Associate professor Richard Vaughan

Associate professor Alexandra Fedorova

Green phones, motion tech, robotics research net funding

February 13, 2013
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Three Simon Fraser University research projects have been awarded grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), as part of NSERC’s recent round of national Strategic Project and Strategic Network grants totaling $45.4 million.

The SFU research projects in applied sciences include “green phones” (smartphones that are personalized health devices and provide essential services on a single charge); new human motion capture technology for video games; and advanced robots for water, land and space exploration.

Background: Green phones

Alexandra Fedorova, an associate professor in Computing Science, leads the development of smartphone software to manage the energy consumption of its underlying hardware. Her team will receive $442,000 over three years.

“Smartphones have the potential to provide crucial services but their usefulness lasts only as long as their battery life,” says Fedorova. “Today, when homecare workers use smartphones to navigate a patient’s home, access their medical data and create video records, the smartphone battery easily loses power before the end of the work day.”

Fedorova is tackling mobile health because of the aging population and the potential of smartphones to deliver assisted living support. Cameras, radios, GPS and sensors drain a smartphone battery on average within nine hours. Fedorova and her team aim to run smartphones for a 24-hour period or longer using software that will intelligently manage energy consumption.

Background: Human motion technology


SFU’s second project to receive NSERC funding is designed to enhance video game motion capture technology through the development of sophisticated and cost-effective wireless sensor networks.

School of Engineering Science associate professor Edward Park and his team have received a grant totaling $445,000 to develop the technology. They’re working with video gaming and semiconductor companies to test the new applications in the industry.

Traditional motion capture technology works in limited areas and is prohibitively expensive. Park’s research team will combine the use of new computer algorithms and distributed data processing technology to develop cost-effective low-power wireless sensor networks, that could be used in large indoor and outdoor spaces, such as ice rinks, soccer fields and golf courses.

“We came together with our partners because of the economic and innovation potential that this project can bring,” said Park.

“To be at the forefront of wide range motion capture is crucial for the production of multibillion dollar sports video game franchises.”

Background: NSERC Canadian Field Robotics Network

The NSERC announcement included $5 million to establish the NSERC Canadian Field Robotics Network (NCFRN), a project designed to enable robots to work in teams on land, at sea, and in the air, to advance exploration and for other purposes.

SFU will play a key role in the McGill University led project by taking the lead on one of its three main research teams. Richard Vaughan, an associate professor in Computing Science, will oversee the unmanned aerial vehicle team, working closely with other leaders responsible for sea and ground robot technology development, in addition to serving on the scientific committee.

"Outdoor robot technology has advanced a long way in the last 10 years,” said Vaughan. “This project is a national push towards getting robots more self-reliant, robust, affordable and able to do valuable work in tough environments."

Vaughan is working to enable robots to capture images in order to build 3D models of the ground. That will give heavy industry, such as construction and mining, a clear picture of terrain and how water flows over it.

In addition, Vaughan will apply his expertise in networking software to coordinate how robots and vehicles speak to each other and share information.

The NCFRN is a five-year NSERC Strategic Network Grant that involves seven universities across Canada, 11 business and government organizations. It brings together Canada’s leading experts in mobile robot systems.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

Contact:

Alexandra Fedorova, Computing Science, fedorova@sfu.ca
Edward Park, Engineering Science, 778.782.8662, ed_park@sfu.ca
Richard Vaughan, Computing Science, 604.351.7814, vaughan@sfu.ca
Karen Lee, Faculty of Applied Sciences, 778.782.8923, kla87@sfu.ca

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