I’ve been fascinated by robotics and artificial intelligence ever since I read my first Asimov novel, way back in high school. As a teenager I also liked to program, and my pre-college days were spent usually wired in to a laptop or hooked to a physics textbook, thinking about ways to solve a problem efficiently while my classmates were out playing football.

I joined IIT Delhi, majoring in EECS, where I was able to pursue my interest in computer science. Meeting like-minded people, I believe, was the best thing that could have happened. I was interested in computer vision because I am fascinated by how things we see make sense to our brains, and how we can replicate that in computer systems using simple mathematical techniques.

I was given an opportunity to work at a research lab at Virginia Tech after my sophomore year, where I got the first taste of working in a research group.  This made me realize exactly how different research is than just taking courses in college. The intense work environment was hyper educational and that’s when I made up my mind to pursue computer vision and machine learning.

In the next six months a lot has happened very quickly. I met Nikhil Naik at the Media Lab’s Design Innovation Workshop in Mumbai, where I learned more about the work of the Camera Culture group. I watched Ramesh’s talks like an entranced six year old, and was impressed by the lab’s culture to promote innovation in all aspects of design. It was a fresh change from what I was used to; and it encouraged me to approach Nikhil for a collaboration for my senior design project. Nikhil and another researcher, Dan Raviv, found ideas that were at the intersection of my past interests and the lab’s work, and we decided to begin work at the lab in the summer.

I’m currently working on creating a real time object detection system, which uses a depth camera and tries to locate objects in real time. For example, an extension of this system would be a device which would remember any object you show it, and locate it in your household. I’m also working on a system which extracts cognitive information from images using crowd sourcing.

My time at the lab has been full of surprises – right from the amazing imaging technology being worked on at the lab, to the close-knit, collaborative group meetings. People at the lab are brilliant at their work, and a even simple five minute conversation with them can turn out to be enlightening. There is a strong industry connection, with workshops and talks being delivered almost every day.
For aspiring visiting students, I’d suggest keeping yourself aware and connected – by attending ReDx/DI workshops, and frequently interacting with Camera Culture members in India and abroad. You should also aim at solving problems which are intellectually challenging and also have a broad social impact. If you’re working hard and making good stuff, people will be more than willing to collaborate with you.

Working at the lab has been the best work experience I’ve had so far. Dan and Nikhil have been very insightful about the work, and I’ve learned a lot from them. People at the lab have been very friendly and cooperative, and I’ve had a very productive and fun past few weeks. I hope to continue my association with the group for a longer period of time, and keep building fascinating things that make you go ‘wow’.


Below are a few pics of my time with the Camera Culture Group:

Dan Raviv and Abhimanyu Dubey

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Camera Culture Group at a movie outing

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Kayaking on the Charles River

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