CfAR Students, Faculty Visit Amazon to Discuss Research in Computer Vision

Thu Oct 29, 2015

Eighteen graduate students from the Center for Automation Research at the University of Maryland recently visited Amazon corporate headquarters in Seattle to discuss their research and learn about Amazon’s research and development in computer vision.

The benefits of the trip were two-fold, officials say: Students were able to see how their research might one day be used in a sophisticated industrial setting like Amazon; and Amazon scientists and developers were able to connect with UMD students and faculty to discuss the latest trends in computer vision and robotics.

“We wanted to initiate a dialog between academia and Amazon, and expose students and faculty to the breadth and scope of some Amazon projects,” says Gerard Medioni, the director of research at Amazon who is currently on leave from his position as a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Southern California.

Amazon is particularly interested in areas in which CfAR excels—computer vision and robotics—says Larry Davis, the director of CfAR who accompanied the students.

“Advances in these fields can make the company’s fulfillment centers, where orders are filled using sophisticated automated systems, even more efficient,” Davis says.

Amazon also is interested in how online image quality can affect sales, he says. Much of the work in CfAR involves image processing and analysis, so the students’ research that was showcased at a poster session was well received.

In addition to the student presentations, Davis and Ramani Duraiswami, professor of computer science and director of the Perceptual Interfaces and Reality Laboratory, each gave an overview of CfAR activities to Amazon scientists.

The Maryland students took away a lot from the visit, especially those nearing the end of their graduate training and are interested in networking with prospective employers.

“It was interesting to see technology that is scaled-up significantly from what we do in the lab, and how that can have a big impact on quality and productivity,” says Sravanthi Bondugula, a sixth-year doctoral student in computer science.

Bondugula says she appreciated the hospitality of Amazon, who took the group to dinner and then showed them popular sites in the surrounding community after the lab tours.

“This will definitely help me decide if Seattle would be a good fit for me [job-wise] when I am ready to begin searching in the next year or so,” she says.