National Science Foundation Award

A York College professor is a member of a research team that just received a $10-million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The award was one of two Expeditions in Computing awards announced today by the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). Each will provide $10 million in funding over five years to multi-investigator research teams, representing the largest single investments in computer science research that NSF makes.

"Without exception, the Expeditions in Computing awards fund bold, ambitious and exciting research," said Mitra Basu, program director for the Expeditions program. "We are now seeing how they advance the field and lead to exciting results in a variety of applications. We're confident that these . . . projects have the same potential for pushing the frontiers of computing."

Greg Link, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is collaborating on the project, titled “Visual Cortex on Silicon,” with colleagues from Pennsylvania State University, University of Southern California, Stanford University, University of California-San Diego, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Pittsburgh, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to the NSF announcement, this project envisions a holistic design of a machine vision system that will approach or exceed the capabilities and efficiencies of human vision, enabling computers to not only record images, but also to understand visual content, at up to a thousand times the efficiency of current technologies.

While several machine vision systems today can each successfully perform one or a few human tasks -- such as detecting human faces in point-and-shoot cameras -- they are still limited in their ability to perform a wide range of visual tasks, to operate in complex, cluttered environments, and to provide reasoning for their decisions. In contrast, the visual cortex in mammals excels in a broad variety of goal-oriented cognitive tasks, and is at least three orders of magnitude more energy efficient than customized state-of-the-art machine vision systems.

In particular, this Expedition aims to understand the fundamental mechanisms used in the visual cortex, with the hope of enabling the design of new vision algorithms and hardware fabrics that can improve power, speed, flexibility, and recognition accuracies relative to existing machine vision systems.

Smart machine vision systems that understand and interact with their environments could have a profound impact on society, including aids for visually impaired persons, driver assistance capabilities for reducing automotive accidents, and augmented reality systems for enhanced shopping, travel, and safety.

“The project seeks to develop vastly superior and lower-power vision systems inspired by existing biological systems,” said Link. “Our systems aim to assist the visually impaired, enhance driver attention, and provide additional information about the world around you.”

The team includes members focusing on neuroscience, computer architecture, new fundamental silicon devices, computer vision development, and more, according to Link. “Here at York College, our team will work to develop accessible and functional prototypes of the research being performed at our fellow institutions. While their teams can focus on advancing cutting-edge research, I'll work with our engineering students to refine, complete, and expand these raw proofs-of-concept into prototypes and software that can be more easily deployed at other institutions. This extends the availability of the work, allowing lower cost-of-entry integration of our state-of-the-art vision work into both the classroom and other research labs.”