Collection phase begins for “Images from Science 3” exhibition planned for RIT in 2019

CIS is co-sponsor of display which will celebrate extraordinary images taken by scientists and photographers around world


Sep. 7, 2018
Rich Kiley

Scientists and photographers from around the world will have the opportunity to share their scientific research, discoveries and observations of natural wonders with the launch of the collection phase of an international images exhibition scheduled for Rochester Institute of Technology in 2019.

The exhibition is being led by Michael Peres and Ted Kinsman of RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, along with Norman Barker of Johns Hopkins Medicine—each of whom has enjoyed award-winning careers as photographers, but also as authors, teachers and industry leaders exploring and making science images.

Because of their passion for the image in science, they are coordinating the production of the third in a series of traveling exhibitions exploring the diverse field of the image in science.

"Images from Science 3" (IFS 3) is being organized to build upon the successes of the Images from Science 1 and 2 exhibitions, held previously in 2002 and 2008, respectively.

“Much has changed in the world of science, technology and explorations in the decade since those exhibitions were mounted, including the explosion of new applications of imaging technologies,” said Michael Peres, associate chair of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (SPAS). Peres and Andrew Davidhazy, professor emeritus in SPAS, were the original creators of the project.

“IFS 3 seeks to identify and showcase up to 75 extraordinary examples of still and moving images, animations and illustrations that reveal science in new and visually exciting ways,” added Barker, a second organizer and professor of pathology and art as applied medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Similar to past projects, it will use the internet to promote the opportunity. IFS 3 will also feature a limited number of full-time student images as a part of the exhibition.” 

IFS 3 invites both new and recognized image makers who reveal science in photographs to participate in this latest collection of work. The exhibition’s goal is to produce “a traveling exposition that features extraordinary examples of still and moving images, animations and illustrations produced to explore or document a scientific process,” said Kinsman, an assistant professor of photographic sciences at RIT and a third organizer.

Seven international judges will curate the final collection of images, videos and illustrations, Kinsman noted.

IFS 3 has a number of sponsors helping provide support for the project using technology to solicit, judge, invite and display the technical excellence and creativity needed to make such photographs. In addition to RIT and Johns Hopkins University, sponsors include Carl Zeiss Microscopy, headquartered in Jena, Germany; RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science; SPAS; RIT’s School of Art; Science Source Images in New York City; and Service Photo in Baltimore, Md.

A four-color catalogue will be published by the RIT Press. The exhibition will premiere at the new RIT City Art Space in November 2019 and will then be displayed at Johns Hopkins in January 2020.

The exhibition is being dedicated to Lennart Nilsson, the late Swedish photographer and scientist noted for his photographs of human embryos and other medical subjects once considered impossible to photograph, and more generally for his extreme macro photography.

"Images from Science 1" premiered in the fall of 2002 at RIT. Launched at the infancy of the internet and digital photography, it featured 59 photographs and traveled to 22 venues in seven countries until it was retired in 2007.

"Images from Science 2" premiered in the fall of 2008 and was displayed in 13 venues before it was lost in shipping from the U.K. to the Netherlands in 2014. Both exhibitions were produced as experiments to explore the power of the internet as the sole tool used to promote, identify and ultimately display some of the world’s most powerful photographs of science at the time of their production.

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Original Source: University News

RIT, NASA, JHU and STSI evaluate use of digital micromirror devices in space applications


Aug. 1, 2018

Multiobject spectrometers (MOSs) have benefitted from the use of digital micromirror devices (DMDs) as programmable slit masks in ground-based applications because of the high reliability and accuracy DMDs provide. For this reason, knowing how DMDs would perform under conditions associated with space deployment would benefit astronomers looking for slit masks to use in MOSs on space missions.

A collaboration between Rochester Institute of Technology (Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science & Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology), NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterSpace Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University (Department of Physics and Astronomy & Department of Mechanical Engineering) evaluated the feasibility of using DMDs in space applications. A series of tests were performed to investigate the performance of DMDs under conditions associated with space deployment to determine their suitability for multiobject spectrometers on space missions.

