Visual computing expert awarded fellowship

Reconstructing facial expressions: Dr Hui Yu

A Portsmouth researcher has won a prestigious vote of confidence in his work to advance his facial expression reconstruction and analysis technologies.

Dr Hui Yu, an expert in visual computing in the University of Portsmouth’s School of Creative Technologies, is one of a handful of experts to be awarded an industrial fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The fellowship gives him time working with industry to refine and deepen his work on capturing dynamic facial expression reconstruction from only half-face data.

Dr Yu is developing a system for use in virtual reality that monitors facial performance in real-time by capturing data from the upper half of the face. The system combines state-of-the-art sensing technologies, artificial intelligence and facial reconstruction methods.

He will work with Emteq Ltd.

Dr Yu said: “This project will develop an effective solution to improve the facial interaction between the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) user and the virtual environment.

“Facial expression is among the primary non-verbal means in human communication, for example, a smile can express happiness or positive opinions. However, existing VR and AR head mounted displays (HMDs) such as HTC Vive and MS Hololens occlude the wearer’s face significantly, especially the eye region which is one of the most emotion-salient facial parts. This significantly limits natural interactions between the user and the virtual environment. To tackle this problem, this project proposes to develop advanced sensing technologies and integrate with the HMD in an unobtrusive manner to capture subtle facial expressions which are further reconstructed in 3D virtual world to recover the user’s facial expression with high-fidelity.

“The developed technical solution will create a natural interaction between the user and the virtual environment via facial expressions. It has the potential to benefit extensive use cases ranging from the mental healthcare (for example, depression, ASD through an appropriate virtual environment to adapt to the VR user’s affective states), facial functionality rehabilitation (for example, the surgeon could do diagnosis through a virtual face-to-face talk with a facial palsy patient), virtual communication and entertainment application.”

Dr Yu is one of nine mid-career researchers awarded RAEng Industrial Fellowships by the Royal Academy of Engineering, giving them the opportunity to gain industrial experience by working on a collaborative research project with industry.

The collaborations cover a wide range of engineering disciplines and industry partners, including the development and enhancement of miniaturised satellites, new methods to destroy global pollutants, and the use of state-of-the-art sensors to reconstruct facial expressions in virtual reality environments.

The RAEng Industrial Fellowships are intended to strengthen the links between universities and industry through the development of new collaborative partnerships. The awardees gain first-hand experience of working in an industrial environment, including knowledge of current industry practices, helping them to improve the industrial relevance of their research and teaching.

Each placement is for six months full time or one year part time with the scheme covering the salary costs of each awardee.

Over the past five years the RAEng Industrial Fellowships scheme has supported 47 researchers to complete placements with 44 different industrial partners, covering a wide variety of engineering disciplines.





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