Professor Richard Radke featured in ASEE Prism Magazine article entitled "20 Under 40"
Special Effects Engineer
Few engineering academics find grist for their research, let alone for a 409-page textbook, in Hollywood blockbusters, but Richard Radke has found both. A specialist in such computer-vision techniques as camera tracking, 3-D reconstruction, and face and body-motion capture, he refines tools developed for the big screen – shifting a character’s image from a background shot to a new scene, for instance – to an expanding field of applications. These range from algorithms that provide a near-human reading of audio and video to locating individuals in a dense crowd and having industrial robots perform advanced tasks.
Radke looked on with envy as his Rice University roommate researched computer graphics in film and entertainment. As a hobby, he began steering his own interest in computer vision, video surveillance intelligence, and digital cameras toward movies and television. By the time he finished his electrical engineering Ph.D. at Princeton, his hobby had become a career.
So important have graphics and video become to industry, science, and national security that Radke is one of the most active researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where at 39 he is already a full professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering. Boosted by a 2003 NSF CAREER Award, he now pulls in $650,000 a year in grants, including from the Department of Homeland Security and National Institutes of Health. He’s also part of the RPI-headquartered NSF Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center.
The silver screen, Radke finds, offers the perfect introduction to teaching computer vision. “Everyone watches television and goes to the movies, so it’s a good motivator to learn about the fundamentals of computer vision,” he says. His textbook, Computer Vision for Visual Effects, shows readers the theory behind Hollywood engineering and a glimpse of what it’s like to work in such an industry.
Highly rated by students – one dubbed him “God, with chalk” on an evaluation form – Radke says the “old school” blackboards and lecture halls still work for his classes, but he injects detailed digital figures and uses open, anonymous forums to make the students more comfortable about asking questions and getting feedback.
--By Sarah Khan, Mary Lord, and Mark Matthews at Prism
To read the full article, visit http://www.asee-prism.org/20-under-40-sep/