Columbia Engineering Wins Big at the NYC Media Lab Demo Showcase

Oct 27 2017 | By Jesse Adams

From new techniques in virtual and augmented reality to a wearable system for pedestrian safety, Columbia Engineering teams excelled at NYC Media Lab’s annual summit and demo showcase September 28. Faculty and student groups from universities across New York City presented more than 150 projects spanning disciplines and industries, competing for recognition and $25,000 in cash prizes.

The prize-winning project by Carmine Elvezio, Mengu Sukan, Steven Feiner, and Barbara Tversky allows users to virtually navigate a cityscape.

A team from Professor Steven K. Feiner’s Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Lab took the $10,000 grand prize for demonstrating an interaction method enabling users in head-worn VR displays to precisely and efficiently teleport within a world-in-miniature virtual city environment by pre-orienting an avatar. The technology from Feiner, researchers Carmine Elvezio MS’12 and Mengu Sukan MS’09 PhD’17, and Teachers College professor Barbara Tversky gives users two controllers to adjust the position, yaw, and pitch of the avatar’s head to update previews of potential destinations. The same group, with the addition of Ohan Oda PhD’15, also received a $500 third place prize in the VR/AR category for a collaborative AR and VR system using virtual replicas of objects to show local users how to perform physical tasks.

“The summit was a wonderful opportunity to interact with other researchers and developers interested in these technologies,” said Elvezio. “We received a lot of great feedback that will help us further refine our demos.”

Winning $1000 and second place in the data science category was SEUS, a localization system for pedestrian safety from professors Peter Kinget and Xiaofan (Fred) Jiang and PhD candidate Daniel De Godoy Peixoto MS’15. SEUS is a wearable headset with multichannel audio sensors that uses signal processing and machine learning to warn potentially distracted pedestrians of approaching vehicles.

More than a dozen teams from throughout the university demoed their work at the showcase, and Columbians were also well represented among the experts addressing more than a thousand attendees at the summit. Professor Jeannette M. Wing, Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute, weighed in on trends shaping the next decade of media, while Satish Rao, associate director of physical sciences licensing at Columbia Technology Ventures, moderated a discussion on how tech is changing how we live and work in cities.