Logo: University of Southern California

IMSC Presents the Results of a Year's Work on 'Geo-Immersion'

Industry and academia join to discuss the Intergrated Media Systems Center's 'graduate' status and plans for the future

April 03, 2012 —

At its second retreat under its new director, one of the Viterbi School’s signature research efforts continued its progress toward a new identity around the concept of Geo-Immersion, an effort to apply sophisticated IT techniques to designated geographical areas.

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Cyrus Shahabi and IMSC advisory board member Beth H. Driver of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency
Director Cyrus Shahabi began by addressing the more than 50 USC academic researchers and interested corporate representatives about origins of the Integrated Media Systems Center (IMSC). He now heads the center as a NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for the study of multimedia, which was founded by then-associate dean for research C.L.Max Nikias.

Now, said Shahabi, IMSC continues to be the NSF media research center, but “we have graduated.” The original NSF grant funding has run out. Accordingly it is shaping its new identity around alliances with companies in addition to state and federal government sources such as LA MTA and the National Institute of Justice, following an ERC mandate to involve the private sector.

This has meant developing research of interest to potential funders, and the direction IMSC has taken under Shahabi took off from his research around Geo-Immersion.

IMSC is continuing its long tradition of interdisciplinary work with other schools and entities at USC, including the Price School of Public Policy, the Keck School of Medicine and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

In a series of presentations by researchers, three IMSC Geoimmersion efforts were presented in considerable detail, describing the progress that had been made in achieving goals announced last year.

The first direction is iCampus, an effort to use geoimmersion tools to allow USC faculty, staff, students, visitors,

IMSC pursues Geo-Immersion as a new computing paradigm that enables humans capture, model and integrate real-world data into a geo-realistic virtual replica of the world for immersive data access, querying and analysis.
administrators and others to make the campus more accessible, functional and energy efficient – an effort that NSF itself used as the subject of a report on its Science News program “Science Nation,” which Shahabi played for participants.

Two other directions are moving briskly forward development, and participants gave detailed demonstrations.

Intelligent Transportation has developed new instruments to allow real time analysis of the entire street grid of a city like Los Angeles with the help of Intel, Microsoft and LA MTA. A novel sysem developed under this project uses the traffic data records it has stored to compute the best path given the prediction of traffic in front of you. Ugur Demiryurek, who is directing this effort, gave an overview with the help of collaborator Mohammed Ali of Microsoft. The system is being enhanced by using a video analysis system developed by Intel that infers traffic from video feeds accurately and sensitively (distinguishing large trucks from compact cars, for example), integrated into the Microsoft StreamInsight software. Jonathan Taplin of the Annenberg School’s Innovation Lab described the Intel effort. The Viterbi School’s James Moore is also involved in Intelligent Transportation with a project called TransNiemo, a system for analyzing and optimizing interregional trade.

iWatch is an intelligent surveillance effort that aims to develop new tools to give fast, reliable information to law enforcement officers — as well as to doctors and public health officials. The Janus information system that Farnoush Banaei-Kashani has organized with Shahabi, Gerard Medioni and other USC faculty to improve

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Industry-Academia marriage counselors (from left) John Sweet (USC Stevens), Ramesh Jain (UC Irvine), Dan Fay (Microsoft) and Kris Srikrishnan (IBM), who chaired.
emergency response was one focus. Two other efforts discussed using spatial data mining and analysis to understand the "geography of chronic diseases" such as diabetes, and using real-time video analysis and data processing to study "propagation of contiguous diseases among crowds".

The finale for the retreat was a panel chaired by Kris Srikrishnan of IBM that hit on a critical theme of IMSC’s direcrtion: “Academic Research Centers and Industry: Can They Work Together?” Dan Fay of Microsoft joined two entrepreneurs who recently returned to academics, John Sweet of the USC Stevens Institute and Ramesh Jain of UC Irvine, on the panel.

Addressing USC computer science students, the panelists explored the differences between academic and industry culture (academics are motivated by ego, said Jain, corporate affiliates by greed) and how combining the two sides would be an "odd couple.” But all agreed that with careful preparation in advance — Intellectual property understandings are crucial, said Fay — happy marriages were possible.