20 April 2015
Professor Niloy J. Mitra has been awarded the BCS Roger Needham Award for 2015 sponsored by Microsoft Research Cambridge. The award has been made in recognition of his outstanding work in the area of computer graphics and 3D geometry.
Dr Mitra is a Professor of Geometry Processing in the Department of Computer Science, UCL (University College London). His research focuses on extracting high-level semantic understanding of the world by analysing raw and unstructured data collections (e.g., images, scans, shape repositories). He has been developing a mathematical framework to link apparently heterogeneous data sources using a system of relations thus laying the foundation of ‘structure-aware geometry processing.’ The grand goal is to better understand the interplay between geometric form and object function.
Niloy’s work involves deep insights and the impact of his work will be broad and diverse. His papers are already attracting excellent citations and recognition for their rigour and potential impact in computer science (e.g., twice being selected as research highlights in communications of the ACM - Association for Computing Machinery). An early practical impact has been in helping design new building systems, including geometric optimization used in the design of the first floor viewing gallery of the Eiffel Tower.
Niloy says of receiving the award: “I’m delighted and honoured to receive the BCS Needham Award. I'm very pleased with the level of progress achieved in the last few years in 3D geometry and I am grateful that the work on this domain has received so much attention.”
Niloy's research primarily centres on algorithmic issues in shape analysis and geometry processing. He is also interested in applying the analysis findings (e.g., relations, constraints, etc.) towards next generation design tools including smart shape synthesis and fabrication-aware functional model design. He is interested in analysis of large shape repositories, functional computational design and semantic scanning/reconstruction. He has been studying how to distil large shape collections into compact shape spaces. This has led to the theory of constrained meshes. This can be seen as an effort to convert data to knowledge.
His work is extremely relevant as we move away from virtual computer graphics towards computational design and fabrication. Niloy’s work has been used for designing new objects (mechanical automata, furniture, buildings, etc.) with particular focus on functionality. He has introduced algorithms for exploring the design space of 3D shapes that can be fabricated using current methods, such as a tool for modelling 3D shapes that cast intriguing shadows, a method for automatically panelling freeform surfaces, and more recently, provided a computational solution for design exploration of useable furniture. The impact of this work goes well beyond the computer graphics community as he interacts with practicing artists, designers, architects and engineers.
He has been researching how high-level shape understanding can be used to extract information directly from 3D scans and RGB-D images. If successful, this work can fundamentally change how computers ‘see and interact’ with their surroundings with huge potential for creating smart workspaces (e.g., for assisted living).
Andrew Blake, Laboratory Director, Microsoft Research Cambridge, says: “Professor Mitra is a deserving winner of the prestigious Roger Needham Award. His work is affording important insights into how three-dimensional shape can be measured and how to structure computations involving shape, and this has important implications for automation in design."
Paul Fletcher, Group Chief Executive Officer BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, adds: “I’m delighted to announce Professor Niloy J. Mitra as the worthy recipient of the Needham Award given in recognition of his distinguished research contribution in computer science. His work will have a wide-ranging and lasting impact on society.”
The Roger Needham Award is sponsored by Microsoft Research Cambridge and established in memory of Microsoft’s first director of research outside the US. It is awarded for a distinguished research contribution in computer science by a UK based researcher within ten years of their PhD.