ICT Computer Scientist Honored for Bright Ideas

Published: April 29, 2008
Category: News

Abhijeet Ghosh, a computer scientist with the Graphics Lab at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, has been named the winner of the 2007 Alain Fournier Thesis Award. The prize recognizes the top Ph.D dissertation in the area of computer graphics earned at a Canadian university last year.
In announcing the award, the committee cited Ghosh’s outstanding, novel and significant research contributions to the field of computer graphics.
Ghosh’s dissertation focused on the realistic rendering pipeline – the steps involved in measuring, computing, and displaying properties of light and reflectance in order to make convincing digital copies of real world objects.  His innovations allow for more accurate modeling so that computer generated images can appear more real.
“We congratulate Abhijeet on this tremendous honor and feel fortunate to have him as part of our team,” said Randall W. Hill Jr, executive director of ICT. ”The fact this top international talent has chosen to continue his pioneering work here at USC is a testament to the cutting edge and relevant work being performed at the ICT Graphics Lab.”
Alain Fournier is considered the father of computer graphics in Canada and was a leading international figure in the field. He began the computer graphics program at the University of British Columbia, where Ghosh earned his doctorate. After Fournier’s death in 2000, this award was established to “celebrate his life, to commemorate his accomplishments and honor his memory.” Ghosh is the third annual winner.
“Alan Fournier is a very inspirational figure in the field and it is an honor to be associated with an award with his name on it”, said Ghosh, who joined Paul Debevec at the ICT Graphics Lab in the fall.
Ghosh had completed an internship here in 2003 and credits his earlier time at ICT for shaping his award-winning dissertation.
“Being here changed my research direction,” he said. “I had been working in a different area but became fascinated with the discipline of realistic rendering, making beautiful images based on physics and optics.”
The ICT Graphics Lab develops lighting techniques (involving photographic and computer-based methods) to enable virtual reality simulations and their characters to look more real. In addition to lighting techniques, the Graphics Lab also works on methods to digitize light reflectance properties of objects.  The lab has collaborated with Hollywood film producers and visual effects supervisors to create realistic lighting for computer graphics characters in such movies as The Matrix and SpiderMan 2.
“Among the accomplishments in his thesis, Abhijeet’s work presents a fundamentally new way of measuring how surfaces reflect light to and from all directions—surfaces such as car paint, wood, brushed metal, leaves, and skin—making it much easier to digitize realistic materials to be used in simulations, visual effects, and interactive entertainment,” said Paul Debevec, director of the ICT Graphics Lab.
Here at ICT, Ghosh is now focusing on realistic modeling of scenes and people so that they can be successfully composited in virtual spaces. He says working with human faces is one of the big challenges.
“People are used to looking at faces, hence subtle differences stand out,” he said. “One really has it get it right otherwise people will recognize it is computer generated.”
But Ghosh has no need to worry. So far the only recognition he is getting is for the quality of his work.
Read the USC News story. »