Space-based MOSs would encounter the same vibration and mechanical shock that is typically associated with any launch into space, so the DMDs were subjected to vibration and shock testing. DMDs underwent vibration testing while powered off as well as in the powered on and operational state. The project utilized Texas Instruments‘ DLP7000 .7” XGA DMDs controlled using the DLi4120 Development Kit in order to test the DMDs in two different operating modes; holding a steady pattern and quickly switching among several patterns. The team then inspected the DMDs for pixels that may have changed the direction of the tilt of the micromirrors and did not detect any pixels that changed state after the vibration testing.

The DMDs were also exposed to thermal cycling and low temperature testing to determine lifetime and performance at cryogenic temperature. Among several tests conducted, the DMD micromirror array was subject to an accelerated lifetime test, where it was cycled between the on and off state for 200,000 flips – an approximation of a 10 year life of a MOS using DMD technology. Among this and the other tests conducted, the results indicated that DMDs are insensitive to low temperatures, and able to operate at temperatures as low as 78 K.

Two separate experiments focused on the result of accelerated heavy-ion radiation on DMD reliability. The DMDs were exposed to heavy-ion radiation above realistic levels for fluxes, and did not obtain any permanent damage or experience hard failure. All micromirrors that were initially disrupted from testing were cleared with the loading of a new pattern on to the DMDs, allowing the team to conclude that DMDs have limited sensitivity to heavy-ion radiation.

The combined assessment of radiation, vibration, mechanical shock and temperature testing of DMDs allowed the team to determine that DMDs are extremely reliable and robust. Overall, the results confirm that DMDs are suitable for use in both ground-based and space-based multiobject spectrometry.

Click the Read More button for the full paper, “Evaluation of digital micromirror devices for use in space-based multiobject spectrometer application.”

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Original Source: Digital Light Innovations

USGIF Announces First K. Stuart Shea Endowed Scholarship Recipient
student award

PhD candidate Sanghui Han is first recipient of new endowed scholarship

Apr. 23, 2018

Monday morning at USGIF’s GEOINT 2018 Symposium, Sanghui Han was awarded the first ever $15,000 K. Stuart Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship. Han is pursuing a Ph.D. in imaging science at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, N.Y. USGIFChairman of the Board The Honorable Jeffrey K. Harris presented the award to Han on stage.

The USGIF Board of Directors announced the creation of this new scholarship at the GEOINT 2017 Symposium in honor of K. Stuart Shea, one of the founders of USGIF and the first chief executive and chairman of the organization. The scholarship will be annually awarded to a Ph.D. student studying cartography, geography, or imaging science.

“Being a single mom and a student is challenging, especially financially,” Han said. “What this scholarship means to me immediately is some breathing room in my finances, which enables me to better conduct my research. Another facet to this scholarship are the recognition and networking opportunities, which would expand opportunities after I graduate and throughout my career by opening up possibilities for collaboration between organizations that have congruent missions. I hope the connections I make will empower me to bring together my experiences in the military and research at RIT to contribute to the advancement of geospatial intelligence.”

Han earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Colorado, and upon completion was commissioned as a U.S. Army intelligence officer. She began pursing her master’s degree in imaging science through RIT while deployed to Afghanistan and continued her studies throughout her Army tenure. She completed her master’s degree toward the end of military career and then began pursing a Ph.D. in imaging science full-time. Han’s research develops a framework for predicting utility of spectral images to facilitate the design of imaging systems. She hopes this research can help build simple, flexible systems optimized for various information requirements.

“Developing advanced tradecraft is a priority for the Foundation and the USGIF Board is very pleased to award the first K. Stuart Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship to Sanghui,” Harris said. “Her career trajectory has an important connection to the GEOINT mission having served with the U.S. Army as a Joint Reconnaissance Officer in South Korea. This hands-on experience provides an excellent opportunity to help ensure that her research in improved precision image modeling can translate directly into positive GEOINT mission impact. Recognizing the substantial contributions to USGIF by former chairman Stu Shea, this scholarship reaffirms his leadership principal to actively build the community.”

This scholarship is part of the overall USGIF Scholarship Program. The full list of 2018 scholarship recipients will be announced this summer. Learn more about the USGIFScholarship Program here.

