We live in a three-dimensional world. And yet, most images-think of maps and photos-are still 2D.
Imagine the uses for high-quality, real-world 3D imagery: navigation, emergency response, national defense, agriculture, environmental science, public safety, entertainment, tourism, transportation, municipal planning-these are only a few of the areas that could benefit.
In fact, the market for 3D technology could reach $20 billion by 2015, according to industry analysts.
To build on research in this promising field, RIT's Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (CIS) has teamed up with three industry partners to create the Consortium for 3D Innovation. The consortium is funded through a $1 million National Science Foundation Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) grant and matching funds from corporate partners Exelis, Pictometry International, and Lockheed Martin.
"We are developing novel, semi-automated methods to extract 3D models from remote-sensing information," says Jan van Aardt, principal investigator and associate professor in the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing group in CIS. "While 3D imaging has been available, producing the images has been labor-intensive and, therefore, expensive. We are focusing on increasing the automation, geographical extent, and quantifiable content for measuring 3D objects."
Creation of the 3D images involves use of 2D images captured using various remote-sensing techniques, such as airplane-mounted cameras and LIDAR (light detection and ranging). By using a large number of overlapping images, high-quality 3D is possible.
"This is beautiful data," says van Aardt. "We've all seen 3D movies; this is better, a 3D bird's-eye view with high-quality actual images. It's very exciting."
The RIT group includes scientists Carl Salvaggio, John Kerekes, and David Messinger, project manager Mike Richardson, and graduate students in the Center for Imaging Science, who will focus on 3D algorithm and product development. They will be joined by professor Hans-Peter Bischoff and students in computer science from RIT's B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information and Sciences who are working on coding of the algorithms for translation to industry partners' product workflows. Richard DeMartino, director of RIT's Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will direct students from the E. Philip Saunders College of Business working on market analysis for potential 3D products.
Noah Snavely from Cornell University's Computer Science Department has partnered with RIT to provide his expertise in generating 3D images from multiview 2D imagery. Snavely is co-inventor of the technology used in Microsoft's Photosynth.
This multidisciplinary team is focused on very specific goals: development of useful technology that can be put into practical use as soon as possible.
"NSF and our partners want to see impact," says van Aardt. "There's a need for these products, both in terms of markets and societal impacts-it's a win-win."
LiDestri Foods, a Rochester-based manu- facturer of sauces, salsas, and dips, buys huge quantities of tomato paste packed in plastic bags.
The company would like to recycle the empty bags, but they're not clean enough. Washing the bags contaminates the water with tomato residue, which adds excess solid material to the wastewater treatment system. But if the water could be filtered, it could be reused for industrial purposes and the tomato residue could go into production of biofuel. And the bags could be recycled.
IT's Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies-the technology transfer arm of RIT's Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS)-is working with LiDestri to investigate potential recycling solutions as part of a broader effort to address these types of technology challenges and enhance productivity and competitiveness in the food processing industry.
The Finger Lakes Food Processing Cluster Initiative, led by CIMS, is an economic development project focused on businesses involved in any aspect of food production-from farm to fork. The effort is funded through a $1.5 million grant through the U.S. Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge and was created in 2011. It was the result of a competitive application process through the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, and the Small Business Administration.
"The Finger Lakes Food Processing Cluster Initiative will provide the support, tools, and resources to jumpstart the local economy, linking our farms to food processers across the region, creating a sustainable workforce for our small businesses and helping bring our locally grown food to market," says U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate's Agriculture Committee.
The project is an excellent fit for CIMS, says Nabil Nasr, director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and RIT Assistant Provost. "The center focuses on technology development and technology transfer, key aspects of this program. CIMS and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute [another research center within GIS] have been working with companies in the food- processing industry for many years and we recognize the needs and opportunities."
The center is working with a number of partners in the effort, including Monroe Community College, Genesee County Career Center, Finger Lakes Works, RochesterWorks!, three Small Business Development Centers, and the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park. Services provided include specific technology transfer efforts to assist companies in developing more efficient and sustainable manufacturing processes, broader workforce training initiatives based on industry needs, and efforts to better connect individual businesses with area service providers.
"We seek to connect the dots between the needs of the food-processing industry and the government and university resources that are available to assist firms in this field," explains Andy Harlan, assistant director of operations at CIMS and manager of the initiative.
As part of the effort, RIT hosted the Finger Lakes Food Cluster Conference on July 25, which sought to enhance coordination between local agriculture and food processing businesses, area service agencies, and higher education institutions. Sessions focused on the development of local waste to energy initiatives, the use of innovative packaging designs, and the improvement of logistics and supply chain processes.
Seth Harris, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor, says the diverse range of connec- tions that the initiative is able to leverage is essential to the program's success.
"What I have found is where businesses come together with higher education, that's where you have success," Harris said on a visit to RIT in May. "That's what we have here in Rochester."
Satish Kandlikar-the James E. Gleason Professor of Mechanical Engineering in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering-and two graduate students spent 12 weeks in "entrepreneur boot camp" offered by Stanford University last fall as part of the inaugural class of the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) sponsored by the National Science Foundation. They were one of only 21 teams selected nationally for the program.
"The United States has a long history of investing in-and deploying-technological advances derived from a foundation of basic research," says NSF Director Subra Suresh. "And the NSF mission connects advancing the nation's prosperity and welfare with our passionate pursuit of scientific knowledge. I-Corps will help strengthen a national innovation ecosystem that firmly unites industry with scientific discoveries for the benefit of society."
Kandlikar's team included Ankit Kalani, an MS student in mechanical engineering, and Kirthana Kripash, who in May received her MBA from Saunders College of Business.
The commercialization training course was aimed at teaching the teams how to bring an idea to market, and included an assessment of the innovativeness of the technology and the marketability of potential products.
Kandlikar had developed a promising heat-transfer concept for cooling LED (light-emitting diode) lamps. The team's mentor was Rochester entrepreneur Suresh Sunderrajan, former president of NNCrystal Corp., an advanced materials company focused on the lighting industry.
"One of the key challenges facing the industry today is LED cooling," says Sunderrajan, former director of Kodak's venture capital division. Kandlikar's research "looked like a fertile and timely opportunity to solve a fairly significant problem in the industry."
As part of the process the team investigated other technology solutions that were being developed, potential competitors that were entering the market, and the startup capital that would be needed to commercialize their technology. They also were able to assess the overall business climate and other potential roadblocks in creating a business.
"An important part of the entrepreneurship process is deciding if your innovation meets economic need," adds Sunderrajan. "The I-Corps effort allowed us to undertake that assessment in a 'safe' environment. It also provided a better understanding of where opportunity might exist."
In part due to his I-Corps experience, Sunderrajan's new company, Rochester-based Coolerix, is focusing on developing cooling technology for high-power semiconductor devices. Kandlikar, Kalani, and Kripash also stress that the I-Corps program was a tremendous learning experience that will greatly impact their future career paths. Kandlikar plans to fold the entrepreneurial training he received into his engineering classes and senior design project assignments.
"I was honored to have had this opportunity, and am very excited to be able to bring these new experiences to my students moving forward," Kandlikar adds.