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PRESS RELEASE: Hao Li to Spearhead Vision and Graphics Lab at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies

Expert in 3D Human Digitization to Expand USC’s leadership in graphics and computer vision
Media Contact: Amy Blumenthal, amyblume@usc.edu; 917.710.1897
August 16, 2016 —

Hao Li, an assistant professor of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and holder of a Viterbi Early Career Chair, will take the helm at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) Graphics Lab.

ICT ‘s Graphics Lab conducts high dynamic range imaging, image-based lighting, and developed the light stage which records high-fidelity 3D geometries and appearances of human faces, bodies, and objects using computer-controlled illuminations. The Graphics Lab has collaborated with entertainment companies such as Sony Pictures, Digital Domain, and WETA Digital on films such as AvatarThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Hobbit, the Avengers, and Gravity, as well as new glasses-free 3D Display technologies in collaboration with USC’s Shoah Foundation to preserve the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust.

Before joining USC in 2013, Li, a renowned expert in the field of 3D digitization and performance capture, was a research lead at Industrial Light & Magic/Lucasfilm, where he developed the next generation real-time facial performance capture technologies for virtual production and visual effects. He also led the development of the high-end facial animation pipeline at Weta Digital, which was used to reenact the deceased actor Paul Walker in the movie Furious 7.

Ranked as the top researcher on the Top 10 Leaderboard of Computer Graphics research by Microsoft Academic for the past five years and one of the 35 innovators under 35 by MIT Technology Review in 2013, Dr. Li plans to blend the expertise of ICT’s Graphics Lab which uses high-end capture devices with his existing research in the Department of Computer Science at USC Viterbi, which focuses on more deployable tech capture solutions such as building a 3D avatar from a single images, as well as tracking with conventional video cameras.

Li’s goals include expanding’s USC ICT’s leadership in human digitization and exploring new AR/VR platforms. In addition to defense and health applications, his work aims to expand the role of augmented reality and virtual reality for new, immersive 3D teleconferencing technologies, as well as deployable performance capture technologies in sports.

While continuing his regular teaching duties at the Viterbi School of Engineering in the Computer Science department, at ICT, Li expects to broaden the direction of research to grow the computer vision capabilities for the Graphics Lab and build new machine-learning oriented research that can infer complex digital 3D content automatically from minimal input. Li hopes to use ICT’s state-of-the-art devices to build databases of 3Dhuman shapes and physical appearance properties with the highest possible fidelity.

“We want to focus on real-time and data-driven algorithms that can perceive the 3D world like humans do and even make sense of it, given limited visual input.
We will investigate learning-based and geometry-processing techniques that can handle large amounts of 3D data to achieve this goal, said Li.”

“The most important thing,” said Li, “is to modernize the way we capture, process and analyze data. We want to be able to generate high-fidelity virtual humans instantly without any manual labor, develop deployable and low-cost capture systems that can be accessible by anyone, and enable real-time capabilities wherever possible. Immersive communication, AI, and virtual reality…these are the major applications that are pushing our technology.”

“Hao Li is a true creative force in vision and graphics worldwide” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “His new leadership role at ICT will help further cement its pioneering role in shaping the frontiers of virtual reality and will continue grow the impact of USC Computer Science in the vibrant Silicon Beach ecosystem.”

“We are excited for Hao to lead the ICT Vision and Graphics Lab and to enhance ICT’s relationship with Viterbi,” said Clark Lethin, managing director of USC ICT.

The Graphics and Vision Lab at ICT is currently hiring the top experts working in computer vision, computer graphics, and machine learning.

Dr. Li obtained his PhD from ETH Zurich in 2010 and received his MSc degree in Computer Science in 2006 from the University of Karlsruhe (TH). He was a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia and Princeton Universities, a visiting professor at Weta Digital in 2014 and a visiting researcher at EPFL, Stanford University, National University of Singapore, and ENSIMAG. Li is the CEO of Pinscreen, a AR/social media startup. He received the SNF Fellowship for prospective researchers, and best paper award at SCA in 2009 and was named as part of the NextGen 10: Innovators under 40 by CSQ in 2014. He was also awarded the Google Faculty Award.

"Hao Li is one of the most creative young computer scientists of his generation. I am thrilled that he is going to assume a leadership role at ICT while continuing his teaching and mentoring in the Computer Science department,” said Gaurav S. Sukhatme, Dean's Professor and Chairman Department of Computer Science.





About USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Engineering Studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. One of the school’s guiding principles is engineering +, a coined termed by current Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, to use the power of engineering to address the world’s greatest challenges. USC Viterbi is ranked among the top graduate programs in the world and enrolls more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students taught by 185 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 73 endowed chairs and professorships.