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Original Source: United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation

Space Weather Storms Could Set Modern High-Tech Life Back Hundreds Of Years

CIS Professor Roger Dube's article featured in Newsweek

Mar. 30, 2018
Roger Dube

Shortly after 4 a.m. on a crisp, cloudless September morning in 1859, the sky above what is currently Colorado erupted in bright red and green colors. Fooled by the brightness into thinking it was an early dawn, gold-rush miners in the mountainous region of what was then called the Kansas Territory woke up and started making breakfast. What happened in more developed regions was even more disorienting, and carries a warning for the wired high-tech world of the 21st century.

As the sky lit up over the nighttime side of the Earth, telegraph systems worldwide went berserk, clacking nonsense code and emitting large sparks that ignited fires in nearby piles of paper tape. Telegraph operators suffered electrical burns. Even disconnecting the telegraph units from their power sources didn’t stop the frenzy, because the transmission wires themselves were carrying huge electrical currents. Modern technology had just been humbled by a fierce space weather storm that had arrived from the sun, the largest ever recorded—and more than twice as powerful as a storm nine years earlier, which had itself been the largest in known history.

My seven years of research on predicting solar storms, combined with my decades using GPS satellite signals under various solar storm conditions, indicate that today’s even more sensitive electronics and satellites would be devastated should an event of that magnitude occur again. In 2008, a panel of experts commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences issued a detailed report with a sobering conclusion: The world would be thrown back to the life of the early 1800s, and it would take years—or even a decade—to recover from an event that large.

A solar explosion

Space weather storms have happened since the birth of the solar system, and have hit Earth many times, both before and after that massive event in 1859, which was named the Carrington event after a British astronomer who recorded his observations of the sun at the time. They’re caused by huge electromagnetic explosions on the surface of the sun, called coronal mass ejections. Each explosion sends billions of protons and electrons, in a superheated ball of plasma, out into the solar system.

About 1 in every 20 coronal mass ejections heads in a direction that intersects Earth’s orbit. Around three days later, our planet experiences what is called a space weather storm or a geomagnetic storm.

While these events are described using terms like “weather” and “storm,” they do not affect whether it’s rainy or sunny, hot or cold, or other aspects of what it’s like outdoors on any given day. Their effects are not meteorological, but only electromagnetic.

Hitting Earth

When the coronal mass ejection arrives at Earth, the charged particles collide with air molecules in the upper atmosphere, generating heat and light called aurora.

Also, as happens anytime moving electrical charges encounter a magnetic field, the interaction creates a spontaneous electrical current in any conductor that’s available. If the plasma ball is big enough, its interaction with Earth’s magnetic field can induce large currents on long wires on the ground, like the one that overloaded telegraph circuits in 1859.

On March 13, 1989, a storm only about one-fifth as strong as the Carrington event hit Earth. It induced a large surge of current in the long power lines of the Hydro-Quebec power grid, causing physical damage to transmission equipment and leaving 6 million people without power for nine hours. Another storm-induced power surge destroyed a large transformer at a New Jersey nuclear plant. Even though a spare transformer was nearby, it still took six months to remove and replace the melted unit. Some people worried that the bright auroral lights meant nuclear war had broken out.

And in October 2003, a rapid series of solar storms affected Earth. Collectively called the Halloween solar storm, this series caused surges that threatened the North American power grid. Its effects on satellites made GPS navigation erratic and interrupted communications connections during the peak of the storm.

Larger storms will have wider effects, cause more damage and take longer to recover from.

Wide-reaching effects

Geomagnetic storms attack the lifeblood of modern technology: electricity. A space weather storm typically lasts for two or three days, during which the entire planet is subjected to powerful electromagnetic forces. The National Academy of Sciencesstudy concluded that an especially massive storm would damage and shut town power grids and communications networks worldwide.

After the storm passed, there would be no simple way to restore power. Manufacturing plants that build replacements for burned-out lines or power transformers would have no electricity themselves. Trucks needed to deliver raw materials and finished equipment wouldn’t be able to fuel up, either: Gas pumps run on electricity. And what pumps were running would soon dry up, because electricity also runs the machinery that extracts oil from the ground and refines it into usable fuel.

With transportation stalled, food wouldn’t get from farms to stores. Even systems that seem non-technological, like public water supplies, would shut down: Their pumps and purification systems need electricity. People in developed countries would find themselves with no running water, no sewage systems, no refrigerated food, and no way to get any food or other necessities transported from far away. People in places with more basic economies would also be without needed supplies from afar.

