Frontier of
Embodiment Informatics:
ICT and Robotics

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Shugo YAMAGUCHI

Portrait Visiting period October 2017 to January 2018
Visiting university University of Southern California(USC)
Visiting country and region Los Angeles, USA

Content of the study program

On this program, I pursued research for approximately four months, relating to facial texture synthesis under Mr. Hao Li at the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), a laboratory affiliated with the University of Southern California (USC), in Los Angeles, United States. The ICT possesses technology that is essential in the production of state-of-the-art CG movies; for example, it has developed light stages, face capturing equipment for the production of CG in Hollywood movies. During my time abroad, I conducted research into facial texture synthesis, using highly-detailed data recorded on a light stage. It was not only data that I could obtain here though; I felt that I was able to grow substantially as a researcher by gaining experience, coming into contact with high-level research, at the global cutting edge.

Study results

By carrying out studies based on deep learning using 4K-level high definition facial texture data recorded on a light stage, it was possible to automatically create, high-quality CG models of faces, at the level of Hollywood movies, from selfies taken using a device such as an iPhone. We submitted this research as a technical paper for SIGGRAPH, a top conference on CG. I was able to pursue an extremely-focused research lifestyle, for the short period of four months, during which I carried out research at a level where it was possible to aim for submission to SIGGRAPH; this is something that would never have been possible while I was in Japan. The fact that I could obtain these results in such a short period of time was thanks to the substantial strength of collaboration with truly excellent researchers (some of whom already had several top conferences under their belts). One conducted high-quality rendering for me based on my output textures, another corrected the paper from a native perspective, and so forth; this team-based approach to writing a paper was a new experience for me, that I did not have in Japan.

My experience abroad

This was my first long-term stay abroad (previously, my longest was around one week). As a result, I was nervous before departure, but when I actually went through with it, Los Angeles was very welcoming in terms of climate, food and so forth; the other members of the laboratory, as well as my roommate, were superb people. In fact, I felt regret, that I would have liked to extend my stay, even by a little. My greatest concern before I set off was the low level of my English ability. I did not become able to speak fluently during my period abroad, but I felt at least, that my fear when speaking to foreign people faded somewhat. Until now, I was nervous when starting to speak and nervous when responding, but I became able to speak with confidence, and even fail confidently. The difference is huge (probably).

Influence on my future career

Before, I had vague feelings that I wanted to perhaps work overseas or in a foreign-affiliated organization, but due to this study abroad, these feelings came to manifest within me with more a sense of reality. At the very least, I was able to develop a clearer, more substantial vision about my remaining two years of life as a doctoral researcher. It is certainly true that this was a large step forward for me as a researcher.

Other comments

I am very grateful for the support I received from the SGU program. Thanks to this support, I was able to be active in research without feeling anxiety over financial matters. This study abroad was truly a turning point in my life. I must thank SGU for providing me with this opportunity.