Computer scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas hope that funding awarded by the National Science Foundation to create an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center will help the Dallas area become a research hub for technology that enhances human abilities.
Like all I/UCRCs, the iPerform Center for Assistive Technologies to Enhance Human Performancesupports research that interests university and industry members. The center originated with two sites, one at UT Dallas and the other at the University of Texas at Arlington. The NSF awarded UT Dallas $325,000 for five years to create iPerform, with the expectation that researchers involved would attract industry partners that pay a fee to fund precompetitive research and have access to other research at the center. Researchers at UT Arlington have received separate funding to participate in iPerform and also are attracting partners.
For every project funded, a majority of the money will go mostly toward supporting PhD students, Dr. Ovidiu Daescu said. "Statistics show that almost 40 percent of students who work in an I/UCRC obtain full-time jobs with the industry partners after they graduate," said Daescu, associate department head in computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and principal investigator of the award.
UT Dallas faculty members have attracted four industry and government partners for iPerform -- Bosch North America, theNational Institute of Standards and Technology, Raytheon Co., and Texas Instruments.
"Organizations trust us because of the research diversity of Jonsson School faculty, quality of our work and opportunities in the Dallas region to see these technologies reach the marketplace," said Daescu, an expert in algorithm design and optimization for biomedical computing.
Other UT Dallas investigators involved in the center include Dr. Gopal Gupta, holder of the Erik Jonsson Chair, head of the Department of Computer Science and an expert in programming languages and applied logic; Dr. Balakrishnan Prabhakaran, professor of computer science with expertise in multimedia systems and telemedicine; and Dr. Dinesh Bhatia, professor of electrical engineering and an expert in electric circuits and design. About a dozen other Jonsson School faculty members are involved in the center.
Assistive technologies have a wide variety of applications, from improving workplace safety and training, to enhancing sensory and cognitive capabilities and delaying physical and cognitive decline in chronic conditions, to the development of wheelchairs that move with minimal assistance from the user. Assistive technologies also could be used for recreational purposes, including improving a person's tennis stroke or basketball shot.
"There currently is no research hub in the country for assistive technologies, and as we gain more partners in this I/UCRC, Dallas is well-positioned to become the epicenter," Daescu said. "The projects conducted within the center will help advance basic research in areas such as computer vision, machine learning, user interfaces, brain imaging, human robot interaction, human computer interaction, virtual reality and simulation."
Daescu said that iPerform will focus mostly on creating software for assistive technologies, not the hardware tools. He said they hope to conduct research in collaboration with other centers on campus, such as the Texas Biomedical Device Center and the Center for BrainHealth.