It could take between four and 10 years to repair all the damage. In the meantime, people would need to grow their own food, find and carry and purify water, and cook meals over fires.

Some systems would continue to operate, of course: bicycles, horse-drawn carriages and sailing ships. But another type of equipment that would keep working provides a clue to preventing this type of disaster: Electric cars would continue to work, but only in places where there were solar panels and wind turbines to recharge them.

Preparing and protecting

Geomagnetic storms would affect those small-scale installations far less than grid-scale systems. It’s a basic principle of electricity and magnetism that the longer a wire that’s exposed to a moving magnetic field, the larger the current that’s induced in that wire.

In 1859, the telegraph system was so profoundly affected because it had wires stretching from city to city across the U.S. Those very long wires had to handle enormous amounts of energy all at once, and failed. Today, there are long runs of wires connecting power generators to consumers—such as from Niagara Falls to New York City—that would be similarly susceptible to large induced currents.

The only way to reduce vulnerability to geomagnetic storms is to substantially revamp the power grid. Now, it is a vast web of wires that effectively spans continents. Governments, businesses and communities need to work together to split it into much smaller components, each serving a town or perhaps even a neighborhood—or an individual house. These “microgrids” can be connected to each other, but should have protections built in to allow them to be disconnected quickly when a storm approaches. That way, the length of wires affected by the storm will be shorter, reducing the potential for damage.

A family using solar panels and batteries for storage and an electric car to get around would likely find its water supply, natural gas or internet service disrupted. But their freedom to travel, and to use electric lights to work after dark, would provide a much better chance at survival.

When will the next storm hit?

People should start preparing today. It’s impossible to know when a major storm will hit next: The most we’ll get is a three-day warning when something happens on the surface of the sun. It’s really only a matter of time before there is another one like the Carrington event.

Solar astrophysicists are also studying the sun to identify any events or conditions that might herald a coronal mass ejection. They’re collecting enormous amounts of data about the sun and using computer analysis to try to connect that information to geomagnetic storms on Earth. This work is underway and will become more refined over time. The research has not yet yielded a reliable prediction of a coming solar storm before an ejection occurs, but it improves each year.

In my view, the safest course of action involves developing microgrids based on renewable energy. That would not only improve people’s quality of life around the planet right now, but also provide the best opportunity to maintain that lifestyle when adverse events happen.

Roger Dube, Research Professor of Imaging Science, Rochester Institute of Technology.

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Original Source: Newsweek

RIT scientist modifies digital cinema technology for future space missions
Detector Research

NASA funds development of new astronomical imaging system

Mar. 29, 2018
Susan Gawlowicz

story photo

RIT professor Zoran Ninkov, right, and Dmitry Vorobiev ’17 (astrophysical sciences and technology), a postdoctoral researcher in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, work on a new astronomical imaging system using technology found in Texas Instruments’ digital cinema projectors. (Photo by A. Sue Weisler)

Rochester Institute of Technology researchers are developing and testing an astronomical imager inspired by an Oscar-award winning cinema projection system.

RIT scientist Zoran Ninkov modified Texas Instruments’ Digital Micromirror Device—the micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS, device found in Digital Light Processing projectors—to simultaneously capture light signatures from multiple objects in the same area of sky. The RIT astronomical imaging system is competing with other technologies for deployment on future NASA space missions for surveying star and galaxy clusters.

NASA is supporting Ninkov’s ongoing research on the RIT multi-object spectrometer with a $550,000 grant to recoat the Digital Micromirror Device with aluminum to increase its reflectivity and performance at ultraviolet wavelengths.

“We’ve worked extensively on space qualification for the Texas Instruments Digital Micrormirror Device and have shown the current generation of these devices is well suited to space applications,” said Ninkov, a professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. “There’s a need for a technology to allow for the rapid programmable selection of targets in a field of view that can be input to an imaging spectrometer for use in astronomy and remote sensing.”

The Texas Instruments device consists of 2048-by-1080 individual mirrors that can switch between two positions at thousands of times per second. Ninkov recognized the programmable mirrors had applications in astronomical imaging and remote sensing.

