Frontier of
Embodiment Informatics:
ICT and Robotics

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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.