dr. Yajie Zhao Confirmed as Director, Vision & Graphics Lab, ICT

Published: June 19, 2024
Category: News
Dr. Yajie Zhao, Director, Vision and Graphics Lab, ICT in front of the Academy Award-winning Light State

ICT’s Vision & Graphics Lab advances human digitalization, creating movie-quality avatars

The USC Institute for Creative Technologies, a unit of USC Viterbi, and Department of Defense (DoD) University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), sponsored by the US Army, is pleased to announce the confirmation of Dr. Yajie Zhao as Director, Vision and Graphics Lab.

Virtual characters — digitally generated humans that can speak, move and interact — are essential for entertainment, training and education systems. The central goal of ICT’s Vision & Graphics Lab (VGL) is to make these characters look realistic, including lighting them convincingly. The VGL Light Stage has been recognized with two Scientific and Technical Awards from the Academy of Motion Pictures. Its technology has been used in 49 movies/series and it partners with industry leaders such as Nvidia, Meta, and Digital Domain to advance the development of avatar technologies. Moreover, the publication of over 160 top-tier academic papers signifies its pioneering role and impact in this field.

Dr. Zhao holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Kentucky. After completing a research internship with Google’s machine perception team, she joined ICT in 2017 as a postdoctoral researcher and research associate. She was later promoted to Research Scientist, and in 2021, she became (interim) Director of VGL. Dr. Zhao has been a speaker at many industry conferences, including Nvidia GTC 2020 and Netflix’s 2022 MLCC. Since joining ICT, she has published 14 papers in top-tier conferences, registered 2 US patents, and commercialized the ICT-face model, which is now fundamental to the development of AI products for industry partners such as NVIDIA, Zoom, and Flawless. Dr. Zhao also holds a faculty post as Research Assistant Professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.


Established in 1999, the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) is a Department of Defense (DoD) University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), sponsored by the US Army. Harnessing Hollywood-derived creativity with academic innovation and military-domain expertise, ICT conducts award-winning R&D in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Computer Graphics, Geospatial Sciences, Human Performance, Learning Sciences, Modeling, Simulation & Gaming, Mixed Reality (MxR), Medical VR, Narrative, and Virtual Humans. ICT accomplishments include: 2,000 Peer-Reviewed Publications with 100,000+ Citations; 140+ Honors and Awards Highlighting Faculty and Staff; 49 Hollywood Movies/Series use ICT Technologies; 278 Intellectual Property Disclosures; 29 Patents; 3 AAAI Fellows and 2 Academy Awards (Science & Technology).

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