During the last decade, Ninkov’s team turned the commercial product into a scientific instrument to detect and capture astronomical data. The new technology selects targets from a two-dimensional sky field and deflects light down two distinct pathways—either to an imaging spectrometer or to an imaging array detector. The spectrometer records light at many contiguous spectral wavelengths and compresses information in the field of view into a data cube. The imaging detector array captures light signals from the objects with a charge-coupled device similar to technology found in digital cameras.

Ninkov’s team includes Dmitry Vorobiev, a postdoctoral researcher at RIT; graduate students; and collaborators at NASA Goddard Flight Center.

Ninkov leads the Laboratory for Advanced Instrumentation Research in RIT’s Center for Imaging Science. He is also a member of RIT’s Center for Detectors and the Future Photon Initiative.

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Original Source: University News

Being the CEO of Your Career

Optics and Photonics News talked with CIS Professor Jie Qiao about the importance of women in science taking an entrepreneurial approach to advancing their careers.

Mar. 1, 2018

Jie Qiao is an associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, N.Y., USA, and the founder and president of WiSTEE Connect (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship)—a group she started in 2012 while working as a laser scientist for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. OPN caught up with her to learn more about the project and her vision for its future.

Q. What inspired you to found WiSTEE?

After I had worked at the University of Rochester’s Laser Lab for almost seven years, I suddenly realized that among close to 60 scientists at the lab, there were only three women. I talked with a dozen women faculty members at the university, and they all felt the same way—isolated. So I wanted to create a group to get women in junior-faculty and mid-career positions together. That was my intention. Then, at the first event, a group of students came in—including undergraduates, graduates and postdocs—and I quickly realized that having a pipeline of women at different career stages is actually really beneficial. But WiSTEE’s focus is still on junior and midcareer women.

Q. Why that career stage in particular?

Because there’s already so much effort to bring girls into science up to the K–12 level. So many schools have reached 50-50 in their student populations, but if you look at their faculty portfolio, it’s 1 woman for every 20 men. We put so much effort into bringing women into a science career, but once they’re there, many are forced out in mid-career, or not promoted. I want to have a group for mid-career and junior-faculty professionals, so they have a sense of belonging and they can exchange their thoughts and support each other. I think for women to be successful, they need to have supporters, collaborators and sponsors. There are many reasons why women drop out of STEM, but I think the deepest reason is the lack of role models who they can talk to and aspire to become. And this is so essential.

Q. At last fall’s Frontiers in Optics meeting, WiSTEE organized a “Global Women of Light” symposium. At that event you brought up the importance of having women be entrepreneurs in their own careers. What does that mean?

I learned this concept when I was in business school, pursuing my MBA, when I was learning finance, marketing and strategy. One day, I thought that for women faculty—not only for women, for everyone— when you think about your career, you have this productive element: you’re researching, writing papers and training students. But you also have a financial side: the most important thing for a new faculty member is not to run out of cash. You have a marketing side: you present your paper and you do workshops. And you also have a strategy side. How do you balance those factors? In those ways, a new faculty position is like a startup company. So it’s really a good comparison between a woman faculty member and an entrepreneur or owner of a new startup.

Q. That seems like a valuable perspective for anyone, though. Why is it particularly important for women?

I’m focusing on women entrepreneurs in science because many women, like men, also aspire to become entrepreneurs or technology leaders. But women entrepreneurs, like women faculty members, are more isolated. In reality, men probably get more opportunities, and they naturally have a team already—the whole department, which tends to be heavily male. Entrepreneurs need to raise money, and there is statistical data that if you’re a female entrepreneur pitching to a venture capitalist, the chance for a female entrepreneur to get funding is much smaller than for a male entrepreneur. This is also true for women PIs in academia. If you look at proposal or paper reviews, there is subtle bias there, too. So for women, there are really a lot of very subtle barriers.

Q. Looking ahead, how do you see WiSTEE growing?

In part, it’s the network effect. If one woman makes six contacts at a WiSTEE event, and there are close to 80 women attending, then WiSTEE can grow exponentially. That’s because it has established a trustworthy, organic connectivity that, in my view, can’t be replaced by other organizations. Right now, in structure, there are corporate members of WiSTEE through which individuals can become involved, there are national labs that want to have a branch, and there are students, academic faculty members, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. Looking ahead, I want to grow WiSTEE as a global organization. And while I think optics can be a base, we would like to expand that into other areas of physics— astronomy, for example. Optics has never been an isolated profession; it’s always embedded into different applications. And that’s my vision—collectively we are stronger working together.

