Tomorrow is now!

Posted on Monday, September 15, 2014

Robert Laganière

It is 5:30 on a dark and cold January evening. A mother is driving home, exhausted from work and a stop at the grocery store.

After parking the car, she walks to the front door carrying her grocery bags. As she approaches, the door automatically opens wide, saving her the frustration of dropping the bags to look for her keys hidden at the bottom of her purse.

With a smile on her face, she enters her house. Ah! Home sweet home!  

Doors that recognize faces as portrayed in this scene is just one of the new emerging applications, which could result from researches conducted by uOttawa Professor Robert Laganière on the areas of embedded computer vision. This researcher and his team is working on the development of a whole new range of small device applications such as smart hand gesture for TVs, image-recognition software for mobile phones or 3D visual assistance for tablets.

This inventive research is carried out in the VIVA Research Lab, which has been co-founded by Professor Laganière when he first started at the Faculty of Engineering. Many innovative projects have come to life in this lab resulting in road safety, home security and mobile applications. For instance, in collaboration with HabitatSeven, a local interactive media company, Laganière has developed mobile games in which users interact with the real environment using the device’s camera.

According to this researcher, embedded vision bridges computer vision and embedded systems to come up with "an innovative technology in which the computer vision algorithms are incorporated in small, low-power embedded devices to create practical and widely deployable applications using visual data".

Through his research, Laganière has sustained important collaborations with the industry. He partnered with Cognivue Corporation, a Gatineau-based company recently acquired by NXP, which is a world leader in semiconductor and automotive products. Laganière pursues his collaboration with NXP, exploring advanced, artificially intelligent devices for the detection of pedestrians, cars and other features required for the development of the future smart cars.    

In the past, Laganière’s research revolutionized cloud-based home security through a built-in intelligent human motion detection function. He currently oversees new, cutting-edge technology development of intelligent surveillance as a research collaborator at iWatchLife, an Ottawa-based company founded from his own start-up, Visual Cortek. "We develop technology capable of detecting human motion, which allows us to ignore, for example, cars passing nearby or falling leaves in order to focus on important matter, such as home intrusion", says Laganière.

And the research in this direction continues to expand. The most recent initiative of Laganière is the creation of a new start-up company, Tempo Analytics, which uses video surveillance to track the behavior of customers in store. This kind of so-called retail analytics technology will help improve operations and prevent loss through the anonymous collection of performance metrics.

The uOttawa community is benefiting from Laganière’s collaborations. Many of his students were offered internships and work contracts from Cognivue Corporation and other industrial partners. Besides, "’still today, a large number of iWatchLife employees are alumni of the Faculty of Engineering’’, confirms Laganière, "and our new start-up company has hired two graduates from our lab". Another partner recently engaged with Dr Laganière is Synopsys, a world leader in electronic design and automation that has just hired a graduate student from the VIVA lab and is determined to offer other internship opportunities to Laganière’s research team.

In the future, Professor Laganière is hoping to develop new technologies that can be embedded in large devices for collecting real time data on motion detection. ‘’These technologies represent the future, and in the future there will be more and more intelligent vehicles with efficient computers. For example, we will be able to embed new technologies that can alert drivers of potential road dangers to ensure safer driving’’, confirms Laganière.

This professor pledges to teach his students effective ways to develop cutting-edge technologies that the industry requires. ‘’I would like to pass on to my students technology knowledge that will facilitate their placement on the workplace with strong industrial knowledge and skills’’, says Laganière.

Find out how other uOttawa professors Defy the Conventional through their teaching and research projects!

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