OPN Looking to the future, WiSTEE Connect is organizing a third Global Women of Light Symposium, to occur in conjunction with the 2018 Frontiers in Optics conference in September. For more information on WiSTEE and its activities to promote women’s leadership in science, visit

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Original Source: Optics and Photonics News

RIT among leading researchers developing platform that can detect image manipulation

CIS Professor Chris Kanan contributes to research on media forensics

Oct. 12, 2017
Rich Kiley


Can you tell which image is real and which has been manipulated?

RIT is part of a select group of world-class researchers studying the fact and fiction of imagery in today’s digital culture by developing an algorithmic-based platform that can detect image manipulation.

Image alteration is a complex issue that government officials want to solve with a program known as MediFor—short for media forensics. Media forensics is the scientific analysis of recorded media in the form of audio, video and still-imagery evidence obtained during the course of investigations and litigious proceedings.

The researchers’ goal for the MediFor project is to automate the detection of image manipulations, provide detailed information about how these manipulations were performed, and determine the overall integrity of visual media.

“It’s a fairly widespread issue that the government wants to get ahead of with this three-year project,” said Christye Sisson, the Ronald and Mabel Francis Professor and chair of the photographic sciences program in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. Sisson is RIT’s principal investigator for the project.

“The more mature digital imaging has become, the methods by which you can manipulate images become increasingly sophisticated,” she added. “The speed at which this is happening is outpacing the tools that people have for detection, so we’re trying to exhaust and analyze every possibility for how these images could potentially be manipulated and how that manipulation can be detected.”

Research teams include imaging experts from academia, industry and government agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to Sisson, RIT is creating high-provenance data and image manipulations as part of the project’s data team, led by PAR Government Systems Corp., a government contractor based in Rome, N.Y.

Sisson noted that applications of the research’s findings are widespread—from law enforcement and intelligence agencies to counter-terrorism and academic research integrity.

A growing problem

While some image manipulation is benign, performed for fun or artistic value, other “doctoring” is done for nefarious or adversarial purposes, including propaganda or misinformation campaigns, Sisson said.

In recent years, consumer imaging technology—primarily digital cameras and mobile phones—has become ubiquitous, enabling people the world over to take and share images and video instantaneously. Mirroring this rise in digital imagery, however, has been the ability for even relatively unskilled users to manipulate and distort visual media.

The manipulation of visual media is enabled by the wide-scale availability of sophisticated image- and video-editing applications that falsify images in ways that are extremely difficult to detect—either visually or with current image analysis and visual media forensics tools. Many of the forensic tools used today lack sophistication and address only some aspects of media authentication.

The MediFor project’s goal is to develop an “end-to-end platform” that will perform a complete and automated forensic analysis of imagery that does not exist today.

According to Sisson, RIT is creating the ground-truth data for the project by photographing a large variety of scenes and contexts with as many devices as possible to create a wide frame of reference for government officials. The RIT team uses these images to create manipulations based on real scenarios to test new algorithms of detection being developed by other partner universities on the MediFor project.

Along with these manipulations, Sisson said, the RIT team will create an “answer key” that will chronicle all actions made in a manipulation to see how well the algorithms perform in their evaluation.

RIT professors Ted Kinsman and Christopher Kanan are assisting Sisson on the project, along with several undergraduate students in the photo sciences, imaging science, motion picture science, and media arts and technology programs.

“RIT has this incredible and unparalled imaging continuum with our programs that you just don’t see anywhere else,” Sisson said. “We’re extremely well-suited for this project.”

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Original Source: University News

Collaboration strengthens Rwanda through education

Oct. 12, 2017
Susan Gawlowicz

story photo

Associate Professor Ernest Fokoue, left, and Professor Anthony Vodacek on a recent trip to Rwanda where they are working to develop higher education.

Professors in RIT’s College of Science are working with faculty at the University of Rwanda and the University of Kibungo, promoting that nation’s development by helping to build graduate programs and a culture of scholarship in a country healing from civil war and genocide.

Higher education in Rwanda has been a priority during Anthony Vodacek’s two-year tenure as RIT’s Paul and Francena Miller Chair in International Education. Through strategic use of travel funding, Vodacek—whose tenure as chair ends in December—has created the potential for collaborative research opportunities and meaningful international experiences for students.

“In this last decade, I’ve seen enormous strides toward transforming Rwanda to a knowledge-based economy,” Vodacek said.

Since 2008, Vodacek, a professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, has visited Rwanda nearly 20 times. His work there focuses on remote sensing and environmental research and has led to many contacts in higher education.

Vodacek’s colleagues at the URwanda public education system invited him to work on proposals to build graduate centers through a World Bank program. URwanda was awarded four African Centers of Excellence in Higher Education, three of which named RIT as their primary international partner. They are the Centers of Excellence in Data Science, the Internet of Things and for Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science. RIT’s role will be to provide teaching and research-supervision of MS and Ph.D. students and collaboration on joint proposals and journal articles.

The World Bank has established nearly 25 Centers of Excellence to promote graduate education in Africa. While graduate education is available on the continent, many students seek advanced degrees abroad in North America, Europe or Asia.

“The problem is that if they don’t return, it’s a significant brain drain,” Vodacek said.

The total population in Africa is 1.2 billion, and more than 600 million are under the age of 20, Vodacek said.

Many students in this generation of African scientists, engineers and designers will be shaped by the World Bank’s Centers of Excellence, and RIT’s expertise will be part of their education, said James Myers, associate provost of International Education and Global Programs.

“RIT’s global strategy focusses on being a leader engaged in the Centers of Excellence reflecting our strengths in science, engineering, technology and the arts,” Myers said.

During the proposal process, Vodacek recruited Ernest Fokoué, an associate professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences, and Scott Franklin, director of RIT’s Center for Advancing Science/Math Teaching, Learning and Evaluation.

With Miller chair funding, Vodacek, Fokoué and Franklin traveled to Rwanda to establish research collaborations and present at conferences. In July, RIT co-hosted a scientific conference at the University of Kibungo, a small private institution, and met with the leaders of the African Centers for Excellence at URwanda.

“My own feeling is that Africa is going to be the continent of this century in a similar way the development of Asia marked the end of the last century,” Vodacek said. “My effort as Miller Chair is to position RIT to contribute to development in Rwanda and ultimately across Africa.”

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Original Source: University News

Henrietta company's aerial imaging technology helps hurricane victims
Remote Sensing

CIS Professor Carl Salvaggio describes CIS contributions to advances in remote sensing

Sep. 15, 2017
Sean Lahman


Floodwaters from tropical storm Harvey surround homes in Port Arthur, Texas, on August 31, 2017.   (Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP)

Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast with an unforgiving fury. Wind gusts of more than 130 mph battered buildings when the storm made landfall on Aug. 25, and in the days that followed, many areas around Houston received more than 50 inches of rain.

By the time the massive storm moved out of the area, roughly 450 square miles of Harris County were under water, and tens of thousands of people were displaced. 

For many of those storm victims, the discomfort of having to evacuate their homes was compounded by the not-knowing. With flood waters making it impossible to return home, they were left wondering whether there was anything to return to at all.

To help those victims, Henrietta-based EagleView Technologies launched a website to show aerial images depicting what Harvey left in its wake. 

Users can enter a street address to see before and after images side-by-side. These images, in some cases just hours old, show areas that have been impacted by flooding and the extent of damage caused by high winds.

"We did something similar in 2008 for Hurricane Ike when that hit the greater Houston area," said Frank Giuffrida, vice president of engineering at EagleView. "Galveston Island was evacuated and basically shut off. FEMA didn't let folks back for several weeks."

EagleView, formerly known as Pictometry, provides aerial imagery and data analytics for local and federal government agencies, most of which is captured by its fleet of planes equipped with specialized cameras and backed by powerful software.

Over the years, the company has captured more than 350 million images, covering more than 90 percent of the most populated areas in the United States.  

They're capturing these images for their clients: state and local governments or insurance companies. In this instance, that work can also benefit the general public in a real and immediate way.

"In this case, we have complete coverage of that whole Gulf Coast area," Guiffrida. That meant EagleView already had a library of "before" images, all captured within the last two years.

Aerial photo of Houston neighborhood shows damage to

Aerial photo of Houston neighborhood shows damage to houses after Hurricane Harvey (Photo: Provided by EagleView)

For other major storms when they didn't have that coverage, like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they could go out and capture it as the storm approached.

It's a huge challenge, of course, to do aerial photography in the days just before or just after a major storm.

The weather is only one of the challenges the pilots face. More difficult are the temporary flight restrictions that get put into place while the Coast Guard conducts search and rescue operations, or when Air Force One brings the president to town.

"Planning and staging are a huge part of this process," Guiffrida said. "As soon as it becomes safe to fly, we'll be opportunistic about where we can go."

EagleView deployed 22 planes to the Houston area in the days before Harvey hit, getting them pre-positioned based on where the impact was forecast to be most severe.

They deployed a similar number to Florida as Hurricane Irma approached a week after Harvey, and they'll be prepared to deploy for other storms that follow.

Once the worst of Harvey passed and conditions were safe, those planes in Texas took to the air and started capturing images.

Within a few days, they had logged more than 350 flight hours and covered roughly 5,600 square miles, capturing about a million images. They're still flying, continuing to record conditions on the ground as they evolve.

Local research

Pictometry was founded by John Ciampa, a former Rochester Institute of Technology professor, and  Stephen Schultz, an RIT graduate.

The company and the school have had a long partnership, and RIT's research in the field of aerial imaging has continued to push forward the boundaries of what is possible. 

Whether the images are captured by airplanes, remotely piloted drones, or satellites high above the earth, building a library of high-resolution images is just the first step.

"Nobody cares about the pictures anymore," says RIT professor Carl Salvaggio. "A person or even a team of people can't look at a million images.  We have to teach computers to look at those batches and tell us what's interesting."

He and his colleagues at RIT's Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory are doing just that.  Whether it's evaluating the health of each plant in a cornfield or inspecting gas pipelines in remote areas, the images captured from above are just a means to an end.

"When you talk to a utility company like RG&E, they don't want 8,000 images of power lines," Salvaggio said. "They want to know which poles have broken conductors or wires in need of repair."

Computers use machine learning to do that, analyzing each of the images, understanding what each image shows, and kicking out a report for repair crews with the location of problem spots.

Over the last decade, drones have become cheaper and the quality of pictures they take keeps improving. The weakest link? The humans who pilot them.

"Pilots are not good at keeping the camera aimed straight down, at flying straight, at keeping a consistent altitude," Salvaggio said.  "All of those things affect the quality of the images. That's why we're working on totally autonomous flight."

Technology is already pretty good for having a drone fly itself from point to point. The goal would be to have a human launch a drone, have it recognize its surroundings and plot its own course.  

"To analyze storm damage, for example, we're teaching the camera to fly up to about 150 feet, begin to understand the geography of a rooftop, and build a 3-D model," Salvaggio explains. "Then it flies 10 feet above the building taking pictures."

And within RIT's drone program is a specialty lab called IPLER — the Information Products Lab for Emergency Response.  Researchers there have worked on projects to monitor forest fires and to assess flood and earthquake damage.

Smarter drones

After a massive event like Hurricane Harvey, insurance companies are going to be overwhelmed with calls from policyholders. One of the things that EagleView can do is create a heat map to identify the areas that have been hit the hardest.

"They can't send claims adjustors to every home on day one," Giuffrida said.  

While they're doing that, machine learning algorithms can start the process of assessing damage on individual homes. In some cases, that can be done from images captured by manned aircraft. In other cases, they use drones, which can get much closer to the damaged structure. 

It's a service EagleView has been offering for several years, and they work with 18 of the top 20 property and casualty insurance carriers in the United States.

They can kick out a report that assesses how much damage a homeowner has endured, and in many cases the imagery is sufficient to allowing adjusters to close claims without physically visiting the property.


Machine-learning applied imagery from Hurricane Harvey.

Machine-learning applied imagery from Hurricane Harvey. (Photo: EagleView Technologies)

"Machine learning is relatively new technology," Giuffrida said. "It's going to become better and better with time."

One of the other applications for this technology is property assessment.  

"An assessor doesn't have the bandwidth to visit every single home in a jurisdiction every year," Guiffrida said. Aerial imagery can capture 50,000 homes, compare it to images from a year earlier, detecting which ones have undergone significant changes.

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Original Source: Democrat and Chronicle